Talk about product placement. Talk about a captive audience. Talk about turning a basic human need into a branding opportunity.
From next Monday through December 31, Charmin brand toilet paper, a division of Procter & Gamble, will operate a 20-stall public restroom in the heart of New York's Times Square (on Broadway between 45th and 46th streets, if you're programming your GPS). A huge billboard over the entrance will announce "You're in New York. Go in Style." Two stalls will be wheelchair-accessible, and several will have baby-changing stations. Naturally, each stall will be stocked with Charmin Ultra TP. And a staff of attendants will be standing by to clean each stall after every use.
You'll even be able to have your photo taken with a stuffed six-foot Charmin bear (not in a stall--in a special "seating lounge").
From today's New York Times:
“Let’s face it — there aren’t a lot of environments where a bathroom tissue message is relevant,” said Dennis Legault, brand manager for Charmin. “But the message is very relevant when people really need to go.”
Charmin isn't saying how much this relief effort is costing, but the Times notes that the restroom will occupy 7,000 to 8,000 square feet of prime real estate where rents average $150 to $225 per square foot per year.
Branding experts say it is money well spent. “This will provide a much-needed service for women, who I suspect are Charmin’s main buyers,” said Judy Hopelain, a partner at the marketing consultant Prophet Brand Strategy.
Michael Watras, president of the brand consultant Straightline International, figures that the costs, no matter how high, are a pittance for what the promotion will glean. “They’re showcasing their brand to a gazillion people in the toughest place in the toughest city,” he said. “They’ll get more publicity than any advertising campaign could ever provide.”
Just make sure you get in line before the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve and the whole endeavor goes down the drain. And whatever you do, please don't squeeze the Charmin.