Colgate Campaign Challenges Unrealistic Beauty Ideals for the 'Perfect' Smile

With a Katy Perry hit, the brand aims to change Gen Z's negative perspectives about their smiles 

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The pressure to have a “perfect” smile is intensifying. In a recent survey by Censuswide and Colgate, nearly 65% of the Generation Z audience said pressure to have a perfect smile negatively affects their confidence, with over 85% expressing a desire to change their smile. 

Armed with these jarring stats, Colgate and agency partner VML sought to overcome a younger generation’s lack of self-acceptance. Its new campaign, “My Smile Is My Superpower,” aims to empower young adults to embrace their smiles in all of their “shapes, sizes and shades.” 

Colgate launched “The Beauty of Gaps,” a 90-second video with a diverse cast of young adults proudly displaying their gap-toothed smiles. They whistle Katy Perry’s empowerment anthem, “Roar,” as they go about everyday activities such as cycling, dancing, painting nails and standing in the mirror playfully filling in their gaps with toothpaste.  

Shot and produced by music video and creative director Alfred Marroquin—whose previous work includes videos for Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa and Bad Bunny—the film will run across the brand’s social channels. The campaign will also comprise out-of-home placements and content featuring Orange Is the New Black and Painkiller actor Uzo Aduba. 

“Advertising tends to reflect society, but in this case, we knew we had to bring a different point of view,” Fred Saldanha, global chief creative officer for Colgate-Palmolive at VML, said in a statement. “At a time when the pressure for perfection is a reality for many kids, we decided to celebrate those smiles that unfortunately don’t fit beauty standards.”  

Diana Haussling, Colgate’s senior vice president and general manager of consumer experience and growth, told ADWEEK she has a personal connection to the campaign.

“I’ve always had confidence in my smile, because in my culture, it wasn’t a thing,” Haussling said. “People in my family who happened to get this gap, it was a sign of beauty. For me, [this campaign] was a full-circle moment: ‘How do I ensure that other people have that same type of confidence and passion about their smiles that I was fortunate enough to have my family instill in me?’”

Something to smile about

As part of the campaign, Colgate committed to reaching 250,000 kids in the U.S. by the end of 2024 through its Bright Smiles, Bright Futures program. Established in 1991, the program partners with governments and schools to reach underserved children and their families with mobile dental units. 

Haussling said the initiative is important because it encourages children to start their oral hygiene journey at an early age, and oral health can be a precursor to other health issues. The program also provides scholarships to enable people from diverse backgrounds to enter careers in dental care.

“There is a responsibility for us to drive those conversations to ensure that people have the resources that they need, but then also have quality products that enable them to have the smiles that they’re looking for,” she added.

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