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Sensodyne Pronamel: 2014 IPA Effectiveness Awards Shortlist Interview

A campaign for GlaxoSmithKline to launch a new product to mitigate the dental effects of acid in food and drink delivered a ROMI of £1.50 for every £1 spent.


Q1. When and why did you decide to launch a campaign?

MC:  “GSK had long been aware of the issue of erosive tooth wear and was monitoring the growth of a new oral health condition - acid wear - brought about by changes in modern diets. We had a full product development programme for several years which culminated in the launch of Pronamel, the first toothpaste specifically designed to help protect against acid wear.

"Once we knew we had the clinical proof of product efficacy, we planned the launch campaign."

RW: “At that time there was no consumer awareness or understanding of acid wear, so a campaign was essential.  Sufferers of acid wear are often unaware they have it. Although it becomes serious later, in its early stages it’s painless and hard to spot. No matter how effective our scientific formula, this was not a product that would simply sell itself.” 

Q2. How did you feel about the original brief?

MC: "Excited at the potential but slightly daunted at the prospect of educating consumers about a little known and little understood emerging oral care issue."

RW: “There was a huge amount of work to do, as pioneers of the new Enamel Protect category. We had to create condition awareness, and educate about causes and effects. This would involve conveying the seriousness of acid wear, without scaring people off.

“In order to become protected from acid wear, people needed to realise it affected them personally, even though they may see or feel no evidence of it.  And we needed to encourage them to buy Sensodyne Pronamel to protect their teeth, despite its significant price premium, during a recession. Not easy.”

Q3. How hard was it to get the campaign signed off?

MC:  "Not hard at all. GSK immediately saw the potential scale of the condition and the importance of being first into the market and it was motivated by the difference we could make to improving people's oral heath around the world. So the organisation was behind the launch from the very beginning."

RW: “We shared a vision with our client of an authoritative campaign, educating in a trustworthy way. We were agreed that dentists needed to be at the heart of the communication. The debate was over how much of the story to tell at any one time. We decided to take a phased approach to avoid communication overload."

Q4. When and how did you first know that you had been successful?

RW: “When dentists started telling us that patients were using our campaign language to ask them about acid wear, we knew we were making ground.”

Q5. What was the biggest challenge in demonstrating the effectiveness of your work?

MC: “Our pre-testing gave us confidence. Our sales and campaign monitoring are fairly sensitive and our media econometrics are robust so we knew quite soon that our communications were working."

RW: “Sensodyne Pronamel is sold in 48 markets, but not every market produces full tracking data. The biggest challenge to demonstrating effectiveness was finding markets with the same full data sets, going back to launch. We chose the UK and US as the markets to feature in our case study.” 

Q6. How did this campaign compare to previous campaigns by the brand and competitors?

MC:  “Since Pronamel was a new product, we knew we needed endorsement from a trusted parent brand like Sensodyne to give the launch credibility. Given that our major task was to educate about a new condition, we knew there was no better campaign vehicle than our existing 'Dentists recommend' campaign for Sensodyne.

"The key issue was to ensure we clearly differentiated our communication from the parent brand. Many competitors have followed Sensodyne in using dentists, but not with the same authenticity and genuine endorsement of the brand."

RW: “We knew we wanted to leverage Sensodyne’s clinical and scientific imagery, but needed to stretch to an entirely new toothpaste category.

“Being a new category, there was no history of competitive advertising. However, when fast followers did arrive, they used scare tactics, demonising healthy foods.

“We, on the other hand, embraced people’s love of healthy foods, and positioned Sensodyne Pronamel as a facilitator, allowing people to continue to eat healthily, worry free.”

Q7. What lessons did this campaign teach you?

MC: “Being the first to educate about a new condition is all important. In that scenario, it is critically important to reassure consumers too."

RW: “It’s hard work being a first mover, establishing a new category from scratch. There are no established norms, and you can't learn from someone else’s mistakes.

“But first movers can reap the rewards of owning a category benefit. And leadership can be held by using the first-mover advantage of better consumer understanding.”

Q8. What were the low points/high points of this campaign?

MC:  “I'd rather talk about the highs - and that first came from the positive buy-in from our customers - the major retailers. It was also hugely satisfying to hear back from the first consumers that they felt happy to be protected and to be able to continue to enjoy the acidic foods and drinks they love."

RW: “The low point was seeing toothpaste giant, Colgate, enter the Enamel Protect market, and fearing being swamped in media and in store, after all our hard work.

“The high point was that it spurred us into taking our campaign to more relevant places in order to reach our newly defined target audience, Healthy Balancers.”

Q9. What would you do differently if you did this campaign over again?

MC:  "Ideally, we would have launched sooner and we would have had larger budgets, so more consumers could have benefited sooner."

RW: “I would have started even earlier, to protect more people from acid wear. Even without a product pre-2006, I would have begun educating people about the simple changes they can make to protect their teeth, such as waiting two hours after eating something acidic, before brushing teeth. That’s how you wear away your acid-softened enamel.”

Q10. If you could have worked on one, other IPA award-winning campaign over the years which would it be, and why?

RW:  “I am lucky enough to have worked on HEA Drugs Education – How advertising turned the tide (Grand Prix, 1998).  I’m very proud of that."

MC:  "If this paper for Pronamel wins, I will be very proud."

Last updated 09/09/2014

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