The Marvel Universe’s newest hero doesn’t have the sort of super-powers used by Thor, Captain Marvel or Spider-Man, but some people think the figure is pretty daring all the same.
In a new commercial that launches today, Procter & Gamble’s Tide helps save the day when Wong, Doctor Strange’s longtime colleague, finds himself having to clean up an independently-minded Cloak of Levitation, which is smudged and befouled by pizza flour and pieces of tuna melt. The ad, which will appear on various social networks and TV, is a deliberate effort to promote the May 6 opening of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” the latest film from Disney’s Marvel Studios, but that doesn’t mean it can’t put a spotlight on a well-known laundry detergent as well.
Marvel fans “aren’t just big, but they are so engaged. It really allows us to get into this new space,” says Alex Perez, senior brand director of Procter & Gamble’s laundry products for North America, in an interview. “We think we will reach people who have seen us before, but not in a way that has been that interesting for them.”
Many big marketers have joined with movie studios to help promote a big entertainment release, whether it be McDonald’s offering toy figures in its kid-focused Happy Meals or Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Bud Light joining forces with Warner Bros. Discovery’s HBO to launch a new season of “Game of Thrones.” Even so, executives at Tide can’t recall a time in the recent past when the detergent has helped scrub the path to a movie launch.
Tide snagged the guest-starring role as P&G has placed more emphasis on techniques other than running the same old laundry ads that have for decades featured housewives touting the detergent’s ability to get out stains. In recent years, Tide has carved out prominent roles in several different Super Bowl ads, one featuring a stain on Fox broadcaster Terry Bradshaw’s shirt that figured prominently in an ad that quickly followed. The company recently enlisted celebrities like Ice-T and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to convince consumers to wash clothes with a Tide brand extension designed for use in cold water. And Tide struck partnerships with 16 different NFL teams last year to help continue that effort.
While Marvel is arguably one of the nation’s best-known entertainment brands, Procter isn’t leaving anything to chance. Social-media users who follow actor David Harbour, a participant in a previous Tide ad campaign who also plays Black Widow’s father in the Marvel movie of the same name, might have noticed something unusual last week. Harbour posted a video on Thursday in which he talks about a stained shirt. In the background. viewers might have seen a hand emerge from one of the inter-dimensional portals used by Doctor Strange and his magical cohorts and grab a container of Tide Pods. “This has opened huge fan speculation and conversation,” says Daniel Lobaton, chief creative officer at Saatchi & Saatchi New York, the ad agency that is part of Woven, a consortium of advertising companies that work for Procter’s fabric-care businesses.
— David Harbour (@DavidKHarbour) April 14, 2022
Even the plot of the ad was chosen very deliberately, he says. Wong’s efforts to clean up a cape that doesn’t belong to him will resound with viewers, Lobaton says, who may have experienced a similar situation. “When it’s not your own, you pay a lot more attention,” he says.
Marvel fans will find several other references to the company’s films when they watch the commercial, says Lobaton, which was created by a group of creative executives who are also fans of the movies. “I am a huge nerd,” he confides. Even the tuna melt that stains Doctor Strange’s cape has its roots in Marvel movie lore: in “Avengers: Infinity War,” Wong and Doctor Strange talk about the edifying powers of a good tuna melt sandwich before Bruce Banner appears before them to draw them into a battle with Thanos.
The new commercial will be in rotation through June, says Perez, which means it will help draw attention to the movie before it debuts, and then play off elements of the film that might catch a consumer’s eye after one has seen it. “The Marvel fan will love it, but you don’t have to be a Marvel fan to get the insight and enjoy the spot,” says the executive.