You go, Depends!

For years, I've been using 'Depends' as a sort of brand shorthand, when I want to describe the kinds of products that force even youth-besotted ad agencies to acknowledge the existence of mature consumers. So, you can imagine that I was pleasantly surprised by this summer's "Underwareness" campaign for Depends, which was produced by Ogilvy's NYC office.


The campaign's TV ad focuses on a wide range of people, walking down a city street, wearing normal clothes on their upper bodies, but only Depends down below. The spot is stylish, funny, ironic; everything you'd want in a 'modern' ad aimed at a younger demographic, but selling a product for oldsters. 

"Wow," I thought, the first time I saw it. "Finally an ad in this category that doesn't assume all Depends users are a bunch of decrepit old fuddy-duddies." 

According to this story in the New York Times, the campaign is nominally aimed at younger consumers. Depends' brand managers like to say that nearly half the people who experience some sort of incontinence are under 50. (Many of the younger consumers who experience incontinence are having some transient medical problem; the older consumers who use Depends are going to be incontinent for the rest of their lives.) Either way, sales in the category as a whole have increased about 30% in the last five years.

I'm sure the campaign will work on those younger customers, but it's greatest impact will be felt in years to come, as the aging population enters the incontinence market. They won't come into the market thinking that Depends are cool, exactly, but it will be the least-stigmatized brand, I'm sure.

'Depends' may also be even more ensconced as the de facto noun for this whole product category, just as Kleenex stands for all disposable tissues. That's something Depends owner, the Kimberly-Clark company, obviously understands, since they own the Kleenex brand, too.

For years, I've been arguing that ads for products that are primarily purchased by young people can be tweaked to make them work on mature consumers too. And, that the adjustments made to those ads would not hurt their effectiveness in the primary target demo. 

This is an ad for a product purchased mainly by older consumers, that has been tweaked to make it work better for younger consumers. At the end of the day, most Depends will still be purchased by people much older than the creative team, but they did a great job creating a spot that will work across the market.

So, my hat's off to Calle Sjoenell, Ogilvy's the chief creative officer; Victoria Azarian, a group creative director; and Danielle Vieth, a creative director. (Mr. Sjoenell has since left Ogilvy for a creative post at an ad agency in his native Sweden.)