The detergent soap war was fought for Ariel by house helps

OMO powder soap

Ariel powder soap

Late last year, Omo and Ariel decided to anika (cat fight) each other by taking their rivalry to court.  Unilever Kenya, the makers of Omo, has accused Procter & Gamble of running a “misleading and non-factual” advertising campaign allegedly depicting Omo as inferior to Ariel.

Unilever claimed that, In its advertisements, which are also placed on huge billboards, Ariel was promoting itself as “Kenya’s best stain removal detergent in one wash”. The campaign came as a response to Omo’s long-running “dirt is good” advertisement campaign.

in October last year, the High Court la granted UK interim orders restraining PGEA from “running or airing the Ariel One Wash campaign advert in its current form at all media houses and all forms of print and electronic media” until the matter is back in court. Subsequently, the court directed that the suit be referred to a Tribunal of the Advertising Standards Board of Kenya.

According to a recent Consumer Insight survey, Ariel by Procter & Gamble East Africa (PGEA) enjoys a market share of 25 per cent, Omo by Unilever Kenya (UK) is at 18 per cent.

This has not always been the case. There was a time when Omo was the only powder soap one could find in a shop. Most will remember the phrase

” inatoa madoadoa yote, inatoa uchafu wote……. apenji……. uyu niguo thafuni…….”


How did Omo move from being the number 1 soap to become a bitter loser who wants adverts pulled just because they might be spiting them?

OMO powder soapI last used Omo when I was still in high school almost 15 years ago. They had just launched a ‘New Omo with power foam‘ which was both potent on the dirt and the hands.  After using it to wash clothes, I got what I would describe as lesions on the hands, they were so painful, I could not wash clothes for several days.

That’s when I switched to Sunlight and used it until 2011 when Helen, our nanny convinced me to switch to Ariel.  I am in the nappies club, mothers who use diapers on our their babies only at night or when visiting thus  there are always nappies to be washed.

Helen had been soaking nappies overnight with Jik and sunlight but somehow, in the morning, they still had tough stains and she had to wash them thoroughly. This was a daily exercise and it became frustrating especially when I’d look at some of the nappies and exclaim

” Na hii haikung’ara (this one isn’t sparkling clean)”

One day , just before the monthly shopping I had this conversation with her

Her: Mama Naomi si ununue sabuni ya Ariel, inatoanga uchafu haraka

Me: Unajuaje na sijawahi nunua

Her: Yule msichana wa namba 8 hutumia kufua napi na ana-soak tu usiku, asubuhi zimetoka uchafu wote

Me: Haya, wacha tutajaribu

I bought it then, and nowadays, whenever I go shopping, I don’t bother whether Omo is now with ‘power foam plus’ or there is a new one called ‘Power Boy‘ I simply pick Ariel and move on to the next item in my list.

And that, is how Ariel found itself into most households, through word of mouth, mostly by the people who actually do the washing; the house helps.


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