MACLEAN’S REPORTS

Forget the CIA and the NKVD -look out for the BIA!

ROBERT COLLINS January 1 1969
MACLEAN’S REPORTS

Forget the CIA and the NKVD -look out for the BIA!

ROBERT COLLINS January 1 1969

Forget the CIA and the NKVD -look out for the BIA!

EVER SINCE I was little and Lifebuoy soap made me smell like a YMCA shower stall, which was better than I smelled before, I’ve revered those guardians of personal hygiene, the soap and dentifrice companies. They’ve rinsed, rolled-on and sprayed me to a happier life. When flaky dandruff storms down on my blue serge jacket, Head & Shoulders shampoo cleans up the mess. Whenever I leave the supermarket, a kinky Englishman in a Homburg hat snatches my can of Ice Blue Secret, just as on television — and gives me a better one. And when I brush with Ultra-Brite, total strangers, fortunately all girls, blow those peculiar TV kisses that stick on one’s cheek for hours.

But I’m a little dismayed at Procter and Gamble’s latest nationwide TV campaign, seen here since early No-

vember after a rousing U.S. debut. The pitchmen are turning us into a nation of sneaks. Know somebody with bad breath? Squeal on him! Send his name and address to Breath Informers Anonymous and P&G’ll send him a 10-cent coupon for a bottle of Scope mouthwash. He’ll never know who blabbed.

Granted, it’s a humorous approach, designed to soothe curmudgeons like me who go around muttering, “Bad taste!” In a typical Scope commercial a man, dining out Italian-style with his girl, says tactlessly, “Honey, you got a breath problem.” Zap! She clobbers him with the spaghetti. “Telling someone he’s got a breath problem is risky, and very unrewarding,” croons the announcer. “Let Breath Informers Anonymous take the risk . . .” And he tells you how to inform, while a box number flashes on screen over a handsome bottle of Scope.

The campaign is “very successful” in both countries, says P&G, which simply means it is getting Scope into a lot of new medicine cabinets. But it also means that hundreds of practical jokers here, and thousands over the border, are ratting on their bosses, teachers, ex-wives and mothers-in-law whether they need Scope or not.

So far, apparently, nobody has objected or opened a vein, after getting an anonymous coupon via some neurotic with a grudge. “Naturally we worried about a negative public reaction, but so far there’s been absolutely none,” says Brig. J. Neil Gordon, P&G’s Canadian director of corporate affairs. “Everybody realizes it’s a tongue-in-cheek thing, and I think they rather enjoy it.” If there were strong complaints, says Gordon, the commercial would be withdrawn.

Well, here’s one complainer. MidVictorian that I am, I dislike hearing people being urged to squeal on their neighbors, even if it is all in good clean-mouthed fun. Also, I’m scared. To test the system I informed on myself, anonymously, and duly received my coupon. Now I’m on that great P&G master list of Canadians alleged to have bad breath. What if the Mounties get hold of it and cancel my passport? Suppose it falls into the hands of rival agents and I’m shadowed by the man from Ban, or zapped by Pucker Power? What if some berserk computer feeds the list to employers everywhere, who will sneer when I go jobhunting, “Not you! You’re not . . . kissin’ sweet!” I feel a sense of dread, the flat, metallic taste of fear on my tongue.

Or maybe it’s just a touch of Jungle Mouth. ROBERT COLLINS