If 1988 seems a bit distant in cultural terms, it's eons away in advertising terms, given the subsequent transformation of the media landscape.
"Frankly," acknowledges Thom Lauinger, Revlon's director of antiperspirant and deodorant brands, "having a brand away from advertising for 17 years was like being awakened from a deep freeze into a very different world."
"First of all, most consumers under 40 had no real recollection of the Mitchum TV ads that ran back then," Lauinger says, adding, "They really didn't know the brand. Beyond that, as far as media goes, a generation feels like a century. When Mitchum ads last ran, the formula was pretty rigid. TV was king. Mass reach was everything, with maybe some print for more specific targeting."
Like Austin Powers coming out of his cryonic reanimation chamber, Mitchum realized it had a lot of catching up to do.
Metrosexual Mitchum Man
Seeing an opportunity to connect the brand with an entirely new generation of men, and hoping to capitalize on the "metrosexual" trend celebrating fashion- and grooming-conscious "straight men," Revlon and its agency Deutsch teamed up to launch a 21st century take on the Mitchum Man.
Deutsch Chief Media Officer Peter Gardiner recalls that re-inventing the brand meant "radically broadening" the way it interacted with its market. "To do that meant becoming multi-dimensional and flexible in our thinking. ... We created a campaign for a media consumer who is a far faster-moving target than any we've seen before. For them, media convergence is not a concept, but a way of life. They are post-traditional not only because they are avid users of all media, but because they are instinctive multi-taskers," Gardiner explains.
This target consumer "moves omnivorously between media, consuming different media simultaneously to find 'passion points' that reflect their interests. These might include a favorite bar, where they watch sports or see music videos, a trip to the newsstand for GQ or Maxim, then maybe [watching] 'ESPN Sports[Center]' on cable while they check weather and download music online."
The principle guiding the media behavior of the target customer Mitchum was after, says Kathy Delaney, executive creative director at Deutsch, was the pursuit of places to share "guy time." She adds: "The most important thing all our proprietary research told us about our market was that these guys enjoy being guys. Our goal was to be everywhere where they go to share that passion, and to make Mitchum an entertaining part of those environments with funny, irreverent, often politically incorrect lines that say 'it's OK to be a guy.'"
Eschewing the production style of feature films and many branding campaigns, Deutsch took a simpler, more minimalist approach, Delaney explains. The agency focused on getting a few provocative and memorable messages in front of the target audience. "Short, witty, memorable lines work in every medium," Delaney says.
Deutsch produced an unprecedented variety of executions and placements. In the first month following the April 8 launch of the campaign, Deutsch produced 96 executions, including 25 different 15-second TV spots, 15 print ads, more than 20 online ads, and a wide array of outdoor ads.
TV spots ran on programming popular with young men, including NBC's "Fear Factor," NASCAR broadcasts, CBS' "Two and a Half Men," and Fox's "24." National cable buys included Spike TV, the Sci-Fi channel, TNT, The Travel Channel, TV Land, VH1, Comedy Central, ESPN, and the Speed Channel.
Print ads ran in Backpacker, Bicycling, Runner's World, Blender, Maxim, Stuff, The Week, Sports Illustrated, Field and Stream, Car and Driver, and Golf Digest, while online ads could be found on sites including EA.com, Ticketmaster, and weather.com, and on the sites of publications such as Rolling Stone, Maxim, and Mountain Bike. Deutsch also coordinated wild postings and other nontraditional forms of messaging at health clubs, golf courses, bars, subway, train stations, and billboards in 18 major metropolitan areas. Where the focus of most brand campaigns is on putting the bulk of the budget into a relatively small number of ads, every single execution in the Mitchum campaign was designed to be location-specific and customized for each ad venue. How location-specific?
Location, Location, Location Consider the men's room posters, which say "If you know the rules of urinal spacing, you're a Mitchum Man." Or supermarket "floor talkers" that say, "If you have no idea how to pick a melon, you're a Mitchum Man." Drink coasters inform the bar-goer that "If it's later than 3 a.m. now, you're a Mitchum Man."
Ads on the Discovery Channel and Discovery.com declare that "If you're just itching to fire a harpoon, you're a Mitchum Man," while those on ESPN's cable and online properties confer Mitchum Man status to those who've "Never left a game early to beat traffic."
Executions on music and auto Web sites comment, "If you like your rock stars better before they clean up, you're a Mitchum Man," and "If you agree that four cylinders are only for lawn mowers, you're a Mitchum Man."
Online ads offer a Mitchum Man's perspective on the interactive environment and its protocols, "If you've never written Hugz on an e-mail, you're a Mitchum Man." The campaign will continue to evolve in the sweaty months through September, changing and adapting its pithy observations for different venues and environments. [Editor's Note: Revlon was no longer a client of Deutsch as of June].
Gardiner believes that the ability to quickly change and rotate ad messages across a wide range of venues will become increasingly important to advertisers. "Many agencies still operate on the premise that to brand, all you need is a few blockbuster 'killer' spots with super-expensive values," he says.
"Expensive 30-second spots and rich media are fine. The problem with this is that in today's environment overexposing a single ad, no matter how good it is, leads to burnout. People get bored seeing the same spot too many times," Gardiner emphasizes.
Delaney credits the variety, novelty, and imaginative ad placements with creating a sense of participation and even community around the brand, no small feat for a deodorant product. Early results confirm her perception. In the first six weeks after the campaign's launch, Mitchum's mitchumman.com site registered approximately 1 million hits, attracting nearly 8,000 daily visitors.
"I knew we had something good going when we starting seeing consumers and colleagues spontaneously coming up with new Mitchum Man lines they wanted us to add," she says.