The green-and-white soap, which has been around for 44 years, has launched a “revival” promoting the product towards a younger market, in the form of a their “Signature for Men Body Wash,” but the videos have a far from fresh feel. In fact, it seems that Irish Spring is stuck in the 1970s along with their first advertising campaigns that made them famous.
The newest series of videos includes the “Dublin Fish Market” where Sean the fisherman uses the product so he can “go from catchin' bass to chasin' lass." In the ad called “Celtic Warrior Games” leading man Shane, who throws “big rocks for a living,” “keeps his girl Molly” (who incidentally looks like Merida from Disney’s cartoon “Brave”) by using the soap. And then there’s the Gaelic football match commercial where Liam is so excited he pours his pint over his and the narrator jokes “that's a perfectly good waste of a drink.”
And don’t get us started on the narrator’s accent. Although he is Irish, his accent is so hammed up we’re thinking that he’s watched “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” a few too many times and the Irish Spring slogan, “Clean a Man Up Right,” isn’t helping.
We aren’t the only ones to take umbrage at the new series of ads. AdWeek’s Robert Klara’s article from last week ran with the headline “Irish Spring's Revival Puts the Bro in Brogue and Keeps Ridiculous Celtic Clichés Alive Aye lad.”
That about sums it up.
Referring to the Celtic Warrior Games spot, he pointed out that ethnic, gender and national stereotyping aren’t really the 'go to marketing play' in modern marketing.
During the 1970s Y&R worked on 30 second ads for Irish Spring selling the soap as the “Ulster Fragrance” with extra special green and white stripes. These ads didn’t back away from being super twee but the funny thing is that Irish Spring is actually a German product - Iriche Frühling – and has nothing to do with Ireland.
Adweek’s overriding question about the ads is that if the Colgate-Palmolive owned brand grossed $16 million last year then why is it choosing not to move on and be cutting edge but instead “going down a path to the past.”
Advertising and marketing executive Petur Workman also found the fawning women in the new Irish Spring ads off-putting and, while these kinds of characters would not have been out of place on TV in the 1980s, they don’t fit right in 2016.
Workman told Adweek, “It's not PC anymore and I found [the new effort] offensive. Even if it's targeted at the Irish community, it's a slap in the face – who in the hell talks like that? They're also cutting their noses to spite their faces, because a lot of women use this product."
Maria McGarrity, a professor of Irish literature and culture at New York's Long Island University, said the ads "display the typical, essentialist view of Irish culture, its fiery lasses, drunken revelry and faux accents that might as well offer a 'top of the morning to ya' as an overture. The only thing I think is missing is a paddy wagon."
McGarrity suggests that if the brand is going to tap into Irish culture it should do so properly.
She continued, “Instead of the staged, Irish, Aran-sweater sporting, ginger haired [actors], why not use actual scenes of Ireland, its sports, people and fun?
"There is plenty of excellent material in the country without resorting to its worst evocations."
Americus Reed, a brand identity consultant and professor of marketing at Wharton, said that what Irish Spring was doing is creating controversial content as a way of making consumers curious about a brand. What we’re noticing is that no one got the joke. They don’t see it as controversial.
On trawling the internet what’s surprising is that the Celtic Warrior ad has been out for over a year and has racked up over 6 million views on Facebook. In the comment section below there are no viewers questioning what they’re seeing or wondering if this plastic paddy image is a little over the top. It seems that, yet again, it’s okay to mock and belittle the Irish and hardly anyone will bat an eye.
What do you think of the new Irish Spring ads? Let us know in the comment section below.