Iconic Ads: Pepsodent – Dishoom, Dishoom

Mothers worry about what their kids eat, especially when they are away from them. So Pepsodent stepped in citing germ protection

In 93, Unilever launched Pepsodent to challenge Colgate. They used Pepsodent to target children hoping to capitalize on pester power and to get a customer at a very early age.

Colgate was practically generic and had positioned itself as a fighter against tooth decay. The differentiator for Pepsodent was long-lasting protection from germs. It could fight germs for hours together. And this worked well.

By the late 90s, communication had changed to the benefits of using Pepsodent. But that did not work. Unilever had tried many tactics, like reducing prices, moving it from premium to mass, etc., but nothing worked.

Pepsodent had to change tracks. Research had shown that mothers worry about what their kids eat, especially when they are away from them, and its impact on their dental health.

Sulekha Bajpai, now at Lintas, used to have her young kid brush his teeth by stating his toothpaste (it was Pepsodent) would fight germs in Bollywood style – Dishoom, Dishoom. This was her way of making sure that he brushed every day.

Using this idea, she had worked on a script that was rejected, and it was filed away for the future. Then Sulekha left Lintas to focus on her family.

Soon, Balki was going through the rejected ideas. Usha Bhandarkar remembered Sulekha’s script. She told Balki to look at the idea. And Balki knows a good idea when he sees one. He was excited. He added his touches and decided to present the creative again.

When Balki presented, Vindi Banga (MD, India) rejected the idea, stating that it looked more like an ad for strong teeth aka Colgate and not germ protection aka Pepsodent. He thought it was tacky and downmarket.

Balki was scared, but not willing to let go of an idea he strongly believed in. He told Vindi ‘What do you have to lose? How many crores will you spend on this? 3 crores? You would have spent Rs 40 lakh making this ad? So Rs 3 crores 40 is your loss if this ad does not work. You can always pull it back. But I won’t have a job because my agency will sack me. So I am betting on my job. You bet Rs 3 crore 40 lakh.’

Vindi replied ‘I will take your word for this. If it works, I will give you a crate of champagne.’ And Balki replied, ‘If it works, I won’t need that; just let me have my job back.’

Balki is yet to get the crate of champagne.

The Bollywood influence, a realistic slice of life, plus a dash of humour through a story made the TVC a big hit. The message was clear – if a kid needed toothpaste, it was Pepsodent!

The Pepsodent mother became aspirational. The Colgate mothers had to take notice. After all, it was Pepsodent that understood them
and tackled the problems they faced.

And Pepsodent gained back its edge of ‘long-lasting germ protection.’

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