How Do You Roll?
by Peter Zelchenko February 5, 2010

Who would spend the valuable time of the most important country in the world on a debate about toilet paper?


It appears a lot of people would. In fact, Google churned up 4,860 hits today just for mommy blogs touting this promotion from Kimberly-Clark for its Cottonelle bathroom tissue.

First, a problem with the design: Without a wall for reference for each roll to "hang" from, you have no way of knowing for what's "over" and "under." Here's how we would have improved it:

But then nobody bothered to ask us.

Next, we actually harbor a mild distaste for the whole "Mommy love" cult of bloggers and magazines. After all, there are also millions of very dedicated dads out there who do shopping and diapering. Yet it's that scary vanguard of middle-class mommies who lead the self-righteous march through the checkout lines of our nation. Dad, off to the side, drools over some power tool or computer game. Righteous Mommy grabs him by the ear and pulls him to the parking lot like the worthless dog that he is.

So, how did marketers get an army of nearly 5,000 bloggers to host their promotion? Easy: They went to the source. They found where all of the self-righteous moms congregate: MomBloggersClub. They raffled off a whole month's supply of toilet paper to 200 of the bloggers!

Wow, a whole month. "That's 24 rolls," the promoters proudly proclaimed. Wow. [Note to self: Find out how they calculate this.] And one lucky mom in 24 loyal mom-bloggers will be getting this deal. Kimberly-Clark spent millions on the campaign, but their budget for the entire blogosphere was 4,800 rolls of toilet paper. That's gratitude. It works out to somewhere around a thousand bucks. For the whole viral campaign.

But, is Cottonelle even worth the paper it's printed on? You can buy 12 rolls of it for $9.99 at Dominick's. Each roll has a mere 200 sheets. Meaning it costs 0.42 cents per sheet (about half a cent).

That doesn't sound very expensive, until you compare it to Scott. Which is actually also a Kimberly-Clark product; you can't fight the monopoly. But you can be a smart consumer and know a superior value when you see it. You can buy ScotTissue for about 52 cents per roll of 1,000 sheets! That's 0.052 cents per sheet (about a 20th of a cent).

Cottonelle costs eight times as much as ScotTissue. Every time one of the children of these supposedly frugal moms wipes their butt, they're spending eight times as much with Cottonelle as with ScotTissue.

Over or under, it doesn't make a bit of difference. Cottonelle may feel softer, but you're still getting reamed.

But will this fact spread across the blogosphere like wildfire? Not likely.

The "over and under" question is just smokescreen anyway. It was put very succinctly by Louise Jefferson years ago: "All the maids in the hotels do it over, not under. And they're in the business."

Once you've cleared that smokescreen, it's easy to see that ScotTissue is economically far superior to Cottonelle. And stop whining that it's too rough: compared to the rest of the world, which uses newspaper and banana leaves, Scott is a blessing.

Millions of advertising dollars paid to Madison Avenue's JWT. Designers tripping over themselves to get the right PANTONE colors to the printer on time. JCDecaux bus shelter account reps nationwide greedily brandishing their calculators. And blogging moms, in their multibillion-dollar network of unconscious consumers, racing to enter a raffle to win a surprisingly small batch of toilet paper.

All to distract us from the fact that this is probably the most overpriced crap-wiping product on the planet. No wonder they have to advertise to sell it.

It's a good thing America is spending so much time on this.

Now that the earthquake thing is off the radar, that is. I mean, come on -- we had almost three weeks of news on it! Thank heavens we can get on to more important matters.

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