“It was one of the first times that I can remember that we have successfully leveraged PR to sell more volume” – Mark Komanecky, Manager, Market Strategy and Planning, P&G Beauty Care – North America




Procter & Gamble (P&G) hired PainePR to develop a strategic public relations and media relations program to support the introduction of Ivory Soap’s new retro packaging (based on its original 1879 design) and an associated  “Find the Sinking Bar” promotion.  Timing for the campaign was from October 2001 through March 2002.  Based on extensive research with P&G’s archives department, PainePR and the Ivory Soap brand team discovered that Ivory Soap was celebrating its 120th year of national advertising, thus providing a sustainable news hook to communicate the commercial messages of the new Retro Packaging and the Sinking Bar consumer promotion.  In creating a strategic platform, PainePR and Ivory Soap executed a three-prong campaign – which began in October with a donation of more than 5,000 original Ivory Soap advertising materials to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and ended with Ivory Soap participating in the 2002 Tournament of Roses Parade.  In between, we conducted aggressive long-lead outreach to key women’s and beauty publications.  Overall, the PR program resulted in more than $1 million in product sales as well as generated nearly 470 million media impressions.




The primary objectives for the campaign included:  1) create excitement and help drive purchase for the Ivory Retro promotion; 2) increase awareness of Ivory’s historical purity equities; 3) design PR programs that highlight history of Ivory Soap; and 4) raise awareness of Ivory’s traditional and non-traditional product attributes.


While developing a plan that would meet the above objectives, PainePR had to evaluate certain challenges and opportunities that would ultimately affect our strategic direction.


Challenges:  1) Consumer marketing efforts for the Ivory Soap brand had been non-existent for more than seven years; 2) Key messages for Retro Ivory Soap that P&G wanted to convey were very commercial and thus a hard sell to media; 3) The market share for Ivory Soap had slowly slipped to 5.8 percent from a high of 70 percent in 1945; 4) Ivory Soap was not introducing a new product – the 99 44/100 percent pure soap has used the same formula for more than 120 years; 5) Ivory Soap was competing with various deodorant and beauty bars, most of which deliver superior skin benefits.


Opportunities:  1) Ivory Soap has an emotional bond with consumers and is viewed as an American icon among key audiences; 2) Ivory still owned several key equities within the soap category, including being mild on your skin and leaving skin feeling naturally cleansed; 3) Consumers were craving nostalgia and simplicity, as seen by the popularity of VW Beatle, PT Cruiser, Real Simple Magazine and yoga, especially post 9/11.




Research/Planning/Target Audience:  PainePR worked closely with the Ivory Soap brand team to conduct extensive research on the current state of Ivory Soap within the market.  Using P&G market research, the target audience (primarily women aged 18-34) and brand equity were analyzed.   Working with P&G external communications, PainePR reviewed the strategies, tactics and results of the 100th anniversary of Ivory Soap.  Additionally, PainePR researched the growing trend of nostalgia in the U.S.  As media and consumers were responding favorably to nostalgia and Ivory Soap as an American icon, PainePR concluded that the 120th anniversary of national Ivory Soap advertising would be an ideal hook to secure media interest.


After multiple brainstorm sessions, PainePR recommended a three-prong campaign – kicking-off with a donation to the Smithsonian and ending with Ivory Soap participating in the 2002 Tournament of Roses Parade – with long-lead beauty book pitching throughout.  To support our recommendations, PainePR conducted deep research on past media results for corporate Smithsonian donations and demographic breakdown for Tournament of Roses Parade viewers.  After P&G approved the plan, PainePR worked closely with P&G archives to inventory the historic advertising materials, photos, packaging and anecdotes that could be used throughout the program.




To meet our primary objectives, we took the following overall strategic approach: 

  • Partnered with the Smithsonian and Tournament of Roses to leverage Ivory’s historical product attributes and equities of purity on a national level
  • Capitalized on consumers’ recent focus on nostalgia and simplicity
  • Used creative programs with the Smithsonian and Tournament of Roses to create buzz and excitement for the Retro Packaging and Sinking Bar promotion. 




Smithsonian:  Ivory Soap donated 120 years of national advertising materials to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.  The Smithsonian strategy was to 1) use the donation as a bookend tactic to kick off Ivory retro program; 2) leverage Smithsonian’s credibility to add life to a normally low-interest category; 3) communicate Ivory’s key messages and brand’s historical attributes and purity equities.  To increase media coverage, we executed a donation event at the museum in Washington, D.C. on October 24.  The donation media event took place during the height of the Anthrax scare and the tragic deaths of postal workers in the nation’s capital.  PainePR acknowledged the challenge of securing local media coverage in the wake of the Anthrax scares, and strategically focused on securing Associated Press (AP) coverage, hiring a paid stringer and developing b-roll to be distributed via satellite.  Because the Smithsonian donation was not the ideal media visual, PainePR hired a soap sculptor to carve a 5,000-pound bar of Ivory Soap into a gigantic Uncle Sam head.  Soap carving also played an important role in its history – it was an art form that Ivory pioneered in the 1920s.   PainePR also worked with the Smithsonian daycare system to invite local children to participate in the soap carving demonstration.


Tournament of Roses Parade:  To leverage the fact that Ivory Soap is the only soap that floats and to further emphasize its position as an American icon, Ivory Soap participated in the 2002 Tournament of Roses Parade.   The strategic approach for the Tournament of Roses was to 1) use parade entry as a bookend for program with a design that plays off Ivory’s beloved, classic brand identity and floating/purity qualities; and 2) position Ivory Soap as an American icon.  We commissioned award-winning Phoenix Decorating Company to create a float that communicated Ivory’s messages of purity and natural cleansing.  The float – entitled “Once Upon a Bath Time” – featured a mother bathing her infant in a Victorian tub filled with real water and Ivory-scented bubbles.  We worked closely with the Tournament of Roses and Phoenix to coordinate every detail – from the flowers and music, to disseminating information to media.  As all float sponsors are vying for media attention, we executed a float decorating media event on December 28 and hired “General Hospital” soap star Nancy Lee Grahn to help apply the final floral touches.  We chose a soap star because Ivory Soap was one of the first sponsors of daytime dramas – its actually how soap operas got their name – and the actress appealed to our target audience.  In addition to pitching national and local outlets, we fed event b-roll and distributed nationally a paid AP photo.


Long-Lead Media Outreach:  PainePR’s outreach to long-lead women’s books allowed Ivory Soap to communicate its messages of purity, mildness and nostalgia through mediums that reached our target audience.  Paine developed a creative mailer to create buzz about the retro packaging and distributed it to top-tier women’s publications.  The mailer included materials on the program and facts about Ivory Soap’s history and was packaged in a soap dish with glass bubbles.  Paine conducted follow-up with media to garner placements for the retro program/promotion. 




This overall public relations program had many significant achievements, including:

  • Contributing $1 million to program sales (95,000 statistical cases)
  • Garnering approximately nearly 470 million impressions and building mainstream awareness for the Ivory Retro program
  • Securing media placements that delivered core brand equities and Ivory’s deep history
  • Media reaction to the entire retro program was overwhelmingly positive, despite working in a tough post-9/11 media environment
  • The Smithsonian event garnered massive coverage, including a four-minute segment on the “Today Show” with anchor Ann Curry noting “ads for Ivory encapsulate critical moments in Ivory’s history”
  • Additional national coverage included ABC “This Week,” three AP stories, three AP photos, New York Times, multiple CNN hits, three Washington Post articles, NPR, ABC Radio, CBS Radio, Home and Garden Television (HGTV), Reuters, TVGuide.com, Advertising Age, Adweek and national broadcast feeds on FOX and CBS
  • National coverage of the Ivory Soap float during the Tournament of Roses Parade was obtained on NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, HGTV and Univision as the Ivory Soap float was honored with the Past Presidents’ Trophy
  • Local coverage included print, radio or television coverage in Ivory’s top 40 markets, including print coverage in The Los Angeles Times, Cincinnati Post, Cincinnati Enquirer, Miami Herald, Plain Dealer, San Diego Union Tribune, Seattle Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and hundreds of other outlets and television/radio coverage including KTVU-TV (San Francisco FOX), WKRC-TV (Cincinnati CBS), KOMO-TV (Seattle ABC), a continuous two-hour life shot from the Ivory Soap float with Los Angeles-based KABC-TV, WBBM-AM (Chicago CBS), WIOD-AM (Miami ABC) and hundreds of additional outlets


As a result of our long-lead outreach we secured positive coverage in Vogue, Self, Elle and Redbook


At the conclusion of the campaign, P&G’s sales market manager, Mark Komanecky, stated “the work that Paine did for us was instrumental in gaining so much trade support.  It was one of the first times that I can remember that we have successfully leveraged PR to sell more volume!”