Colgate aims for post-pandemic smiles in rare branding campaign

Usually product- and benefit-obsessed brand tries 'massive storytelling' in a campaign about optimism

Published On
Jul 12, 2021

Editor's Pick

Colgate is out to foster some badly needed post-pandemic optimism with its new “Be the Reason” brand equity campaign, a richly produced departure from what’s long been a product- and benefit-focused oral-care brand.

The new effort, which breaks on linear and connected TV plus digital channels July 12, comes from WPP’s multi-agency Colgate-dedicated Red Fuse Communications and VMLY&R. It was directed by Rodney Lucas of Southside Films, who describes himself as a “cinematic house style director focused on collaborative Black storytelling,” and produced by Even/Odd.

The initial two 30-second spots and a 60-second anthem are documentary-style portraits of real people telling their stories of helping others. A diverse cast includes a community basketball coach working with inner-city youths; a teen paralyzed from the waist down; a community activist working alongside other transgender people and parents of LGBTQ+ youths; and a nurse.

The idea is to inspire people about the power of their smiles to drive optimism. Ads direct people to a Power of Optimism microsite that highlights a study showing Gen Z is “overwhelmingly interested in adopting a positive attitude.” It provides tips from “Optimism Doctor” and psychologist Deepika Chopra on how to do that, including avoiding “toxic positivity” in the form of faking authentic feelings.

Unlike almost every Colgate ad in the U.S. for decades, this campaign has no product pitch whatsoever.

“You will still see advertising for Colgate about the great products we make for sure,” says Mindel Klein, general manager of integrated marketing communications, North America, for Colgate-Palmolive Co. “But this is definitely a change for us. We really believe that, especially with the way we’re consuming media today, that there is tremendous power in massive storytelling. So you’re going to see more of this from us in the future.”

The campaign brings to the U.S. a global Colgate effort around optimism. “We’re living in a time, coming out of the last year, where people need simple messages of optimism more than ever,” Klein says. The ads “drive awareness around the idea that through a simple act of a smile you can have a huge impact on someone’s life.”

The casting diversity was intentional and helps reflect that Colgate has the highest household penetration and most diverse consumer base of any brand in the world, says Fred Saldanha, global chief creative officer for Colgate-Palmolive Co.

“I love that we found the people to tell real stories and share our point of view together,” Saldanha says. “It was a very moving experience on set, because we saw, whether it was the coach or the counselor or the nurse, they were being themselves and sharing their wisdom and knowledge.”

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Jul 12, 2021
Client :
Agency :
Red Fuse Communications
Agency :
VP Marketing NA Colgate-Palmolive :
Bill Van De Graaf
VP Marketing Global Colgate-Palmolive :
Scott Campbell
General Manager IMC NA Colgate-Palmolive :
Mindel Klein
Oral Care IBE Lead NA Colgate-Palmolive :
Sarah Sher
Global Chief Creative Officer Red Fuse Communications :
Fred Saldanha
Executive Creative Director Red Fuse Communications :
Sean Burns
Associate Creative Director/Art Director Red Fuse :
Terry Lee
Senior Producer Red Fuse Communications :
Andrea Rodriguez
Managing Director Red Fuse Communications :
Adam Konowitz
Group Account Director Red Fuse Communications :
Aleya Brahmachary
Account Director Red Fuse Communications :
Jessica Silverman
Senior Account Executive Red Fuse Communications :
Megan Zart
Regional Sr. Content Business Manager NA Red Fuse Communications :
Jennifer Blum
Director :
Rodney Lucas
Production Company :
Executive Creative Director Even/Odd :
Malcolm Pullinger
Executive Producer Even/Odd :
Cayce Cole
Editor Big Sky Edit :
Chris Franklin
Senior Assistant Editor Big Sky Edit :
Hannah Wederquist-Keller
Executive Producer Big Sky Edit :
Sarah Van Tassel
Senior Producer Big Sky Edit :
Ali Corsie

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