A regular Tide ad…or is it?

In one of Tide’s latest ads, starring David Harbour of “Stranger Things,” we see a confusing, yet engaging premise. First, Harbour appears in a sleek car, wearing a suit and driving just a little too fast down an empty road. “Yeah, just your regular Super Bowl car ad,” Harbour says. “Right?”

Then, the scene switches to a bar, where Harbour is surrounded by friends. Then, almost immediately, to an all-white dream world Harbour calls “whatever this place is.” Then, a farm, then the set of what appears to be an insurance commercial. After about 20 seconds, Harbour clarifies: “Yup. It’s a Tide ad.”

As well as being hilarious, the Tide Super Bowl ad also takes advantage of one of the rarer appeals: the need to satisfy curiosity.

When the ad opens up, the first thing viewers think will be, “what the heck is this an ad for?” However, since the ad is still entertaining with a celebrity personality and a quick changing environment, consumers will continue to watch to see what lovable television father figure David Harbour is telling them to buy.

This appeal is extremely effective. Not only does it make Tide something that viewers willingly pay attention to, but it gives Tide a personality as a fun loving, self aware company.

This is also where the need to feel safe comes in. If you Google “Tide,” it’s almost a sure thing that the top ten news stories will be about kids (and now, dumb teenagers looking for an internet challenge) dying of poisoning from eating a Tide product. How can parents of children, teenagers, or pets feel safe with Tide in their home?

If you’ve ever seen “Stranger Things,” it’s likely you’ve fallen in love with Harbour’s character, Chief Jim Hopper. A big city cop who moved to a small town, Hopper protects those around him fiercely and loves wholeheartedly, despite what his tough exterior might portray. Viewers of the Tide ad will associate these characteristics with Harbour, and thus with the product he’s advertising: Tide.

The ad seems to say, ‘Of course we’re trustworthy; Jim Hopper approves.’ This works to shift Tide’s USP away from poison and towards the family brand image that a detergent company would likely prefer.

As for demographics, the ad doesn’t really make any big strides towards diversity or a cultural transmission of any kind. Most of the people who appear in the ad with Harbour are white, middle class, and conventionally attractive. Tide’s audience here is the “average” American family: upper-middle class and white.

Ultimately, this is a genuinely well done advertisement. It’s funny, it’s relatable, it pokes fun at itself, and it successfully utilizes multiple emotional appeals. While not exactly significant for society as a whole, the ad is well done, and a good example of a creative USP and overall concept.