News & Views

Flushed with success

by Alex Jenkins

'Everybody's running, but half of them ain't looking. It's going on in the kitchen, but I don't know what's cooking'

Neither do I, Coolio. Neither do I.

But never mind the kitchen - have you seen what's going down in the bathroom?

If you've been spending most your life living in a marketa's paradise, chances are you haven't had a chance to properly consider the potential of engaging with consumers when they're at their most unhygienic. So zip up your hazmat suit and come with me as I take you blue-water rafting through the world of toilet-based advertising!

Axe Strip Toilette

Proving that public restrooms can be both sanitary AND sexy is this steamy 2011 effort from Axe in Argentina. The brand took over the gents' toilets in a restaurant in order to give boyfriends on a date with their girlfriends 'five minutes of bachelorhood as a gift'. Anyone visiting the bathroom was treated to a quick lap dance before returning to their meal and 'loved one'.

The Pee Analyser

But toilets shouldn't just a place for branded lap dancers. Aiming to bring a moment of sober contemplation to the water closet, Singapore nighclub Zouk installed devices in their urinals which could analyse the alcohol content in urine. If someone was found to be over the legal limit for driving, a warning message would flash onto a screen above the toilet. During a two-week period, the campaign (created by DDB Group) claimed to detect 573 drunkards and persuade 342 of them to leave their cars at the club.

If Pee Were Gas

Also working on the insight that drivers like to urinate just as much as the next man, Leo Burnett Tailor Made in Brazil hacked a urinal in a bar to demonstrate the remarkable fuel economy of the Fiat Uno. A sensor measured the amount of liquid entering the sanitary ware and sent the data to an iPad mounted on the wall above the urinal, showing a cartoon car driving down a road, powered by the user's waste water. Millilitres of urine were converted into kilometres of driving, while a league table ranked bar patrons on how far they’d managed to ‘drive’.

Guitar Pee

And you know who else likes to use bathrooms in Brazilian bars? Music lovers. Possibly even Coolio.

Billboard magazine created two urinals complete with guitar neck, amp and guitar strings. Without any formal musical training, men could play riffs by urinating on the guitar strings (equipped with sensors) and create their own rockin' solos. Once the user had finished rocking/peeing, the "music" was turned into an MP3 and a password was displayed on a digital screen above the urinal, allowing the user to access their composition at the mobile-optimised Guitar Pee website. 

Drunk Mirror

But it's not just men being targeted in bathrooms in Brazilian bars. Insurance brand Allianz took a more unisex approach with its Drunk Mirror also in, you've guessed it, a bar restroom. Mirrors above sinks showed a time-delayed reflection of the people in front of them, before ending with the sobering message: ‘This is how slow your reflexes are after only a few drinks. Don’t drink and drive.’

Germ Alarm

Clearly, public toilets are a great place for brand building if you're a deodorant, insurance, automotive or publishing brand. But what about trying to increase consumption of a less-obvious product, like soap, for example?

P&S soap brand Safeguard rose to that challenge in the Philippines with its recent Germ Alarm installation. Introduced during Global Handwashing day, the wall-mounted soap dispenser sounded an alarm and flashed every time anyone exited a bathroom stall. Pressing the dispense button stopped the paternalistic siren while giving out soap. Now just think how much consumption would increase if people were repeatedly battering the Germ Alarm to turn off Justin Bieber rather than an electronic klaxon...

Paper Towel Dispenser News

Also tacking the POS (point of soap) part of what you might deem the post-engagement part of the lavatory experience is Mexican free newspaper Más por Más. Working with FCB Mexico, Más por Más created a paper towel dispenser which printed out 'minute-by-minute news' on the towels. Each hard-hitting hand-drier also featured a QR code to drive people to the newspaper's website, triggering a 37% visitor increase in the first two weeks according to the agency. 

American Standard Toilet Demonstration

And finally I'd like to bring to your attention the 'Will It Blend?' of the sanitary ware world. This Home Depot demonstration of the American Standard toilet attempts to answer the question 'Will It Flush?'

Witness two gentlemen in a hardware store flushing toys, marshmallows and golf balls. 'Watch it do twenty, Steve', brags American Standard's senior sales director Ken Keane, tipping a bucket of golf balls into the pan. 'Twenty?! I can't believe this is going to work! Let's see this happen', the Home Depot rep stutters and quakes in disbelief. 'Knocked 'em out of the box', Keane crows as the balls are merrily whisked around the S-bend toward an unsuspecting water treatment plant.

Now please wash your hands.