The Creative strategy for Camay bar soap in Venezuela was that it was gentle, leaving skin feeling soft because Camay contained cold cream. Softness was the end benefit of using the product, being caressable was the end-end benefit.
The commercials were designed to empower the female Camay user. The lead character was always a young woman who coquettishly uses some pretext for her male companion to touch her skin. A demonstration of the skin’s softness.
He remarks how soft and smooth it is and asks what her secret is. She won’t reveal her secret; she is in control. We cut away to see her in the shower with her voice over explaining how Camay, with cold cream, is her only secret.
We return to the couple and the man once again asks her what her secret is. She still will not tell him, and we end with a product shot and an announcer who says, “Camay leaves your skin soft, beautiful, caressable.”
For television, our biggest challenge was finding the right ingenue who was coquettish enough. A lot of the commercials took place on beaches, a popular place for young people and a place where there was a lot of skin to be seen.
Casting sometimes required young girls in bikinis to parade into our boardroom for our team and client to decide which one to cast. It was a tough job…
Our Camay client, Ines de Peña, was a very smart woman and one of the few women in senior marketing positions in the country. Her presence in these sessions kept the conversations to the task at hand, casting.
At one commercial shoot on the beach, we wanted the girl to give the guy a little kiss at the end to stop him from asking what the secret to her soft skin was. The actress would not do it. She explained if her boy friend saw her kiss another guy on TV screen, he would go crazy with jealousy.
After much coaching, I suggested she kiss her fingertips and then put those fingers on the boy’s lips to quiet him down. She reluctantly agreed to do that.
There are cultural taboos to work around sometimes.
Camay’s share was growing but we were always looking for new ideas. I saw a Canadian commercial where a man washes his girlfriend’s back. I talked to our copywriter, Idania, to see what she thought. She liked it a lot and we worked out doing a commercial where this happened.
We presented it to P&G. Ines liked it, but their senior management were extremely uncomfortable with the idea and the suggested intimacy. They pointed out that most people did not have bathtubs, which was true, so they were reluctant to produce it. We weren’t selling logic; we were selling the fulfillment of a fantasy.
We persisted. While most people did not have bathtubs, most aspired to one and the idea of the woman controlling the man so much that he washed her back was a very motivating one. We fought this battle back and forth for nine months. The strongest hold out at the client was the U.S. senior manager. His midwestern Protestant upbringing, perhaps.
Finally, we were given the approval to shoot, with the caveat that the commercial would not go on air until we had done some research on its social acceptability. We did not want to stray over Venezuelan morality lines.
We were lucky that a gorgeous Venezuelan, Marilyn Plessmann, who had been working as a model in New York came back for a visit right at the time we were going to shoot with her boy friend. She had been runner up to Miss Venezuela one year. She was a morena (olive skinned brunette) and had glamourous New York model looks.
If you were unaware, beauty pageants are one of Venezuela’s national sports. There have been more Miss Universes and Miss Worlds from Venezuela, by population, that any other country in the world. In my three years in the country, there were two Miss Universes and one Miss World. The only country in the world with more total wins is the U.S. which has had home field advantage and has more than ten times the population.
We seized the opportunity to work with Marilyn and she felt quite comfortable having her boyfriend soap her back.
There were two issues once we got to the shoot. She had to sit in the bathtub for many hours and started to develop a chill. A little rum, at her request, helped warm her up and manage the chill, but by the end of the shoot she was feeling the full effects of the rum.
The second issue, due to the morality concerns which caused our P&G client’s hesitation, was making sure the couple was seen to be a married couple. It was a detail that we had not thought though completely before we started to do the bathtub scene close ups. We needed a ring! I volunteered my relatively new wedding band and it appeared prominently in the commercial. While we try to cover every detail in preproduction, you can’t always think of everything.
The research on the commercial was over the top positive; it was the fantasy every woman aspired to. We went on the air. Camay’s share of the bar soap market soared in a highly fragmented market. The brand had a share in the 20% range before the advertising and it rose to 35%. Those kinds of share increases happened only in your dreams or in a brand manager’s fantasy in usually dull categories like bar soap. The provocative nature of the commercial showed the benefits of getting noticed.
I believe the earlier commercials set the stage for this success. They stimulated the fantasy idea and set the table for the bathtub sequence. We rotated the bathtub commercials in with the shower commercials and we were on our third bathtub commercial when I left Venezuela.
As an insight to how international agencies work, I got into trouble from the P&G account head at Grey in New York. Apparently, word got back that we had done a revolutionary type of commercial without their having a say in the process. They were not happy and accused us of going rogue. When the share results came in, the grumbling reduced. With large organizations, the results are often less important than the egos of those involved.
In the Camay radio commercials the dialogue was pretty much the same as the television commercials, shower editions. What entertained me were the voice artists during recording sessions. First, they were excellent. But seeing them in the studio destroyed the illusion.
The male voice actor, who was swooning over touching and caressing the girl, performed his over-the-top role on one side of the studio while clutching a silk scarf and eyeing his young male lover. The female voice was a middle aged and overweight actress on the other side of the studio. She had, as we used to say, a face for radio. They both did excellent jobs. While the listener may have thought they were pawing all over each other, they were 12 feet away from each other in their own little worlds.
Radio creates movies for your mind – sometimes for the actors as well. TV just creates movies.