Bum Steer

Lynne Murphy, a native American linguistics professor now living in the U.K. (and a good friend of this blog), has been visiting the U.S. and came across a startling magazine ad:

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 11.18.36 AM

Wait, what??

I’ve previously noted that bum has certainly made inroads on these shores, but this advert still was a bit surprising. It turns out that the manufacturers of Cottonelle, Kimberly Clark, put out a press release just two weeks ago:

Dallas, August 5, 2013-As bath tissue maker Cottonelle® looks to open the door on bathroom conversation, toilet talk is about to go mainstream. That’s right, Cottonelle wants to get North Americans talking about their bums and on the road to a better way to clean “down there” by using the Cottonelle Clean Routine — combining dry toilet paper and flushable wipes for a cleaner, fresher experience. With the help of London-based immersive journalist, Cherry Healey, Cottonelle is helping consumers to open up about their bathroom behaviors and “makeover” their old toileting routine. And with a sleek, newly designed dispenser for Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths, Healey is set to start the conversation now.

I had not heard of Cherry Healey, nor of “immersive journalism,” but I learn from Wikipedia that she has done a number of TV documentaries in the U.K,. including the one-offs “Drinking with the Girls, ” “Cherry Gets Pierced,” and “Cherry Goes Drinking,”” and this year had a six-part series: “The Year of Making Love.”

I imagine Kimberly Clark chose the word bum both as a nod to Healey’s nationality and a way of signaling that the ad is a little, well, edgy.

That’s all well and good, but it turns out that there are issues with the “Cottonelle Clean Routine,” specifically the bum-related use of “flushable” wipes. Nancy Friedman informs me that they are one of the prime causes of “fatbergs,” a serious environmental problem. Read her post on the subject … if you have the stomach for it.

8 thoughts on “Bum Steer

  1. I don’t see “bum” as edgy at all. We’ve been using the term here in the U.S. for ages, not so much in a general context, but more in reference to a “baby’s bum.” That’s been my experience, anyway.

  2. Yes, I agree with Ben.. Bum is a normal, everyday word. The discussion as it pertains to fecal matter in commercial advertising is crass (imo) not edgy. Lately there seems to be a trend toward advertising being unnecessarily vulgar (I blame it on the Kardashians)

  3. Ben:
    I have no problem with the use of “bum,” although it’s not as popular in the states as “butt”; however, attention-getting though it it is, I find needlessly infra dig. If that agency was working for me, I’d tell ’em to clean up their act, or give ’em the bum’s rush.

  4. I hear lots of moms using it when speaking to a child. I also JUST saw the Cottonelle commercial, voiced by a woman with a British accent (generic middle class London – not quite BBC- but trying) Ms. Healy, I will assume, whilst watching Hulu at lunch….American pretension – it’s not just for cars and booze anymore…

  5. I have gone as far as changing the brand of toilet paper I have been using exclusively for years (cottenelle is a great product) because the new ad campaign is very offensive to me. It shows no class and depicts Americans as too stupid to wipe properly! Thank God she does not offer to demonstrate! When this ad campaign is over I will resume purchasing my favorite brand once again.

  6. I think it’s a street word that I’d rather not see in nicer magazines. Oh, do we all have to be lumped with the commonest elements of society? I say no, and no to the ads and, ultimately, no to the product.

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