This year marks half a century since the beloved Andrex Puppy first appeared on TV screens across the UK. The puppy's debut campaign, filmed in 1972, marked the beginning of an enduring relationship between this much-loved canine star and Britain's loo roll lovers. Fetching, cuddly and cute as a button, we’re looking at the story of this unlikely British celebrity.
The Andrex Puppy almost didn’t happen
The first UK screening of the Andrex Puppy commercial aired in 1972, but the initial concept for the advert had no puppy at all. Originally, Andrex’s advertising mascot was a little girl.
The initial plan was to run a toilet paper advertising campaign that involved a little girl running through her house trailing a roll of Andrex behind her. However, this idea was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which argued that it would be wasteful.
To appease the Advertising Standards Authority, Andrex replaced the little girl with a Labrador puppy in a new campaign simply called “Puppy.” In the commercial, the Labrador puppy pulled out a roll of Andrex toilet paper throughout a house to advertise its strength, softness, and length—the features that make Andrex so special and loved by people everywhere.
The "Puppy" advertising campaign was one of the most successful in the United Kingdom. By 1979, Andrex's share of the toilet tissue market had increased from 23% to 30%, and the company's use of puppies as mascots helped establish them as one of the nation's most popular brands.
The decision behind a Labrador puppy as Andrex’s mascot
When it comes to product branding and strategy, the puppy behind Andrex is one of the most recognisable symbols in the UK. The decision to make a Labrador puppy the face of Andrex's brand was based on more than just the fuzzy, warm feeling that puppies can evoke. Marketing Director of Kimberly-Clark, Matt Stone said that the Labrador served as an instant cue for the brand—”The puppy is Andrex and Andrex is the puppy.” Stone explained how the metaphor behind the puppy works. Puppies are soft and comforting to touch; qualities that he claimed define Andrex products.
Raymond Dinkin, the Marketing Manager of Bowater-Scott's, explained the creative process of developing the original 1972 Andrex Puppy commercial. He said that using puppies in advertisements at the time was unconventional and a groundbreaking feat. However, it wasn't without its difficulties. Getting the puppies to behave and not fall asleep during filming was hard. The Labradors were only six weeks old, so they were fed rice pudding—which made them tired after just a few minutes of shooting.
Despite the filming challenges, Dinkin believed that this advertisement led to Andrex becoming the market leader in toilet paper in the UK for years to come. Although there have been many different puppy commercials since then - some more successful than others - none have compared to the Andrex Puppy’s success.
The computer-generated campaign that backlashed
In 2010, Andrex decided to replace the real Andrex Labrador with a computer-generated puppy in a new “It’s The Little Things” campaign. The 40-second commercial aired for the first time on December 2nd, 2010 and showed the animated puppy doing everyday things such as using a computer, baking and chasing a toilet roll. The commercial was developed in collaboration with the animators JWT London and Framestore, well-known for award-winning films including Harry Potter, Paddington and James Bond.
When asked about the decision to make the real Labrador a computer-generated character, a spokesperson for Andrex’s manufacturer, Kimberly Clark Europe said, “The puppy had a huge and loyal following since the first ad hit our screens in 1972. We really believe we’ve given him a new lease of life and have evolved his character. We’re confident you’ll love him and his new Puppy World and will be reminded about why you fell in love with him in the first place.”
Despite Andrex’s intentions, the animated puppy sparked controversy among some viewers. The decision to portray the puppy as an animated character was criticised by many people, who felt it was unsuccessful as a promotional strategy because it just reflected modern trends like every other brand at the time. The outcry didn’t stop there as several Facebook groups with ominous titles like Kill The CGI Andrex Puppy were created in response to the campaign.
The real Labrador had become one of the nation’s favourite advertising characters; a palpable feel of the brand—soft and comfortable—could not be captured by a computer-generated puppy. Andrex responded to the public’s anger and denied that they were getting rid of the real dog, saying that “The puppy is here to stay."
2022 marks the brand’s 80th anniversary and 50th anniversary of the Andrex puppy
To celebrate the brand’s 80th anniversary and 50th anniversary of the Andrex puppy, the latest puppy-fronted campaign, “A Little Love Goes A Long Way”, was launched in September.
In the 30-second TV advertisement, a mother spots a puppy on a store shelf where Andrex’s toilet roll packs would normally be. She and the puppy share a moment before she picks up the puppy and puts it in her trolley, revealing it to be a normal pack of Andrex toilet paper. In the final shots, her daughter is shown to be heavily pregnant, suggesting her choice was a small act of love.
Matt Stone who contributed to the advert believed that the message behind the campaign was “even more relevant now than ever,” as UK consumers continue to battle with the rising cost of living crisis. Stone shared that the intention was to bring life to the idea that when you pick up Andrex, you pick up the puppy—the trust and softness, care, and love that puppies symbolise—and that can have a positive effect on how you look after yourself or your loved ones.
At the moment, Andrex’s current marketing strategy is to focus on being “as useful and valuable to families as possible.”
The Andrex Puppy is a true testament to the brand
For more than 50 years, the Andrex Puppy has been an integral part of Andrex advertising in the UK. It’s hard to believe that this adorable Labrador puppy has been around as a brand mascot for so long, but it’s also just as hard to imagine the brand without it. The Andrex Puppy is an embodiment of what Andrex and its products stand for, creating a successful and memorable character that stands the test of time.
From a marketing standpoint, it's important for brands to be able to adapt to new trends without losing what made them successful in the first place. Throughout its 80-year history, Andrex has faced some obstacles by following modern trends. In many ways, these trends have been hindrances to the company's marketing strategy like making the real-life Labradors an animated puppy. These trends might seem like obstacles for Andrex, but they're also proof that brands don't always have to follow the norm, or conform to what's expected of them.