Tontine date stamped pillows: While you were sleeping, a brand category was being redefined

Fair to say, I wouldn’t have predicted that the most interesting marketing strategy I’ve come across this week would be for pillows.  

But Happy Soldiers’ work for Tontine was beginning to get my attention even before a pillow turned up in the office yesterday.

That morning, the SMH featured a cover wrap plugging the pillow.

I’d also seen it on TV the night before. Last night, it made Today Tonight with a five minute segment.

That piece nicely sums up an overarching marketing strategy which has incorporated PR, media and advertising. It’s a pretty good example of agencies working together – as well as Happy Soldiers doing the ads and channel strategy, Mediacom did the buying and Zarr Marketing drove the PR.

tontine pillowThe central idea – that pillows are full of bugs – isn’t completely new, but the idea of putting a “best by” date on pillows potentially redefines the category. It also demonstrates that it’s possible for agencies to do interesting work in what would seem like a massively dull category.

But even more interesting is the media strategy – throwing pretty much the entire media budget – and I reckon that’s about $5m – into a five day burst of activity. As well as TV and press, it’s also included drivetime radio reads and online site takeovers.

But there’s more than that – the media plan has been heavily time based – first thing in the morning, and last thing at night when people’s heads are close to those pillows.

Again, not a completely new thing.

But there’s more again, with ad voiceovers appropriate to the genre of show they’ve aired in:

CSI: ‘While you’re watching a show about crime scenes you should know there’s a real one going on in your bedroom – inside your pillow – right now. You see over time your pillow grows an entire eco-system…”

Two and a Half Men, How I Met Your Mother and other comedies: “So, you like watching shows that make you laugh. Well here’s something that’s no laughing matter. Over time your pillow grows an entire…”

A Current Affair: “So you like to watch programs that investigates the truth. Well here’s a truth that may shock you. Over time your pillow grows an entire…”

Late night: “Tonight you’ll all go to bed and lay your head on that pillow you’ve loved for so long. But over time your pillow grows a whole ecosystem…”

Mornings: “Good morning… hope you had a nice sleep on your favourite pillow and you didn’t wake up the whole ecosystem…”

Of course, a lot of this messaging potentially boosts the whole category rather than just Tontine. That’s where the best by date comes in. It’s a crucial point of difference. It’s also backed by point of sale activity.

And the proof? As a punter, they’ve convinced me. I’m buying new pillows. Mind you, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tontine has already sold out.

Tim Burrowes


  1. Nic Halley
    22 Oct 10
    11:39 am

  2. love it

  3. sarah
    22 Oct 10
    11:41 am

  4. We were just talking about this yesterday in the office here! My boss went out and bought SIX new pillows. I bought a new one too. everyone is going pillow crazy.

  5. Alex Smith
    22 Oct 10
    11:56 am

  6. I thought this was a great campaign. Unfortunately i now can’t sleep for worrying about whether my pillow is out of date.

  7. Sarah
    22 Oct 10
    1:14 pm

  8. LOVE this campaign. Best of the year, and proves that simple campaigns where all agencies are pulling in the same direction can still perform better than fancy social media ‘experimentations’.

    Hope they sell a load of pillows.

    Altough I bought a new one and it gave me a sore neck – back to the flat old pancake pillow, ecosystem and all !

  9. Alison F
    22 Oct 10
    1:17 pm

  10. Love it! Very clever to tailor the message for each time slot or genre. Gotta go buy a new pillow right now!

  11. Mark
    22 Oct 10
    1:26 pm

  12. And the whole shebang is wonderfully augmented by the below. I know it’s a free plug, or should that be free pillow? An excellent campaign that has been dreamed up. Oh dear, what have I said!

    From: Catherine Collard
    Sent: Wednesday, 20 October 2010 4:41 PM
    Subject: Tontine Mobile Pillow Exchange
    Importance: High

    Get down to Westfield Doncaster Shopping centre this Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd for a free pillow exchange. Bring along your old (dirty) pillow and exchange for a new Tontine Fresh one!

    Pass this email along to family and friends so they too can enjoy a new Fresh Tontine Pillow J

    Kind Regards,

    Senior Product Manager

    Tontine 2DWord Logo_sm_300dpi

    Tontine Group
    144-168 National Boulevard Campbellfield Victoria 3061 Australia
    T +61 3 8359 4522 F +61 3 8359 4559

  13. diana
    22 Oct 10
    1:27 pm

  14. great strategy and execution. worked for me.

  15. Adam Joseph
    22 Oct 10
    1:40 pm

  16. Very smart – repositioning what we all perceive to be a “consumer durable” into a perishable good with a Best Before date. Wish I’d thought of that.

    Would love to see the sales data on this one re: ROMI

  17. Philippa
    22 Oct 10
    2:10 pm

  18. I also saw the van with outdoor ad, driving around with a mobile-drop-off box, where you can swap your old pillow for a new one! Caught my attention.

  19. Cara
    22 Oct 10
    3:04 pm

  20. Fantastic! Best use of media I have seen in a long time. Get me one of them pillows. I am buying them for all my family.

    Congratulations to all involved – you should be very proud.

  21. Anonymous
    22 Oct 10
    3:19 pm

  22. Call me old fashioned but doesn’t anyone wash their pillows anymore?

    Next from PacBrands, one day use, disposable Bonds undies.

  23. Lisa
    23 Oct 10
    4:00 pm

  24. I only have one word for this compaign (and segment redefinition) – GENIUS!!

  25. supa man
    24 Oct 10
    8:27 pm

  26. i was at supa centa today and i noticed a lot of ppl with new pillows!!

  27. Alison F
    25 Oct 10
    7:54 am

  28. I was at Broadway and noticed the exact same thing!

  29. Anon
    25 Oct 10
    11:53 am

  30. While I can appreciate the clever execution – my problem is with people who are gullible enough to swallow the “pillow has an expiry date” line they are pushing…

    Perhaps it is time for some legislation to be enacted that will prevent idiot Australians from breeding…

  31. Rei
    25 Oct 10
    12:13 pm

  32. I love it. Very clever, almost cunning.

    Not sure if i’m buying a new pillow, but i’m going to inspect mine closely tonight.

  33. sven
    26 Oct 10
    1:43 pm

  34. what’s all this ‘redefine the category’ guff? People forget that their pillow gets festy so Tontine has reminded them with a scare campaign. The execution is very well done but there’s no genius in the idea

  35. petitestef
    26 Oct 10
    4:06 pm

  36. yes, but no one else thought to do it! It’s such a clever point of difference…

  37. petitestef
    26 Oct 10
    4:08 pm

  38. The stories on ACA and Today Tonight on pillows incubating germs probably helped spur the mass purchase of pillows too. The publicity and marketing together have pretty much given blanket coverage to this issue!

  39. Sarah
    28 Oct 10
    1:40 pm

  40. I love it! What a fantastic award-winning campaign!
    I’m buying new pillows faster than you can say “grow a whole new eco-system”!!