Is Tide's newest commercial subtly dissing Obama?

According to conservative blogger Jim Hoft, Procter & Gamble’s latest 30-second Tide commercial, released  “in time for the election…might as well have been a Romney ad.”

As the world’s largest packaged-goods company, with a huge customer base, P&G has historically been apolitical. But desperate times call for desperate measures. “You know things are bad when even soap companies are bashing your jobs record,” he posts.

Is he right? Is P&G subtly taking sides? Or did a subtle anti-Obama message somehow slip through the notoriously tight Procter & Gamble blandness filter?

Why this campaign?

If death and taxes are the only sure things in life, a consumer blog posted, then Procter & Gamble’s dominance in the laundry category is a close third. Tide remained the most popular brand in the U.S. last year, accounting for four of the top 20 brands. It leads in both powder and liquids and has a 35% share of the overall market.”

Obviously, Tide wouldn’t maintain that sales leadership over the years if its brand managers didn’t have a pretty good understanding of what’s on their target audience’s hearts and minds.

One thing they must be sensing at P&G headquarters is that in a prolonged down economy, consumers are watching unnecessary expenditures. So it’s only natural that they be looking over their shoulders for generic and store brand competition.

To protect themselves from lower-price detergents nipping at their heels, they built a television campaign around a couple that just gave birth to triplets. That means lots of laundry, stretching the family budget.

“So I switched to the bargain brand,” says the mother on camera, “but I found myself using three times more than you’re supposed to.” (Hence the triplets.) The spot goes on to make the case that using anything but Tide is a false economy.

Broadening the demographic

Okay, no big deal.

What looks like a bigger deal is the latest commercial in this campaign, which reaches beyond adults in their child-raising years and talks to empty nesters.

It features an older pair of parents, whose (unemployed) grown-up triplets moved back home, after college, bringing their dirty laundry with them.

“We were going through so much of that bargain detergent,” says the father, and their clothes didn’t look as good. “But since we switched to Tide, we used much less,” the mother chimes in. Now, says the father, “Their clothes are looking much more – what’s the word? – employable!”

A message in the timing?

It’s a little bit edgy for P&G, but the edgiest thing is something that isn’t said.

The timing.

The commercial broke this week, just days before Election Day.

P&G’s agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, could easily have delayed the buy a week, until after November 7.

But they didn’t.

Because they didn’t see any political implications?

Or because the timing’s subtly trying to tell us something?

We report, you decide.