Maybe Translucent is Better than Transparent

2009 was all about transparency – open communications and honest relationships. No more secrets in a world of social media; give us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. After all, the truth will set us free.

Maybe not so much.

I read this morning in the Wall Street Journal that the new president of Procter & Gamble plans to introduce 30% more new products this year than last. That sounds like a lot to me; then I realized I don’t know how many new products they launched last year, so…

Anyway, the story goes on to say “Among the planned introductions is a body wash that purports to fight wrinkles. P&G will roll out the product officially next month, adding it to Olay’s Total Effects line of anti-aging face creams.” P&G says it plans to promote the new body wash with print ads in the February and March issues of women’s beauty and health magazines, as well as TV spots, betting that vanity will overcome the appeal of saving money. That sounds like a lot of marketing support to me; then I realized the Olay spokeswoman declined to say how much the company is spending on the campaign, so…

But I was intrigued about the new product. I mean of all the products in the P&G stable, why is this one so important? According to the WSJ story, the ads for the new body wash stress seven anti-aging claims, including that it improves skin elasticity, brightens dull skin and minimizes the appearance of dry lines. In other words, it helps consumers appear to look different from the way they really should look. Virginia Drosos, the company’s president of global female beauty and grooming, says all Olay ads use the tagline, “Love the skin you’re in.” This sounds good until you realize that the products are designed to alter the skin you are in, which is the skin you theoretically love, so…

Still, you have to tip your hat to the experts at P&G who always seem to know exactly what consumers want. Then I read this assessment from Candace Corlett, president of consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail, explaining why finding fresh applications for existing brands is a strategy that risks confusing consumers. “When presented with so many choices, it’s hard to understand why one is different than the other,” says Corlett. “Or [shoppers] get to the shelf after they saw an Olay ad for a product, but can’t remember exactly which one it was.”

So, welcome to 2010, the year after the year of transparency, and the year I plan to refer to as the year of translucency, because I think it is a more transparent description.

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.