Ananya Pathak

New Colgate spot makes no mention of strong or white teeth

Colgate's latest spot narrates the story of India's first blind solo paragliding pilot.

Until recently, Colgate-Palmolive has focused its communication around strong and white teeth. Not anymore though. “Sawaal ye nahin ki kya aapki aankhon me roshni hai. Sawaal ye hain ki kya apki aankhon me sapne hain,” opens the newest film from oral hygiene brand Colgate. The 90-second film features Divyanshu Ganatra, founder of Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation. The ad, an extension of the brand's #SmileKaroAurShuruHoJao campaign, narrates Ganatra's story. Ganatra lost his eyesight at the age of 19 and went on to become India's first blind solo paragliding pilot.

Under the umbrella of the ongoing campaign, the brand has narrated stories of Haimanti Sen, the 22 year old college student who turned Skywalk into a classroom for the underprivileged; Anand Arnold, the first Indian wheelchair bodybuilder; Sandeep Singh, who was appointed the Indian national hockey team captain three years after being paralysed by a gun shot and that of Yashaswi Jaiswal, the youngest double centurian in the history of 'List A' cricket.

However, we note that Colgate is not the first brand to go the storytelling way. Government of India owned oil and gas company Indian Oil's 'Unsung Heroes' campaign centered on the journey of oncologist Vishal Rao and the late V Mani, founder of So-care.

Maruti Suzuki in its three-part video series - #BeLimitless - for Maruti Suzuki Swift, featured Indian Olympic boxer Mary Kom, para-athlete Bhupender Sharma and corporate banker, Vikas Dimri who scaled Mount Everest.

Also Read: IndianOil finds purpose in stories of India's unsung heroes

While we understand the brands' urge to bend over backwards to stand for a larger purpose, the question of brand fit still looms large.

We had raised the same question when we took a closer look at 'India's Got Colour' film which was supported by the JSW Group.

Industry speaks.

When we asked Sharda Agarwal, co-founder, Sepalika Women’s Health, about her thoughts on this campaign, she said that when a brand becomes large (not just in size but in stature), it will periodically embark upon a larger-than-life campaign, one that lifts it beyond the physical and emotional benefits of the category. The brand will aspire to occupy a more life-encompassing position to forge a deeper relationship with its user. This strategy is required to allow the brand to rise above category codes. It enables the brand to play a meaningful role in the life of its audience, she says.

Sharda Agarwal
Sharda Agarwal

She believes that Colgate has made that attempt with its “Smile karo aur shuru ho jao” campaign. “To expect a viewer to wonder whether clean teeth and a confident smile will let an individual conquer life (like we see with Divyanshu Ganatra) or to ask what a toothpaste brand would gain by exhorting more people to be courageous to discover their full potential, is meaningless. That’s not what this campaign is meant to do,” she says.

“There are other executions to communicate the freshest breath or the whitest teeth. This one asks you and me to feel fuzzy and warm when we think of Colgate. That’s it,” she adds.

Creative consultant L Suresh feels the digital platform has triggered an avalanche of causevertising. With so many brands attempting to attain social relevance, it is becoming increasingly difficult to view any piece of communication in isolation or in absolute terms. Even as the film plays, the mind begins to pick various threads and tries to compare them with what it has already been exposed to.

L Suresh
L Suresh

About the film in question, he likes that it didn't go overboard on the emotional quotient. That gravelly heart-of-the-hinterland voice was thankfully missing in the VO - it has become the trademark of every film that tries to tug at the heartstrings of its viewers, he points out. Suresh is also happy that a black-and-white film intercut with the brand colour (red) wasn't attempted - it has become another trope of 'socially relevant' films.

“However, what the brand may not like is the fact that the film made me root for Divyanshu rather than Colgate. His exploits completely overshadowed the brand's message. I watched the film again, just to gain inspiration from his journey. Interestingly, the film also brought to mind one of Colgate's earlier positioning - the ring of confidence. To me, Divyanshu's journey has more to do with his inner confidence. How does one know that his journey started with a smile? This is the fantastic story of an individual's determination to overcome his challenges and succeed. What if it began with blood, sweat and tears - and ended with a smile?,” he opines.

He goes on to say that brands are not just vying with one another in the race to become the champion of a higher purpose, they're also jostling for space with other brands – across different categories – when it comes to owning a positioning platform. Just as the confidence aspect of Colgate brought to mind Ponds Dreamflower Talc, the 'Smile karo aur shuru ho jao' comes close to the 'Smile more for a good day' positioning of Good Day biscuits.

“A smile is a simple, but powerful way of making a dull world brighter. To me, that could have been a better route to make the point,” he signs off.