Creating history of marketing - Bubbles

There are many examples of great marketing campaigns that show how to combine different mediums. Probably one of the most known ones is the Pears Soap campaign "Bubbles". It not only put soap makers on the map but also changed the way people saw marketing in the 90s.



11/19/20212 min read

At the beginning of the 17th century, Founder of Pears Soap Andrew Pears presented the first soap of this kind. It was something that none of the competitors yet developed - a transparent soap with wild foaming viscosity. It was a great invention, but to make it part of people's daily life, they had to create a great marketing strategy. That's when, the father of British/modern advertising - Thomas J Barratt came in with many ideas on how to market a product that we use to this day.

The marketeer invented many ways of promoting bars of soap. It even included purchasing 500,000 French coins and having the Pears’ name stamped on them. However, the best know campaign by Thomas J Barratt is Bubbles. Originally titled A Child's World is an 1886 painting by Sir John Everett Millais. It portrays a young boy looking up at a bubble, based on the 17th-century Dutch tradition of vanitas imagery, it symbolizes the beauty and fragility of life. With the addition of product placement (bar of soap at the bottom of the painting) and typography art, it became one of the most recognizable ad campaigns of all time.

Barratt Pears claimed to have spent 30,000£ (about 4 million £ today) on the campaign, however, it paid off in no time. After printing the first advertisement, millions of reproductions were created and sold all around the world. Having said, during Millais's lifetime, it led to widespread debate about the relationship between art and advertising. The novelist Marie Corelli discussed the artist's choice to give away the copyright of the painting and how that influenced Sir Millais legacy. Even though it created so much buzz in conventional 90's society, "bubbles" was to represent Pears' public image for many years to come.

So what is the takeaway of this story? Should you incorporate art into your marketing practices more often or try mixing the mediums? Of course, Barratts idea would not be as creative now since the exploitation of art pieces is so widely used. This story rather tells how important it is to try ways of marketing that push the limits. It talks about creative marketing outside your daily promotional campaigns. It is not something you would do these days, but that might give you a complementary idea for your next project. By the way, later analysis showed that Pears soap bars were not something that families with young kids would buy, and that the Bubbles campaign didn't target the right audience.

Pears’ Soap advert: The Special Commission. Wellcome Library