Monday, February 4, 2008

Viva Makes A Mess

When I first saw the ad, in a post over at Get in the Car!, I thought it was a cool, retro snapshot. And then I took a closer look. (You can, too. Just click on it.) There’s something Rob and Laura Petrie about the whole thing, but the pots on the stove look kind of like the modern-day, hard-anodized cookware I love. The husband’s got that “casual Friday” thing going on, and the wife looks like maybe she just got home from work, in spite of the apron. The backsplash is kind of 1970s, but there’s no avocado- or goldenrod-enameled appliances in sight.

The ad pretty much flies in the face of everything a generation of women fought for. The mock journal entry clinches it: “Tuesday. Today I found the perfect paper towel! Viva is so soft! I used it to wipe sauce of Tom’s chin, but I couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. Is Viva really paper?”

Please pass the soma! As if we working moms weren’t stressed out enough, now there’s this resurgence of 1950s ideals to contend with.

I surfed on over to the Viva Towels website, to see if maybe it was some sort of a joke or a spoof. But it seems to be an actual ad campaign. In fact, I stumbled into The Viva Diva Cafe. “Enjoy great conversations, share ideas and meet other VIVA® Divas like you, who enjoy decorating, entertaining and doing special things for friends and family!” reads the intro.

The better a Diva you are, the more “status icons” you can earn. Yes, they call them “status icons.” Your status is denominated by jewels — from a small yellow chip to a six-sided ruby to the crown jewel itself, a large, animated purple sparkler.

I’m sure Viva is just trying to compete with Julie Edelman, the “Accidental Housewife,” whose “S.O.S. (Saving Our Santity)” tips appear on Club Mom and in radio spots for Clorox. And I’m sure that there are women out there for whom being able to lovingly spoonfeed and then wipe up after their goofily grinning husband is the hight of personal fulfillment. Call me a rebel, but I’m just not one of them.

The “Accidental Housewife” radio ad campaign irritates me, too, but not as much as the Viva print one. Aside from the fact that I just don’t understand how anyone can become a housewife by accident, at least Edelman admits that today’s housewife is a different woman than a generation ago. “She’s busy, and doesn’t have time to worry about perfection, but she still wants to maintain a healthy home along with her sanity,” Edelman says on the Clorox site.

Viva doesn’t seem to have gotten that message. “Host an ice cream social so everyone can get to know each other a little better,” one Diva suggests on the “Spread the Joy” section of the Viva site. “It might seem shallow, but improving your appearance by losing weight is one way to make youself more available socially,” another offers.

My husband thinks Viva is doing it on purpose, tounge-in-cheek — ruffling feathers and being un-PC. “How else are they going to get people to talk about paper towels?” he points out.

He may be right. But still, I can’t help but find the ads offensive.

So, am I taking the ad the wrong way? The right way? Playing right into the companies hands? I don't know. The only thing I do know is that you won't catch me with Viva in my shopping cart.

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