The perfect (and worst) adverts for hand sanitizer

Thanks to coronavirus, a new creative category is on the rise – advertising for hand sanitizer. As more of us stash bottles in our pockets, brands will come under increasing pressure to get noticed in a crowded category. So it makes sense that both Dettol and Lifebuoy have invested in large advertising campaigns, but it's interesting to note the different directions that each has taken.

First, Lifebuoy von Mullenlowe's Bish, Bash, Bosh campaign, which includes a film and outdoor advertising with illustrations by Dan Woodger.

It's fun and God knows we all need some of this after months of scary news and social distancing warnings. Making hand sanitizer playful and engaging must have been a daunting task, but Mullenlowe and Woodger did it in impressive ways.

The illustrations are punchy and work just as well as static outdoor advertising as in a rough animation that reminds us why we all need disinfectants in the first place.

Somehow it's not the visual approach you'd expect from hand sanitizer, and maybe that's why it works that way. As @clairestrickett comments, "It is a real treat to take care of advertising that feels so distinctive and graphic." Others have responded positively to the onomatopoeic slogan.

"Tube it splosh it's a delightful joyous thing that pokes fun at both the entire genre of public health news," writes @nickparker. “The Lifebuoy stuff reminds me of Australia's 1980s slip slop slap ads. It's still a mantra today. This shit just works, ”adds @Kingsgrove.

The Lifebuoy stuff reminds me of Australia's iconic 1980s slip slop slap ads. It's still a mantra today. This shit just works.

– Richard Parker (@Kingsgrove) September 2, 2020

If criticism needs to be voiced, it is that Lifebuoy has been somewhat persistent with its use of font, but this can perhaps be forgiven in the context of Woodger's illustrations.

Next up is Dettol's Keep Protecting campaign by McCann Worldgroup UK, which takes a different approach and takes people's sense of civic duty into account. It underlines that we need to be vigilant to ensure the safety of everyone else.

It does this by paying homage to the little rituals that made up our everyday lives before Covid, in a series of posters as well as in long-form ads that received mixed reactions online.

It's hard to find the right long form, and in this case Dettol may not have had success. Perhaps it's because of an inevitable resemblance to Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting speech.

Or maybe it's because of the deeply mundane things that Dettol believes we are all desperate to come back to, including "the boss's jokes," real bants, stand right and put on a tie "- as if it weren't bleak enough that we even have to buy hand sanitizer.

What kind of mole psychopath actually enjoys the tube?

– James Felton (@JimMFelton) September 3, 2020

The ads lead to mockery of social issues, with reactions like "What kind of mole-man psychopath is actually enjoying the tube" by @JimMFelton to "Might use some Dettol for my eyes" by @TobyHolleran.

Others have chosen to create their own fake versions of the campaign that only emphasize where Dettol went wrong with its pro-back-to-the-office stance.

I thought the tube ad was spot on personally.

– Sean Leahy (@thepunningman) September 3, 2020

Even Trainspotting writer Irvine Welsh picked up on the campaign and commented on it in his usual succinct way.

Choose death

– Irvine Welsh (@IrvineWelsh) September 3, 2020

It's entirely possible this memeification will ultimately work in Dettol's favor when it comes to spreading awareness, but the ads themselves still feel like someone from the ad agency hasn't read the room.

Judging by these advertisements alone – as this is certainly just the beginning of a wave of Covid-related products that will be whipped up to us in the coming months – it's a simple and lighthearted, not serious approach to the subject we all want right now.