New Deodorant Ambush Ad Makes Everyone Sweat Bullets

When it comes to deodorant ads, there are certain words that come to mind—“embarrassing” and “silly,” maybe. But “terrifying”? Yep, you can add it to the list now thanks to the brand Nivea, which unveiled its new Stress Protect deodorant by scaring the bejeezus out of people in airports with a mean prank, and filming it, as part of a global marketing campaign.

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“We want to illustrate the reactions that stress can trigger in the human body to consumers in an entertaining way,” said Ingo Tanger, marketing director at Nivea parent company Beiersdorf, explaining the idea behind the ad (which you can watch, below).

Here’s how it goes down: Nivea, based in Germany, teamed up with ad agency Felix & Lamberti to make a handful of real people (not actors) the targets of a criminal manhunt as they sat in airport waiting areas. To do so, the ad makers sneakily photographed each person with a telephoto lens, instantly printed their faces on fake newspapers and labeled them as fugitives, planting an actor in front of them to read the paper, so the victim could get a good look at themselves. Next came a loudspeaker announcement about a person with their description being wanted by the cops. And finally, the pièce de résistance: the targeted victim’s photo appearing on an overhead TV as part of a bogus newscast describing the person as “dangerous and unpredictable.”

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Of course each person is forced to freak out more and more with each level of ambush—as are viewers, thanks to impending-doom music and the frightened faces of each target, particularly the panicked look of a sweet looking young woman, who is the main focus of the ad.

And then, finally, “security” arrives, asking, “Are you stressed?” and then opening scary metal suitcases to make the big reveal: the Stress Protect deodorant, of course (not available in the U.S.).

The 2.5-minute online video ad is in German, but has English subtitles and a visual fear factor that makes it easy to understand in any language.

The folks at Nivea, though, found the whole thing amusing—as did, shockingly, the prank’s targets.

“When the stress scenario was over, the team quickly explained what was going on to the victims and took them on a behind-the-scenes tour,” explained JOTZ!, the ad’s video production company, in a press release about the stunt. “They thought it was pretty exciting to be involved in the production of a video clip and all of them consented to their images being published.”

In “The Making of Nivea Deo: Stresstest,” a short Nivea YouTube video, the young woman target explains (in German), “First, I thought that I’m dreaming or that my photo was mixed up. I thought someone took my photo from Facebook and it was mixed up with someone else’s.” As far as how she felt once the stress was over, she says, “Actually it was really funny. I found it quite cool, actually.”

To pull it all off and orchestrate “a scrupulously timed sequence of events involving the use of digital media to create a threat situation,” the JOTZ! press release explains, the targets were lured to the airport by friends “under some pretext or other.” But not before—and this part is crucial—the production team had friends make sure the victim candidates didn’t have a medical condition,  “such as a weak heart.” Thank heavens for small favors.

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