Aishwarya Ramesh

Dabur Red toothpaste ad uses cultural diversity to break category codes

There’s no dentist recommending the brand, instead, the Dabur Red Paste ad thanks its 35 crore consumers for making it ‘Desh ka Lal’.

Ogilvy’s latest ad for Dabur Red toothpaste does not promise to fight germs or whiten teeth. While most of us are used to seeing a dentist in glasses recommending a toothpaste to us, Dabur's new ad takes a completely different route.

Toothpaste is one of the largest, dynamic and most competitive categories in the FMCG sector in India. A press note mentions that Dabur Red Paste, since its conception in 2003, has been able to create a following in this category despite the presence of MNCs such as Colgate-Palmolive, Pepsodent, Sensodyne (owned by GlaxoSmithKline).

With this film, Dabur Red Paste thanks its 35 crore (and growing) consumers for making it Desh ka Lal’. Here, the agency explores a colloquial use of the word Lal’, which not only denotes the colour red’, but is also a widely used by Indians to show endearment.

The brand campaign has been conceptualised by Ogilvy Gurgaon. The press note states that the communication showcases how the brand has been embraced by Indians and cuts across regions, languages and cultures to become an integral part of their lives.

Another brand that used red’ in its marketing messages in a cultural context in the past is Asian Paints (also handled by Ogilvy).

This isn't the first time that Dabur Red toothpaste broke advertising category codes this year. Back in February, it released a minute-long ad that was scripted, produced and directed in-house by Gurgaon-based creative agency Thinkstr.

Also Read: Dabur tweaks toothpaste category norms in new spot

2020 has been a busy year in advertising for Dabur Red Paste. In its quest to own the immunity space, it brought back 'Chaubey Ji' for three new ads.

In the ads, we see 'Chaubey Ji' eating raw haldi, amla and ginger to improve his immunity. What's interesting to note here is that 'Chaubey Ji' credits Dabur Red Paste for his powerful teeth that helped him to chew all these raw ingredients.

We first saw 'Chaubey Ji' at the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, where he would eat a popular food item from India's opponent nations before the match.

A 'cultural' approach to toothpaste? Experts opine...

Tarun Singh Chauhan, a brand consultant from TSC Consulting, opines that the ad is new, fresh and ‘very nice’. “I really liked it. It's so far away from the nonsensical advertising in this category. When advertising can be so pathological, that’s when it gets really boring.”

Chauhan adds that nobody wants to listen to a dentist on prime time television. If people wanted their dentist to recommend a toothpaste, they’d make an appointment and ask him.

Tarun Singh Chauhan
Tarun Singh Chauhan

“The ad was refreshing because it broke a lot of category codes. It's quite sweet. My only issue is that there was an Eveready campaign a few years back that was quite similar. That ad referenced ‘red’. This one references ‘Lal’ though.”

The 2005 Eveready ad that Chauhan referenced was created by Rediffusion and starred Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan.

According to Chauhan, the strategy is very clear. This ad is not about getting new customers, but communicating with the existing ones. “The guy, who uses Dabur toothpaste, might be living in a rural or semi-urban area, then it might appeal to them.”

Sourabh Mishra, a brand strategist, and managing partner and co-founder, Azendor Consulting (former CSO at TBWA India and Saatchi & Saatchi), points out that Dabur Lal claims to be the leader in its segment. The intent here is to possibly re-emphasise that point in a way that disrupts the toothpaste category communication conventions, he says.

Sourabh Mishra
Sourabh Mishra

“This disruption ensures that the ad is not lost in the generic category noise of dentists in white coats, and claims of whitening and germ protection. By not becoming a part of the background wallpaper of the conventional toothpaste communication, the ad is, perhaps, trying to ensure it gets noticed and, thus, keeps the brand salient and top-of-mind for its core audience. That core Dabur Lal audience knows what it gets from their brand. This ad just ensures that the brand stays embedded in their current memory.”

Mishra concludes by adding that he saw the Telugu version of the ad, in which the name ‘Dabur Red’ is emphasised. The Hindi and Bengali versions use the word ‘Lal’, which is okay in both these languages.