How has advertising tackled the burning issue of “poop”? Here’s a digression that explores the topic: from the beginning, when the subject was practically taboo, to more modern ways of tackling the issue.
Today, medications to keep the bowels “regular” (milk enzymes and laxatives) are among the most widely sold products in Italian pharmacies. In the USA, in 2015 alone, laxatives generated a turnover of $600 million. It is clear that there are some issues around with “poop”! And supporting this notion is the language which surrounds the subject: “innocent” or “obscene” words abound when speaking about the topic, alongside the more technical jargon mainly restricted to the medical profession.
In this context, it is easy to understand how advertising toilet paper is a delicate and risky task. How have various creative minds tackled the issue from the 19th century to the present day? Let’s discover this by taking a journey through the mores and secrecy of the “commode”.
Nineteenth-century approaches were of a medical nature. Gayetty advertised that his paper was purposely called “medicated paper”: at the time, we could only speak of poop in terms of health – understandable as in those years, bad hygiene mores were the basis of epidemics.
The same logic prevailed for “perforated medicated paper” recommended for hemorrhoids (1886). In subsequent decades, Freud would present his theories to the world but at the time, direct references to physiological needs remained off limits. Presenting the product in medical terms was the only way to sell bathroom tissue.
Durability and user-satisfaction were the foundations of Northern Tissue’s advertising in the 1920s whose ad appeared in the prestigious “Life” magazine. The market was beginning to change and toilet paper was by now a common object in daily use. From the creative choices made, we can see how the product was evolving and differentiating itself.
The purity of the paper and focus on female users defined the 1930s approach, including reassuring reference to medical advice.
In 1945, Scott focused on the role of the roll in germs at bay – foretelling the future for facial tissue. Scott actually illustrated the use of a mask made of tissue paper in order to avoid physical and “aerial” contact with the menace of the common cold.