Description: All-natural spray that eliminates odors
Main Pitch: "Unlike other products that only mask the smell, [it] completely eliminates it forever"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one 16-oz bottle and one 6-oz travel bottle
Bonus: Second set of bottles FREE, company will also plant a tree
Starring: Billy Mays
Marketer: For The Earth Corp.
Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7
Commercial Rating: OK
Odor eliminators are a tough category for DRTV. I can't think of a single one that's done well. My favorite was Odor Xit. It tested in August 2007 and then went nowhere. The reason can be summarized in one word: "Febreeze." Online at Walgreens.com, a 9.7 oz can of Febreeze is $3.29. But what's more important is the millions of dollars in marketing muscle Procter & Gamble has put behind the name on that can. Can an unknown brand hope to compete?
This is a good example of a classic dilemma I often encounter in the conference rooms of DRTV companies. The conversation usually goes something like this ...
Me: "Cool product, but is it unique enough? This is a very crowded category."
Client: "Exactly. It's crowded because of high consumer demand! This type of item is a proven winner!"
Me: "Yes, but you're fifth to market with a me-too product. And the other guys have pretty big ad budgets. What makes you think you'll be able to make a dent?"
Client: "No other product has [xyz feature]. Check out what this can do!"
Me: "That's cool, but is it unique enough?"
If this conversation sounds circular, that's because it is. And there isn't necessarily a right answer. Sometimes a DRTV product can enter a crowded category and become the No. 1 product. It's not common, but it happens (see Oxi Clean). Still, I don't like the odds in these scenarios. I've seen far too many "crowded-category items" fail.
This particular one also faces other challenges. One is the difficulty of proving odor elimination on TV. The reason I liked Odor Xit was because the commercial featured live demonstrations with real people. They'd wear a blindfold and have to sniff a plate of fish that had been sprayed with the product. They'd smell nothing, of course, and then the camera would capture their natural surprise when they removed the blindfold and saw what they had sniffed. That's the only way to go about it. This commercial uses that "green fog" animation I see far too often, and it kills the credibility.
Then there's the "magic demo." It's a stunt worthy of the MTV show Jackass. Billy Mays stand at the business end of a live skunk, clutching his bottle of spray. Will he actually let the skunk spray him in the face? There are only two possibilities, and both of them present a big problem. One, the skunk won't really spray Billy and the demo will be an obvious fraud, completing killing the credibility of the scene. Two, Billy will take a face full of skunk juice and forever damage his reputation as a serious professional. (To find out what happens, click the "Watch the Spot" icon above.)
Neither scenario makes any sense to me. I applaud the creativity of the person who thought up the demo, but having Billy perform it was a bad idea. Better to hire Steve-O and the wildboyz and have Billy come in afterward for the smell elimination demo. Or maybe not. Maybe this is a good idea for a viral YouTube video, but not for a DRTV commercial.
Last but not least, there's the odd "we'll plant a tree" close to the commercial. I've written extensively about the shortcomings of "green" products for DRTV, so I won't rehash those comments here. I'll just add the following: If you're going to do it, do it right. This seemed like an afterthought, which is unexpected coming from a company called "For the Earth Corp."