What Fruit of the Loom’s Strange New Ads Actually Get Right

In new campaign, Fruit of the Loom jokes that getting your panties in a bunch can ruin your day. Studies say that's true

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According to Fruit of the Loom, your underwear are fairly important. In a new advertising campaign—with a new advertising firm—the underwear company says that the wrong pair of underwear can affect your mood and performance throughout the day. Surprising? Not really. But science says the company’s not wrong.

A voiceover in two new commercials for the underwear brand introduced Sept. 30—one featuring a  stuntwoman jumping off moving cars in her sports bra and panties (above), the other a pit crew working speedily in their boxers (below)—asserts these high-action workers are able to do their jobs well because they started their day “happy” with the right underwear. “Am I overplaying the underpants? Possibly,” the narrator says.

Another Fruit of the Loom promotion beginning Oct. 15 will offer 25,000 LinkedIn users who have recently snagged new jobs a free pair of underwear. The Fresh Gigs box comes with the note: “We’re all excited for you about the new gig. To show this, we’re hooking you up with a complimentary pair of Fruit of the Loom. Because great-fitting underwear can help you start your workday in a great mood.”

The new campaign is a big departure from the old commercials, which featured individuals dressed up in fruit costumes. (It also checks that “engage with social media” box). Why the switch after 12 years of working with the same ad firm?

“The previous [advertising] strategy was likely not living up to their expectations,” says Andrew Burns, an analyst at Davidson & Co. Fruit of the Loom’s main competitors in the undergarment market are Gildan—which makes mostly t-shirts to be printedon and sold at concerts—and Hanes. “Over the last few years, Hanes brands have been gaining market share over Fruit of the Loom.”

Privately held Fruit of the Loom was bought out of bankruptcy by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway in 2002 for approximately $835 million. The company controls several other underwear brands, including B.V.D. and Underoos. In Berkshire’s most recent report, the company noted that its earnings were dragged down by the apparel group and Fruit of the Loom in particular. The global underwear industry is estimated to be worth about $30 billion.

The new “Start Happy” campaign aims to set the Fruit of the Loom group back on track. Consumer research found that “when you have the right-fitting underwear, you tend not to notice. But when something’s wrong during the day you’ll notice, and it will affect the rest of your day,” says Matt Fischvogt, Creative Director at Crispin, Porter, and Bogusky, the advertising firm that created the campaign.

The self-aware ads are lighthearted. “We’re not going to save the world through underwear,” adds Fischvogt. But as much as the ads may joke, Fruit of the Loom may be on to something.

Research shows that, at least for women, underwear can impact your confidence and performance throughout the day. A 2008 study out of the University of Leicester found that when women wear the right underwear, they’re more confident about their bodies and overall appearance. And a telephone survey conducted by Consumer Reports in 2010 showed that 47% of women feel self-assured both at work and socially when wearing a nice or special pair or panties.

So maybe the right pair of underwear can change your day after all.

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