On the day the first not-quite-fish crawled out of the ocean and onto dry land, the first thing they saw was a Dettol ad warning them that the sand they were touching for the first time was riddled with more bacteria than a toilet seat.
In the 500-million-odd years since, earth’s foremost advocate of sterility has worked to convince us that every supposedly clean surface is actually going to kill us, and that if you don’t spray everything with Dettol you may as well feed your baby raw chicken. This despite the fact that study after study has shown that hospital-clean homes are linked to allergies and compromised immune systems, because the people inside them are never exposed to the tiny (and safe) amounts of bacteria that help you fight off more serious infections in future. Being too clean can make you sick.
Right now, of course, we can’t be clean enough, so you’d think that Dettol would be in its element, telling us to barricade ourselves inside and to set up an antibacterial sheep dip for the postman. But not so. Instead, it’s made an advertising about-turn, shifting from a tone of shrill hysteria to one of matey encouragement, in an attempt to get us all to go back to work.
The ads, which appeared on the London Underground network this morning, list all the supposedly wonderful things about the office that we’ve all missed over the last six months. Some of these are things that are objectively terrible and, we can all agree, are long overdue signs of a correction in how we all work (“putting on a tie”, “plastic plants”). Others are things that people do anyway, office or no (“hearing an alarm”, “carrying a handbag”, “taking a lift”). Most telling, it ends by telling us that the best thing about going to work is leaving early, because you can’t stand to be in that crushing, virus-infected hell-space another second. As you can imagine, the memes, jokes and reactions have been swift.
If the goal of the Dettol ads is to make me want to drink a bottle of Dettol, mission accomplished. pic.twitter.com/13yPZqLv0P
It’s like Dettol hired Jeremy Hunt as their copywriter. These are the most cringe ads I’ve ever seen. pic.twitter.com/2d4CEKIpmb
honestly all these dettol ads have put me firmly on the side of the 0.1% of bacteria it doesn’t kill https://t.co/WUigAsE3ZM
Another ad in which the disinfectant people characterise the soul-crushing awfulness of having your face inches away from a stranger’s armpit in a dangerously overcrowded tube carriage on the way to a job you hate as ‘getting an hour to yourself in the morning’.Fuck Dettol tbh. pic.twitter.com/26HFGf683e
For everyone retweeting this, you may be interested to know it’s an ad for Dettol, whose manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser said just four weeks ago it was “too early to say” when its own staff would go back to the office https://t.co/1bYlLAATab
We’ve got two theories about this ad, which feels grotesquely timed as UK coronavirus infection rates begin their inevitable ascent. Either Dettol is in cahoots with the government, part of a two-pronged attack to get us all back to city centres so that Pret can flog more sandwiches (the line “not making lunch” is our clue here). Or Dettol, a brand that makes money from fear and paranoia, desperately wants us all breathing each other’s breath on overcrowded trains to guarantee a huge second spike in infections, so that we all get scared again and bulk buy Dettol. Either way, we’re going to keep hunkering down at home, masks on, dousing everything in rubbing alcohol. Especially ourselves.
World news – GB – Dettol And Boris Johnson Want You Back At Work. Resist Them