How Kruger and BHLA created their new, messy, love story

Who: Kruger Products, with BHLA for strategy and creative; Scouts Honour for production (directed by Mark Zibert); post-production by Nimiopere, Tantrum, Alter Ego; OSO Audio for sound; Wavemaker for media, and North Strategic for PR.

What: “Love is Messy,” a new multi-brand campaign which shows how Kruger paper products are there for when love gets messy. It’s a new chapter in the “Unapologetically Human” platform, which launched three years ago.

When & Where: The campaign is live now, with no firm end date. It’s all video (TV, online, social), but there are 25 different assets, ranging from a two-plus minute, multi-brand film, to 60- and 30-second versions,  followed by a series of brand-specific cutdowns for Scotties, Purex, Cashmere, and Sponge.

Why: The core message of the platform is that life gets messy for everyone, and Kruger’s household paper products can be there to help clean up the mess.

Aside from the craft of the execution itself, the first “Unapologetically Human” spot was strategically unique for a couple of reasons. First, it did not shy away from showing the real human reasons people need household paper. “We all cry, we all make messes, we all bleed and oh, by the way, we all go to the bathroom,” said Susan Irving, Kruger CMO.

It also put the focus on people first, and then inserted the product—sometimes quite subtly—into the spot. How visible, or not, Kruger products are remains an ongoing, let’s say, debate, between BHLA and Kruger. “We have arguments and then we make up about just on how much product or brand we’re gonna  put in the spots,” said Irving.

The launch spot, or “UH 1 .0” as they call it now, won 18 global awards, and ran for more than 2.5 years—“the spot’s just not wearing out,” said Irving—and the brand metrics remain strong.

“When we launched UH 1.0, I remember being very scared,” said Irving. “I was like this is either gonna go really well or it’s gonna go really wrong for all of us, but it went really well.”

While retaining what felt like a winning strategy, BHLA needed to figure out how to replicate that success while sharing a new life-is-messy story.

How (the multi-brand spots): The creative team of Todd Mackie and Denise Rossetto broke life into chapters and wrote a number of different scripts, before settling on a life force instead of a single life chapter.

“Life can be messy, but love can definitely be messier,” said Mackie, reciting the new campaign tagline. “We’ve all found love, lost love, fought to get it back, maybe lost it again. And it just feels like it’s something universal.”

The hero launch spot shows the many powerful, poignant life moments around love—from a note passed to a crush in class, to a tentative first kiss, to much more passionate ones, and from fights and makeups, to marriage and more fights, and finally the tender truths of love that lasts well into old age. Just as in the original, Kruger products are there, but only in a supporting role.

Before shooting the new spot, Mackie dissected UH 1.0 second by second, tabulating how many product shots and usage moments there were, and how much product was up front or in the background. “In the edit, you can just kind of tell when a product is taking over a scene, and you just have to be careful because when you’re taking a consumer on an emotional journey, if you snap them out of it, you lose them,” said Mackie.

How (the brand spots): One lesson learned from the first “Unapologetically Human” was that the cutdowns and more product-focused iterations were not as effective as the longer multi-brand hero spots.

In 2020, BHLA started with the longform and took the cutdowns from that. This time they inverted their approach. It made for a slightly more complicated process, but they first developed the brand-specific usage spots that were then incorporated into the longer multi-brand spot. “They’re more of a functional story about the product,” said Mackie of the single brand creative.

The music: One of the reasons for the success of 1.0 was the use of Rag and Bone Man’s “Human.” When the Quebec version launched with a French song and underperformed, they tested it with the music used in the English spot. “And it was off the charts,” said Irving. “So we knew we had something special.”

“There a lot of pressure put on the music,” said Mackie. Music selection tends to be all-agency affair at BHLA, with anyone and everyone free to make suggestions during the planning and production process. “We listened to, no joke, probably over 1,200 songs over the course of that time,” he said.

His initial instinct was that it should be a foreign language song, and they even started editing with a French track. But then BHLA producer Erica Metcalfe suggested the Paloma Faith cover of the INXS classic “Never Tear Us Apart.”

“When we put it on, it was kind of like one of those moments where you go, ‘Oh my god,’ You didn’t have to change the edit for it,” said Mackie. “It just sort of sat on it naturally.”

And we quote: “Very few brands are still willing to tell the truth of life. They want to manufacture a version of life with a sense that everyone is happy and that everything is okay…That may be true, but it also may not. I give Kruger Products huge credit for being a little bit more real about the experience of being human.” —Jay Chaney, partner and CSO, Broken Heart Love Affair

David Brown