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Johnson & Johnson hunk croons personal apology to tampon users

If you had to go without your favourite brand of feminine hygiene product for more than a year, would a personalized apology delivered in the form of a power ballad sung by a hunky guy make you feel any better?

A two-minute online video from o.b. tampons seems to be putting a smile on the faces of disenchanted fans of the Johnson & Johnson Inc. brand, whose struggles with a long-running but undisclosed production issue and the discontinuation of a popular product line prompted calls over the past year for a companywide boycott. (Or, in the words of a grassroots online campaign, a "girlcott.")

After the company announced in the fall of 2010 that it would no longer manufacture its o.b. Ultra tampons, which are especially popular because they do not need an applicator, desperate women scoured the Internet for supplies, sending the price of a box of 40 from about $4 to upwards of $100.

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"We're hoping that by sending them this personal apology, they'll forgive us," explained Shelley Kohut, the director of communications and public relations for Johnson & Johnson Inc. Canada.

In Triple Sorry, a stubble-faced crooner performs an apologetic plea for forgiveness in the clichéd tropes of FM soft rock. "I know we went away / And let you down," he sings, while playing a white grand piano on a seaside cliff at sunset. "Believe me when I say / We want to turn this thing around."

J&J is turning heads, at least, using new technology that enables the video to be personalized. After landing at obtampons.ca/apology, a viewer enters her name and then sits back to not only hear the performer sing the name within the song's lyrics, but also to see the name integrated into the video – on sheet music, outlined in red rose petals on a beach, in skywriting, on an arm tattoo, and on a hot air balloon.

The Toronto-based advertising agency Lowe Roche created the video.

The personalization is enthralling many women, who are sharing it by the thousands online. (Most men's names do not seem to work with the video, nor do many ethnic women's names.) Not that the company's problems are over. While it claims the supply chain issues for most of the o.b. line have been resolved, J&J still doesn't know when it will have its Ultra product back on store shelves.

The company now admits killing off Ultra, which had been used for decades by women experiencing heavy menstrual flow, was a mistake. "I think we underestimated, perhaps, the level of loyalty to the particular product," Ms. Kohut said. The misstep was compounded by the company's elusive answers on its rationale for the move, and the fact that the o.b. website had linked to J&J's Pelvic Health Solutions site, which promoted a surgical procedure it offered as an appropriate treatment for former Ultra users. After online criticism, it dropped the link.

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About the Author
Senior Media Writer

Simon Houpt is the Globe and Mail's senior media writer, charged with covering the industry's transformation. He began his career with The Globe in 1999 as the paper's New York arts correspondent, covering the cultural life of that city through Canadian eyes. More

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