A clean reveal: shooting Tide’s Contagious magazine cover 

Saatchi & Saatchi New York organised a food fight with legally approved stains and split-second photography for Contagious magazine’s Tide cover

The front cover of issue 70 of Contagious magazine is an ode to P&G detergent Tide, which has been the US market leader for almost 75 years.

Contagious worked with Saatchi & Saatchi New York, the brand’s creative agency, to capture Tide’s essence through the classic ‘staining story’ – make a mess and then clean it up, basically.

We chose a food fight to make a spectacular mess of Contagious-branded T-shirts, which were then cleaned with Tide and folded for the back cover.

Saatchi & Saatchi creative director Adrian Chan said: ‘Almost every laundry ad has this dramatic staining moment followed by the clean reveal. For the Tide Contagious front cover, we wanted to embrace this formula of messy, clean and then everything in between.’

The cover shoot took place the day after the Super Bowl on Monday 14 February 2022, which was fitting, given the success that Tide has had advertising against the event and sponsoring the NFL (as detailed in this issue’s Brand Spotlight).

But Saatchi & Saatchi couldn’t just use leftovers from it employees’ Super Bowl parties as food-fight fodder; all potential stains had to be approved in advance by P&G’s headquarters in Cincinnati.

This is standard procedure for all Tide creative work involving stains: the wardrobe department buys 100 copies of each garment well in advance of a shoot, so that half of the items can be pre-stained and sent to P&G’s HQ, where Tide’s scientists wash them to confirm the stain can be successfully removed.

‘I don’t think people realise how much science goes into every Tide commercial,’ says Chan, who adds Tide has a list of 100 approved stains it legally guarantees it can remove, right down to the brand name: Smucker’s Grape Jelly, for instance, Heinz Ketchup and Campbell’s Tomato Soup.

Travis Rathbone was selected to photograph the mucky magic of the Contagious cover shoot. He has a long history of working with P&G, but mainly on beauty brands, such as Olay. Chan explained that Rathbone was the obvious choice for this project due to his experience with high-speed liquid photography. ‘When it came to capturing the Tide pod bursting through the water or a piece of toast flying through the air, right side up so the jam is facing the camera, Travis Rathbone is the master at being able to capture that split second.’

But despite having a plethora of approved stains, the team realised on the day that just capturing flying jets of liquid wasn’t quite the right look – they needed the right vessels.

‘We had honey, but instead of throwing a spoonful of honey onto someone, we needed something to put the honey on,’ said Chan. ‘That’s when it turned into a huge catering exercise.’

Saatchi & Saatchi used bread, hotcakes, muffins, solo cups and spaghetti to hurl the approved stains. The spaghetti was coated in barbecue sauce, which is a popular stain choice of Tide and has been used to smudge the white shirts of Terry Bradshaw and Charlie Day in previous Tide Super Bowl ads.

In The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, motivational speaker Robin Sharma writes: ‘Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.’ Which sums up the production process for this issue’s front cover, but also Tide’s aversion to complacency, which has resulted in some outstanding creative work over the past 75 years.

If you’re a Contagious subscriber, you can read  in our Brand Spotlight here.

Creative Agency - Saatchi & Saatchi New York

Daniel Lobaton - Chief Creative Officer, Saatchi & Saatchi New York

Dustin Tomes - EVP, Executive Creative Director, Saatchi & Saatchi New York

Adrian Chan - VP, Creative Director, Saatchi & Saatchi New York

Juliana Ardila - Associate Creative Director, Saatchi & Saatchi New York

Eduardo Lunardi - Senior Art Director, Saatchi & Saatchi New York

Ralph Bachir - Senior Designer, Saatchi & Saatchi New York

Sarah Beaumont - Chief Business Officer, Saatchi & Saatchi New York

Jen Brotman - VP Group Account Director, Saatchi & Saatchi New York

Sosun Wahab - Account Executive, Saatchi & Saatchi New York

Amy Salzman - Senior Art Producer, Saatchi & Saatchi New York

Clients - Procter & Gamble, Tide

Alex Perez - Senior Brand Director, Procter & Gamble

James Sawyer - Brand Director, Procter & Gamble

Molly Mcguire - Senior Brand Manager, Procter & Gamble


Travis Rathbone, Represented by Apostrophe Reps

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