Authentic and Memorable Advertising!
P&G (Proctor & Gamble), the FMCG major introduced Crest Toothpaste in January 1956 nationally after test marketing it across the U.S. in 1955. P & G had already launched Gleem toothpaste to challenge the category leader Colgate. Crest Toothpaste has an active ingredient Fluoristan, which is a combination of stannous fluoride and a fluoride-compatible polishing agent. In the 1950s, fluoride was the latest hope in the dentrifrice market joining the bandwagon of ingredients such as chlorophyll, ammoniation and anti-enzymes.
Benton & Bowles, P&G’s advertising agency opened the Crest campaign with spreads in Life and The Saturday Evening Post announcing, “ A new era in preventive dental care” and outlining “milestones in modern medicine,” the latest being Crest’s “triumph over tooth decay.” The American Dental Association greeted Crest’s bold claims with scientific skepticism.
In 1958, Benton & Bowles launched what would become Crest’s most memorable ad campaign: Look, Mom, No Cavities! The ads featured Norman Rockwell’s artwork depicting gleeful, smiling children showing off their flawless teeth and holding checkup cards from the dentist. The American Dental Association Council’s assistant secretary, however said that the Crest headline, ‘Look Mom, No Cavities!’ was at best both an exaggeration and misleading distortion at a congressional hearing in July 1958.
Two years later that did change. In the August 1960 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, the ADA recognized that Crest, with its stannous fluoride, as ‘effective decay-preventing agent.’ It was the first and the only toothpaste then to receive any therapeutic acclaim from the ADA. It gave legitimacy to a product in a field with a history of unsubstantiated claims. Advertising could now simply cite the ADA’s statement that Crest prevents cavities.
Competitors felt the heat of this endorsement. Crest more than doubled its market share to about 25 per cent by August 1961, just within one year of this endorsement. P&G did not rest on its laurels. It showed remarkable restraint. Print ads stressed that Crest should be used as part of an overall dental program. One ad read, “ Crest made news because it’s effective against cavities – not because its’ a cure-all.” Furthermore, P&G placed ads in the Journal of the American Dental Association encouraging dentists to recommend Crest to their patients. In 1963, P&G began sponsoring Crest Dental Health in first-grade classrooms across the U.S. Teachers instructed students on the basics of brushing and flossing and introduced them to cartoon characters that illustrated dental health lessons.
Crest continued the program through the years and augmented it with a website featuring an interactive environment called Sparkle City, after Sparkle Crest bubble gum-flavored toothpaste for children in 1999.
The Look, Mom, No Cavities! Campaign not only established Crest as the leading toothpaste brand in the American market but sustained it for a long period.
Later, in 1997, when Colgate bumped Crest out of the lead by less than one percent point, Crest shifted its advertising from the clinical dentist-approved positioning to a more emotional approach with ads featuring the tag-line, Behind that healthy smile, there’s a Crest kid.
Advertising Age listed Crest’s Look Mom, No Cavities among the top fifteen memorable tag lines of the twentieth century.
Can we learn a lesson or two from this remarkable campaign and apply them to our product campaigns? Can we create memorable communication strategies for our products that move physicians to choose our products and prescribe them?