Sex Sells, But Who’s Buying THIS?

This post is a review of the latest commercial spot for Clorox brands’ Liquid-Plumr Double Impact Snake and Gel System.  The product is a 2-task clogged drain treatment that includes a small plastic snake to first remove impacted sediment, then a liquid gel to dissolve the rest of the impediment. (Say THAT 10 times fast.)  The snake and the gel come blister packed in one package. The spot is from DDB San Francisco.


As much as I hate to admit it, I love this spot.  I submit that it’s sexist, and in poor taste, and overtly references hardcore porn, but it’s done in pure camp style, and that’s the rub.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)  It’s a joke, and the advertiser has let us in on it right at the outset of the spot.

If you haven’t seen it, let’s dispense with that.  Click below and enjoy the next 60 seconds.

Okay, so the first thing you notice is this wonderful actress and her clearly over-the-top acting.  We know in the first three seconds that she’s totally goofing, and the dream sequence that follows is equally tongue in, er, cheek.  (Can I say that?)

So let’s play conservative politician for a minute and discuss what’s wrong this spot.  Yes, it’s WAY over the top.  If you’re going to borrow a porn reference for the camp factor, great.  Cue the 70’s funk soundtrack.  Get the Barry White voiceover.  Maybe even do the overt undo-your-pony-tail-and-lick-your-lips thing (which is hysterical in this performance.)  But to borrow a reference like “double impact?”  There’s way over the top, and then there’s way over the top, through the ceiling and out of the building.

The other issue with borrowing that reference (which I WON’T describe in any detail – look it up yourself,) is that it seems like, for most women that this actress identifies [I got stay-at-home soccer mom or maybe working mom who’s clearly repulsed–in a curious, grossed out sort of way–by even the name of the product,) the idea of the hardcore reference is really left field and really unappealing.  It’s not something a little risqué like doing it in the car, or in a public place.  For most women, this is not a “well, maybe I’d try that once,” it’s a No Way. Never.  Nuh, uh.

So in that sense, I don’t quite get it.

Having said that, it’s executed really well.  She’s standing in the plumbing and home cleaners aisle in the supermarket, and gets lost in this fantasy with two strapping men who arrive at her door to service her completely.  “I’m here to snake your drain,” says the well-bicepped young man (not unnoticed is that he’s gently stroking the snake.)  She’s already woozy. And before she can even compose herself, hunk #2 shows up with “I’m here to flush your pipe.”  She giggles, almost anesthetized, “..huh, uh, okay.”  Again, I can not understate the value of this actress’ performance…she is KILLING it!

Then we get to the really well-done product demonstration.  We cut from video to some smart, well-executed motion graphics, and then back to video as that deep-throated (sorry) VO gives us the product features (“…and a powerful gel to finish off the rest, baby.”  Classic!)

And then in an instant, she snaps out of her sexy daydream and realizes she’s standing in the supermarket.  [Great cinematic work here too…the lighting is suddenly harsh…the clothes go back to ordinary and drab colors…her glasses and her hair are competing for most disheveled accessory…) She glances over at the deli guy (slicing meat) and then a produce worker, (holding some healthy melons) and it turns out they’re the hunks in her daydream.  Both empowered by her ability to entertain this fantasy and equally shocked by it, she clumsily turns her cart around and flees the scene…but NOT before grabbing an additional TWO packages, just in case the, um, urge, hits again at home. (Nice going, Clorox…sneak in a little serving suggestion of buying multiple packages.)

So this ad goes right to the edge of good taste then takes a giant leap PAST that edge.  But it does so with so many elemental factors and advertising conventions intact, it works and entertains and educates all at once.  If you don’t get that it’s a joke, your name is likely Rick Santorum, and you’ve actually watched porn with a “double impact” scene and are repulsed that you liked it – all 17 times.

If you do get it, you recognize that, while it’s a pretty big leap and a pretty big borrow from a pretty dark porn place, it’s a really strong piece of advertising.  And it’s no surprise that it’s gotten more than 1.6 million views (at the time of this writing) on YouTube.  We could explore another whole post on THAT value alone.

6 thoughts on “Sex Sells, But Who’s Buying THIS?

  1. Phil Johnson April 24, 2012 / 10:30 pm

    Your review was almost as funny as the ad. I fear, however, that you revealed way too much about your knowledge of the 1970s porn industry.


    • Nader Ashway April 25, 2012 / 3:50 pm

      Thanks, Phil. I have no idea what you’re talking about…I’m way too young to have been taking in porn in the 1970’s!


  2. David Adelman April 25, 2012 / 1:18 pm

    Great post, Nader. Terrific spot taken to the point of ridiculousness. Anything less could have been offensive. I think an extra ‘product demo’ of the snake in the pipe would have made them eligible for an AVN Award.


  3. Mark Kolier (@markkolier) April 25, 2012 / 2:55 pm

    It was really well executed and made me laugh as did your review Nader. Your point is well made but will likely fall on deaf ears.


  4. bob dobb June 21, 2013 / 10:58 am

    It may have made many laugh…those that are comfortable with porn at least. For those that feel porn is harmful or feel assaulted with constant mainstream promotion of sexual themes, they might think liquid plumr could’ve been just as effective promoting their product in a way that didn’t promote sexual themes. The commercial is one more step toward accepting pornography into common conversation and therefore experimentation and acceptance.
    There is a segment of the population that would like to have a joke like this among close friends but do not think it’s appropriate offered in the mainstream.


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