The Viral Method

 Posted by on December 4, 2009 at 7:00 am  Mad Men
Dec 042009

suds_introViral marketing is a recent trend in advertising where companies upload edgy and provocative video pieces on sites like YouTube with the hope that people will forward them on others (spreading it like a virus). The infamous cat decapitation in a Ford ad was one of the first examples of this approach.

Advertising Age reports that Method, the maker of natural cleaning products touted as NOT containing harsh chemicals such as ammonia or optical brighteners, had to take down it’s recent viral video after receiving complaints that the piece trivialized sexual assault. 

Method Pulls ‘Shiny Suds’ Ad After Sexism Complaints

Household cleaner marketer Method has pulled down a viral video roundly applauded by marketers at the Association of National Advertisers annual conference last month and by most viewers who’ve seen it because of heated complaints from some women who view it as sexist and even condoning rape.

…The video got more than 700,000 views in a week on YouTube and a five-star rating from viewers before Method pulled the plug. Method competitor Unilever seemed to like it, too. Search ads for its Dove brand appeared alongside results for searches on the phrase “Shiny Suds” the day the video first appeared Nov. 18. (A spokeswoman for Dove didn’t return an e-mail for comment by deadline).

Little did attendees at the ANA or most commenters on YouTube and Twitter know, however, that the Shiny Suds were really about degrading women and promoting rape, at least in the opinion of commenters on one blog, Shakesville, which posted the video in its “Today in Rape Culture” section.

That elicited more than 100 angry comments from posters, many of whom said they would stop buying Method products and helped produce some of the hundreds of negative responses to the company’s website   Among the posts: “Making us fear chemical residue from cleaning products because it’s tied into a rape threat is beyond sickening.”

I’ve included the actual video below. But just in case it’s pulled from YouTube, here’s a quick recap.

The video starts off like the typical ad you’d see for a bathroom cleaning product. In this case, the fictitious product, “Shiny Suds,” is meant to represent any of Method’s toxic competitors.


However, the next day, the female star of the ad has an ugly encounter with soapy foam residue from Shiny Suds. Naked, she has to endure a barrage of sexually charged insults from cartoon bubbles while attempting to take a shower.



The conclusion:  the chemicals used in traditional cleaning products pose an invasive threat to their users.


To be honest, it didn’t strike me as bad as some things I’ve seen posted on the Internet.  But the protesters certainly have a point.  By pulling the ad, Method, at least tacitly, seems to be acknowledging that fact as well.  Then again, I wouldn’t have heard of the video had the controversy not prompted a Facebook friend to share it online.  So, there may be a method to the madness.


  36 Responses to “The Viral Method”

  1. I saw it a week ago or so, and thought it was hilarious. And really effective in getting the point across about the nasty chemical residue left behind — something I'd never thought about before. "Loofah! Loofah!" I'm still laughing.

    I've read some of the comments on other sites, which honestly I think are ridiculous. Gang rape? Really? Projecting much?

    Too bad Method had to cave in, but some situations are frankly no-win situations.

  2. I don't really see a problem with it either. At worst, it's analogous to the typical 'construction worker cat calling' scene. At best, it's a pretty funny, pretty effective little ad.

  3. I find it creepy, but don't see it having anything to do with rape. If Method wanted to really advance their cause, the woman could have magically pulled out her Method stuff and rinsed those mean bubbles away.

  4. "Loofah", like "fob" and "sweatpants", is just funny.

    For those of us who have worked with a certain kind of man in communications — let's just say he giggles — this ad would hit the freaking spot.

    Personally, I wouldn't have made the ad, or cleared it for broadcast. But I know people who would have. They'd have preferred something with guns, of course. But it's bathroom cleaner, so what are you gonna do?

  5. Would you feel comfortable watching this with someone you knew had experienced sexual assault?

  6. #5 Abby, point taken. Thank you.

    The first rule of meeting, or knowing, anyone: assume nothing. Offline, or on. That would include this thread, on this board. And my response, to you. You don't know what my friends, relatives, or I have experienced, nor do I know the same about you.

    We are all responsible for our own reactions. I stand by mine.

  7. gypsy howell- replace "projecting" with reliving and you may actually get the point of some of the "tirades". As a soldier might "overreact" to a commercial with a vehicle going along a desert road or my Israeli friend who cannot stay in a room when fireworks are on tv, people with PTSD are triggered by things that may leave us unaffected.

    This ad is neither new or creative. It depends on old memes that we have had ground into us for decades with other advertising. Riff off your opponents main characters- been done. Use threats of violent behaviour against a female character to imply only your product can protect them- been done. Female nudity- seen that. Only women do housework and are endangered by the products- zzzzzzz. Totally fail to sell your actual point (contact your rep) in order to be "edgy"- granma is bored by that one. The Mary Tyler Moore look-alike- you have to have lived in cave to have missed that one. The only thing that got this piece an award if the fact that every judge on the panel has already done it at least once in their career.

  8. The cat decapitation ad seems much worse, IMO.

    And, frankly, the way the men behave on Mad Men is far, FAR more questionable — and they're portrayed by actual people, not CGI bubbles. Joan is raped by her fiance. Pete…takes advantage…of his neighbor's au pair. Don pushes his way into Suzanne's home. Ken tackles a woman in front of the entire office and exposes her panties. Don shoves his hand up a woman's dress in the ladies' room of a posh eatery. Paul buys Peggy a sandwich and then tries to make out with her when she delivers some papers to him. Sal is molested by a client, then loses his job because he won't go along with it.

    Even the relationships that I cheered had creepy undertones about them initially. Pete, after verbally assaulting Peggy at the office, shows up at her house in the middle of the night, drunk and desperate to see her. Don, desperate and drunk as well, shows up at Rachel's house in the middle of the night, maneuvers his way in, and is already on top of her before he reconsiders and asks her if this is what she wants.

    Furthermore, these men are drawn in a way that we're supposed to like or sympathize with them. We're supposed to understand and excuse their behavior in the name of appreciating drama. But really, would any of us feel comfortable if any of these things happened to us in real life?

  9. I don't think that anyone would argue that Mad Men has some issues of its own. What is different is that Mad Men is easily avoided by simply not tuning in, advertisements pop up across time periods, channels and websites. It is a different experience of pop culture and arguably more repellent when it crosses over.

  10. OK, I understand your point about people having certain triggers that don't affect the rest of us. The sound of helicopters triggers PTSD in some Vietnam era vets. Gunshots, or even loud lightning strikes might do the same. How sensitive do we need to be of all the various triggers that might set people off because of traumatic experiences in their past?

    All I can say is, to me it was funny and effective. Creepy, yes, but that was the point. I didn't see the bubbles are threatening violent behavior – they were just typical of the creepy leering that women put up with all the time.

    Actually, I was thinking more Teri Hatcher/Desperate Housewives than MTM. Which also made it kind of funny to me.

  11. Hawise, it was a viral video. If you don't click, you don't have to watch. Easily avoided.

  12. The point is that you experience it differently than a scheduled show. Actually creepy isn't supposed to be the point- getting you to contact your representatives about a bill was and you can probably notice how that got missed in the naked woman being abused by bubbles concept. All it made me do was get out the old instructions my grandmother had for cleaning with common, safe household products- totally greener than Method because it is all locally produced, shipped short distances and sold in bulk containers to eliminate waste.

  13. I watched it and found it repellent and full of verbal abuse and sexual harassment that women endure every day. Why is this appropriate to sell green house cleaning products?

  14. See? The fact that they're using cartoon bubbles to instill fear and make their point is why I guess this ad doesn't particularly offend me. There are far more offensive things on TV, the Web, the news, in movies and music, and life in general to get my ire. I have no fear that I will ever — EVER — be assaulted by scrubbing bubbles. I am concerned, however, that men will see the guys on Mad Men, think they're cool, and want to emulate them. You can already see evidence of this on certain discussion on various web sites across the internet.

  15. Hawise, then it had a positive effect on you! You just got greener…


  16. As I said, I've seen worse ads. In fact, a Burger King commercial actually aired on television (as part of a Star Trek movie tie-in) which featured "Kingons" (spoofs of Klingons) beaming into a guy's house and stealing his girlfriend. In this case, the implication of rape is much more overt than in Method's viral video.

    FWIW, I did find the Method ad funny. So did my wife. However, I get why some may find it offensive. The woman chosen for the ad is quite attractive and there are some titillating hints of nudity shown. They juxtapose these titillating shots of the woman with the harassing cat-calls of the bubbles (geez, this reads silly as I type it).

  17. The only thing that got this piece an award if the fact that every judge on the panel has already done it at least once in their career.

    Word. It's only cute and funny and harmless because — hey, I've done that before! And I'm a regular stand-up dude, right. It's cute and funny when I do it, so it's especially cute and funny when talking bubbles do it. This is how such an unoriginal ad actually strikes a chord. It relies on overused memes that don't challenge us to think, but help make us feel more comfortable about who we are.

    And the women who object to the ad? Oversensitive, hysterical crybabies. And who wants to be painted an oversensitive hysterical crybaby by the dominant group? So from there you get plenty of women willing to ride the wave and hop for cookie crumbs, just to avoid the backlash that happens when some women choose to speak up. You can switch the marginalized group and rinse and repeat. Second verse, same as the first.

    This ad does nothing new and goes in no brave direction; it just normalizes something that already existed and trivializes the experience at the same time by trying to assure you that it's not real; everything's just fine, honeypies. When we all know that it is real, and that it relies on the very fact that everything is not just fine to be effective at all — or else the ad wouldn't even make any sense, not without a larger context to nest inside.

  18. So from there you get plenty of women willing to ride the wave and hop for cookie crumbs, just to avoid the backlash that happens when some women choose to speak up.

    Seems like a broad generalization of motive. I'm not hopping for anyone's crumbs. And of COURSE it's real (if by that you mean the leering and catcalling of some oafish males.) That's what makes it funny when sleezy bubbles do it.

  19. I don't find the ad offensive, and I'm typically the kind of person who gets accused of being too sensitive. I guess it depends on whether you think the bubbles are supposed to be cute or not. Because the woman is not portrayed as a sex object, the ad seems like it's from her perspective, and because she seems genuinely freaked out and scared, not "offended" in a sexy way, the bubbles come off as the creepy jerks they would be in real life, not as funny or cute. It's very clear the woman is upset by them. It strikes me as an attempt to riff on a real-life problem, and I think it's good to present it unequivocally as something that's gross and creepy to women, not humorous and cool (like it is sometimes presented as in stories from a man's perspective). YMMV obviously.

  20. #19 AMV…Because the woman is not portrayed as a sex object

    At the risk of repeating myself, I'd argue that the woman was indeed portrayed in a titillating manner. She may not be Victoria's Secret material, but she's a sexy lady. And having her drop the loofah at the end was a play on the old "dropping the soap" prison joke — which does imply rape.

    Again, I wasn't offended by it. BUT, I get why others were.

  21. Maybe I'm not a good judge of what's considered sexy. To me, while she's good-looking, she's the TV version of normal, and seems to be coded as a mom because she is making breakfast for someone.

  22. I thought the video was hilarious – got the point across. I forwarded it onto many of my friends and family members -they loved it!

    Like all ads, issues, situations – EVERYONE is not going to like it.

  23. The ad compared harmful chemical ingredients to sexual molestation. Both threats, right? The suggestion is that the woman can eliminate the threat by using a different cleaning product. The rape culture we live in says the woman can eliminate the threat by not asking for rape . . . in the way she dresses, where she goes, who she talks to, what she drinks, where she lives, works, plays.

    This ad just helped the world keep on telling women that rapists aren't responsible for raping women, women are responsible for getting themselves raped.

    That is how the ad perpetuates the rape culture. That is why the ad is wrong and the creators are morally and intellectually wrong.

    If the only way you can be funny is to ridicule victims, you aren't clever enough to make jokes.

  24. Good Lord, who made this ad? Beavis and Butthead?

    "Like, dude, we totally skanked Scrubbing Bubbles! And, hey, that nekkid chick cringing in fear is soooo funny!"

    You don't make ads so you can titter with your little circle of jerk friends; you make ads to convince people to buy your product or support your cause. If you succeed, it's a good ad. If you don't, it's a bad ad. Watching this doesn't persuade me to buy Method products or support the Labeling Act. It does convince me that the ad people and their Method sponsor are a bunch of stupid jerks, which probably wasn't what Method intended.

    They definitely need a Peggy Olson in their office.

  25. I guess I can see their point, and I did cringe a little, but honestly, I laughed out loud when the bubble said "use the loofah."

  26. AWV- of course she is coded as Mom- in ad land Moms are the only people who even know where the cleaning products are, they are the only ones sensitive enough to care about the product and they need to be frightened into using the right product or they put everyone at risk. Where would we be without Mom and how can we keep her in line without reminding her to be frightened ALL the time, even in places that are supposed to be safe havens. Of course, a lot of Moms already know that they are most at risk of assault in their own homes and bathrooms. They know that it isn't bubbles that are going to get them and they really don't need to be reminded of that fact. Please we all know that she wouldn't be cast as the club/beach sexy because those women wouldn't know where to find the Method products until they had a ring on their finger- don't you watch commercials?

  27. I watch TV on the Internet, so, no. I thought it was surprising to depict a woman coded as a mother being sexually harassed, because in the media there is often the implication that only women who are "club/beach sexy" get harassed, with the implication being that it's normal/understandable to harass such women. Not only is it not okay to harass people, but in real life it happens to all kinds of women. The ad seems to be showing an ordinary person going about her day in a context that, to her, is not sexual at all, and then all of the sudden, sexuality is projected on her by the bubbles. She's thinking about cleaning the shower, and then she's thinking about making breakfast, and then she's objectified by the bubbles.

    I do see the blame-the-victim aspect; you could read the ad as "she made a bad decision and now she's being punished," and I think that's a legit thing to find offensive. But I absolutely don't think that the bubbles are portrayed as funny or cool, and she seems genuinely upset.

  28. I use harassed/frightened as a general factor in marketing to women- the garbage can that is out to get you until you spray it with Lysol, germs that stalk your children etc. It is all standard practice, this one ads in a sexual component that is at best creepy at worst triggering for survivors and no one is arguing that the bubbles are either funny or cool. The upset is the point- women are supposed to get upset enough to contact their rep about the contents of their products. The problem is that it backfired- you get people who think this is hilarious- loofah funny, Mom scared funny or you get people upset that the company is selling product with sexual assault/rape imagery. There doesn't appear to be a rush to deal with what could be valuable legislation- ad fail.

  29. see #7 and #17 for examples of people saying that fans of the ad see the bubbles as funny & cool

    no one here, obviously, is saying that they themselves think that

  30. fair enough but the youtube comments were mostly big yucks about how funny the word loofah was by obviously young males. I really don't see that selling soap or getting up any outrage over what is in it. The point remains that the ad fails to deliver what it was intended to deliver and at the same time is a solid wedge of tired old standbys which triggers rape survivors, who for some odd reason objected to that.

  31. The problem is that this ad plays off of a cultural norm in which rape is minimized; it's not important, it's a punch line, it's sex, it's not such a big deal. It's called "rape culture" and it's used to terrorize women.

    The fact that all of us have "seen worse" is kind of the point. We're in a culture that treats rape as so cute that commercials frequently go this far and much farther, trivializing something that is violent, devastating, and pervasive. Objecting may be pissing in the wind, but standing up for victims is worth it IMO.

  32. Last thing I watched on YouTube, before this, was Don Draper's Carousel speech; he talks about the rare occasions in which the consumer develops a deeper emotional connection with the product. I think that just happened to me. I will never be able to see Method Cleaning products again without flashing on Psycho.

    Wonder who they thought was their target audience. Its like feeding horsemeat to dog lovers.

  33. Or, I meant to say, selling horsemeat to dog lovers. The dogs, of course, loved the horsemeat.

  34. I thought it was a funny ad spoof and it does get the point across about the chemicals commonly found in cleaning products.

    For several years now, I have been using Greening the Cleaning products, from Imus Ranch Foods.

    I know that for some people, the I-Man stirs up strong feelings, but these products are excellent and profits generated from their sale, goes to help fund The Imus Ranch for Kids With Cancer.

    – check 'em out …

  35. Tell me, Smiler, would you see it as equally funny if the soap bubbles were taunting a naked, cringing man, yelling "Hey, nice basket, bitch!" and "How'd ya like to be my new pretty boy?" Or better yet, what if was a naked, cringing black man, and the soap bubbles (wearing little KKK hoods) were calling him "boy" and telling him to get out of their town or "somethin' bad was gonna happen."?

    After all, they're just soap bubbles! And they're supposed to be creepy!
    It's all in fun! Right? Right?

  36. Violence against women: it's heehee-hilarious. D: WTF, world? The commercial would've been far less disgusting, and would've made its point better, had the woman pulled out a bottle of Method cleaner and washed the bubbles down the drain before taking her shower. But I guess the folks @ Method find it far more entertaining to watch naked, frightened women being threatened and harassed. I agree with Camelot Baby; Method has made a huge negative first impression on me, and with so many other 'green' products available (including homemade alternatives), I think it's safe to say they will never have my business.

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