The “Funny Truth” About Mr. Clean

DanKoutoulakis_LBAptly enough, the Mr. Clean “Cleaner of Your Dreams” campaign cleaned up at the Advertising Research Foundation’s 2018 David Ogilvy Awards, winning not only the Grand Winner prize, but a Gold for Brand Transformation. Dan Koutoulakis, Planning Director, Leo Burnett Canada around the “Cleaner of Your Dreams” campaign, talks about the surprising research that guided the brand’s transformation.


Cynopsis: What kind of research did you do that led to the “Cleaner of Your Dreams” campaign?

Dan Koutoulakis: Our research on Mr. Clean has been ongoing and vast. We’re constantly learning on this brand. That said, there were four distinct pieces of research that guided the transformation of the brand’s strategy, and ultimately the execution of “Cleaner of Your Dreams”. 

First was an understanding of people’s perceptions of the Mr. Clean brand, for which we conducted two Omnibus studies, as well as online and 60+ in-home qualitative discussions. These findings underscored a need to both modernize and differentiate the brand.


Second, we looked at historical peaks in Mr. Clean’s brand relevancy, analyzing both brand trackers and sales reports, as well as post-campaign analyses that demonstrated correlations between creative and sales. Through this exercise we found the consistent, and consistently funny truth, that there’s a surprising, yet enduring sex appeal to the Mr. Clean character. This drove us to look at secondary research, which exposed the dynamics of who’s cleaning in today’s modern household, and the impact it has on the family dynamic.

Finally, we conducted our own message, storytelling and tone audit of advertising in the North American homecare category, which helped us to identify the creative conventions to be dramatized, and of course, broken.

Research played a really big role in setting the foundation for this campaign, and we’re really proud of that. 

Cynopsis: Were there results from the research that surprised you, and how did it reshape the team’s vision?

Koutoulakis: Surprised? Yes. Reassured? Yup, that too. We had an ingoing theory that couples who clean together, stay together. So, when we learned that sharing household chores was in the top three highest-ranking issues associated with a successful marriage, we knew we were onto something meaningful. The notion of helping with chores being third to faithfulness and good sex… wow.

We knew that teamwork was important, but this validated our assumption that there is a relevant place for a cleaning brand to play here. And this is what makes “Cleaner of Your Dreams” so impactful, in my opinion. As fantastical as the work is, people – both women and men alike, are able to relate to the insight, because it’s true. 

Cynopsis: What kind of research is most important before creating an ad campaign?

Koutoulakis: Before starting any assignment, the most important question to answer is what problem the campaign is solving, for both people and the brand. Without an understanding of this, you’re rolling the dice on whether or not the creative will effectively impact business.   

Our approach to strategy and research at Leo Burnett is called HumanKind, a belief that begs for an authentically real understanding of people and behavior. We’re big believers in the human side of research…simply talking to people, like people, and being with people, where people are. So, in any study we do, we strive to remove artificiality from the context in order to get the most humanly honest responses, and opportunities for depth of understanding, as possible.


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