P&G’s Super Bowl Tide Ad Washes Away the Tide Pod Challenge

P&G has been in the news a lot recently as a YouTube trend went viral of the “Tide Pod Challenge” in which people film themselves eating highly toxic Tide laundry detergent pods. Since January 1st, poison control centers have reported 40 cases of individuals aged 13-19 intentionally eating laundry detergent pods. In comparison, there were 53 cases in all of 2017. This public relations nightmare has followed P&G all year with their CEO coming out with a video reminding people of the dangers of eating their highly concentrated detergent pods.

That was the narrative surrounding P&G until the Super Bowl this past Sunday in which they released several genius ads that totally rewrote Tide’s public image. They wanted to emphasize the ubiquity of their signature detergent and that, in any ad, the spotless clothes were probably washed with Tide products. They included 12 different commercial spoofs during the course of the game and they also brought back some old P&G ads that were fan favorites including Isaiah Mustafa from the Old Spice ads and Mr. Clean.

This is a great example of project management. A project is defined as an interrelated set of activities with a definite starting and ending point, which results in a unique outcome for a specific allocation of resources. Projects are characterized by the fact that they are all unique, temporary, and also requires resources from many different parts of an organization. In this case, P&G’s project was this advertising campaign to help wash their image of the bad PR from the Tide Pod challenge. The project management for this started weeks ago with the planning of the ad from the marketing department, the hiring of talent agencies and production facilities, and the overseeing of the editing and purchasing of time slots during the Super Bowl. The 90 seconds worth of time slots that P&G bought to run these ads cost $15 million not even including production expenses. This amount of resources requires a huge amount of coordination amongst different departments to ensure that nothing goes wrong during the course of the project.

Companies like P&G already have a fairly good precedent set for designing ad campaigns like this as they have hugely adept marketing departments that have been making quality ads for decades now. The reason for this is that their project management is so good at creating project schedules. I would imagine that they have a hugely detailed Gantt chart so that every aspect of the project is aware of their responsibilities and time restrictions. With a project that is intended for use during the Super Bowl, there can’t be any mistakes in calculating slack time or unforeseen costs which means that their project management has to be on top of their calculations to ensure their project is completed on time.






8 thoughts on “P&G’s Super Bowl Tide Ad Washes Away the Tide Pod Challenge

  • February 7, 2018 at 11:56 pm


    Awesome topic. As soon as I saw those ads this weekend, I too was planning on writing about them! It was truly amazing to see these ads, as they have rewrote what P&G has been experiencing these last few months with the “Tide Pod Challenge”.

    I think the true reason that this was such an ingenious ad campaign is because they not only perfectly advertised their product, but they had so many Super Bowl commercial spoofs that they made all of the viewers of the Super Bowl thinking that every commercial might be a Tide commercial, a task not easily accomplished.

    This project required some of the best marketing minds in the world. In an opinion that is not just my own, they have won the “competition” of Super Bowl commercials. Not only did it require exceptional marketing minds, but also phenomenal management to go along with it in planning this enormous investment of more than 15 million dollars. There are so many moving parts to conducting a good investment and P&G has hit it right on the nose. Hopefully, these commercials will help them move on from the horrific trend of the “Tide Pod Challenge”.

  • February 7, 2018 at 7:39 pm


    I completely agree with all of your insightful comments and this analysis that shows the connection between Operations Management and marketing/advertising. With such a large project like this, there are so many smaller projects involved and it is important to manage them all.

    One of the project goals we have discussed in class is that the project meets the specifications to the satisfaction of the customer. In this case, it is a bit harder to gauge satisfaction since there is not a tangible product. This ad has gained an incredible amount of positive attention since it aired. It was even rated the best Super Bowl LII ad by AdWeek. It seems safe to assume that customers (viewers, P&G consumers, etc.) were very satisfied with this project by Tide and P&G.

    An incredible amount of planning goes into a project like this, which is one of the most important steps of the project process. In an interview with P&G executives by AdWeek, they mention how “[They] talked very, very, very early on with all the creatives…” in preparation for this project.


  • February 7, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    Adam, I think you introduce some really good points here. I had heard of the “Tide Pod” challenge and could only think of how this must have negatively impacted Tide’s and P&G’s image. Regardless, I was not going to stop using Tide Pods in my usual laundry routine. They are so easy to use. However, in the midst of this counter intuitive trend (why would someone eat laundry detergent?), the Tide brand was clearly suffering. Utilizing a system of project management, I’m sure P&G was focused on moving away from the recent negative brand image and doing something to remind consumers of the real purpose for the product: simple and effective detergent that keeps clothes clean. The Tide commercials during the Super Bowl were hilarious but were equally as effective in reminding consumers of the effectiveness and intended use of the product. One can see how the notion of project management was implemented into this campaign. Obviously, there were guidelines set out in the project. Also, key factors such as timeframe, audience, actors, reach, and other elements were documented into a detailed plan on order to have this ad campaign ready by the Super Bowl. But this may not be enough. Fox News released today an article discussing how two New York lawmakers are asking the state to mandate that the Tide Pod product mix introduce child resistant packaging and that Tide remake the pods to be less appetizing. It will be interesting to see how this campaign develops amid so much negativity surrounding the brand.

  • February 7, 2018 at 6:21 pm


    As I was watching the Super Bowl this past weekend, the Tide advertisements were the ones that stood out to me most. I enjoyed your discussion of these ads and of Tide’s success at handing a PR nightmare in relation to project management.

    I recently read an article on Adweek entitled: “What Tide’s Super Bowl Success Can Teach Brands About Social Media Strategy” that discusses Tide’s success in using real-time social media marketing to reinforce the messages advertised throughout the Super Bowl. To do so, Tide must have had a detailed project schedule that outlined what content was going to be posted, at what time, and on which social media platforms. In addition to the short timeline that the marketing team had for the creation of these advertisements, Tide also had to ensure that social media messages were consistent and on-task before and especially after Super Bowl Sunday.

    I agree with your point that Tide must have an extremely detailed Gantt chart in order to keep employees on task. This must have been a key element in Tide’s success because I can imagine that there were numerous deadlines with a myriad of people being held responsible for deliverables. When it comes to the Super Bowl, air time is extremely expensive. With these high costs, there is a lot on the line for companies like Tide who are investing so much money into advertisements for just one day out of the year. Because of the high pressure, high cost, and small timeline associated with this year’s Super Bowl, Tide’s success can be largely attributed to their impeccable project management skills.


  • February 7, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    Adam, I really enjoyed your post about Tide’s tremendously successful “It’s Another Tide Ad” advertising campaign during the Super Bowl last Sunday. After receiving backlash and negative press surrounding the Tide Pod challenge, Tide found themselves in a very difficult position and needed a major win, even if it cost them $15 million, “to help wash their image of the bad PR.”

    After watching the one 45-second spot and three 15-second spots on Sunday and reading your post, I began to wonder when this project was conceived and when it was put into motion. The Tide Pod challenge was very popular during December and January, and if Tide wanted to launch an advertising campaign in direct response to the Tide Pod challenge and this was their solution, then they would have found themselves with an extremely short project timeline for the campaign.

    If this was in fact the case and Tide started this project a few weeks ago in December or January, they would have faced several hurdles and challenges in order to reach completion before the Super Bowl. The project managers would have needed to know the latest finish time which is the latest start time of the activity that immediately follows, for every single activity in the project to streamline the activities. In order to finish the concept, creative, talent search and acquisition, shooting, editing, etc., there had to be zero or extremely little slack time in the project. Additionally, with a shortened timeline the crash costs associated with the crash time would have had to been extremely high, contributing to the large $15 million price tag. Whether or not this is actually the case for Tide, it is interesting to think about how a shortened project timeline has implications for a firm.

    • February 7, 2018 at 6:29 pm

      I enjoyed reading your comment. I thought it was really interesting reading your discussion regarding the difficulty of finalizing a concept, finding celebrities, shooting, editing, etc. all within such a short timeline. I cant imagine the organization and oversight that must have occurred to ensure that these advertisements aired successfully. I was not aware that the price tag for this campaign was $15 million. I am sure that the rush and pressure associated with this project must have made this cost exponentially higher than it would have been without such a small timeline. I wonder what Tide was strategizing for the Super Bowl before the Tide Pods challenge began.

  • February 7, 2018 at 2:39 pm


    Tide was very aware that they needed to switch the narrative from the “Tide Pod Challenge” to something positive. To do this they created their Super Bowl campaign, which consisted of four individual ads shown in each quarter. I agree with you that there needed to be excellent time management and organization skills to produce ads of this magnitude. This AdWeek article gives a glimpse so what Tide was thinking when they produced the ads and how much preparation went into it. Something that made this huge tasks easier is that they are a P&G company. This way they could use resources from the P&G companies (spokespeople, actors, etc.) to efficiently create the ads and make them seem more authentic. However, like good project managers they needed to be prepared for any pushback. The article states that they asked BudLight if they could parody their “dilly dilly” ads and they were not allowed. This is effective project management because they are thinking ahead for any controversies. The article also shows that Tide was so organized that they even had spreadsheets of six to ten tweets they would post hanging on the walls.

    All together the organization and project management made for a very successful campaign. Of the 167,000 tweets about Tide during the Super Bowl only 11,000 of them were about the Tide Pod Challenge. It seems like they were successful in changing their narrative, they were even ranked as the best Super Bowl ad by AdWeek as well.


    • February 7, 2018 at 4:08 pm

      Caroline, I enjoyed reading your insightful comment. Bringing in the idea that Tide is owned by Proctor and Gamble and thus has access to all of their extensive resources was an extremely interesting notion that I hadn’t thought about before. I would also imagine that many employees working for Tide have been put through a formal Procter and Gamble training program that would help to improve their time management and organization skills in order to produce high quality, successful ads such as those in the “It’s Another Tide Ad” campaign. Lastly, the monitoring and measuring the tweets about Tide during the Super Bowl is an interesting way to determine the success or popularity of an advertising campaign.

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