Cannes Lions

Pout-Free Runway


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Case Film






Super premium whitening toothpaste is a growing new segment of the UK toothpaste category. As the name implies, it’s a high-priced, high-reward product, promising superior whitening ability. Industry leader Colgate was entering the category in the U.K. with the launch of Colgate® Max White Ultimate, the first enzyme-boosted toothpaste with a professional whitening ingredient. The brand turned to public relations to establish this premium product as a beauty routine essential and earn media fanfare leading to awareness, social engagement, trial and purchase.

But how do you sell a premium whitening toothpaste when people think it’s cooler not to smile? Examining our target’s social media profiles, the smug, pouty selfie was the rule. Yet we found that nearly half of UK women avoid smiling in all photographs. It turns out, those pout-faced looks aren’t merely to look cool, they are often intended to hide yellow teeth a problem Colgate could solve.


The ubiquitous “too-cool-for-school, chin-down-eyes-up” selfie has become an icon of today’s social media-obsessed society – a symbol of inauthenticity and narcissism.

In truth, people see a welcoming smile as an expression of genuine connection, warmth, self-confidence and happiness.

So, we gave consumers a reason to ditch those moody mugshots and flash confident white smiles instead, with the help of Colgate® Max White Ultimate.

Our idea was to shine a spotlight on the most notorious pout-faces in popular culture: high fashion models who have made tight lips the epitome of aspirational beauty.

We hijacked London Fashion Week and staged the world’s first pout-free runway show, launching a Colgate #PoutFree movement.


Our Colgate catwalk would break the traditional rules of fashion. By flashing dazzling white smiles from ear to ear, our models would throw the fashion & beauty world a genuine curve. We found the ideal London fashion designer to help us pull it off: young, up-and-coming designer Richard Quinn, whose vibrant, energetic and flowery designs were haute couture worth smiling about. And we located the perfect celebratory setting: The Royal Horticultural Lawrence Hall. A #PoutFree afterparty for media and VIPs would follow the show.

We recruited a bevy of strategic social and beauty influencers to amplify our disruptive runway moment, creating a smiling selfie movement around the event, and launching a national #PoutFree Challenge.


To tease media and influencers ahead of the show and introduce the new Colgate product, we sent them a gift box of large red pouting chocolate lips to “smash,” revealing a brilliant white smile and the Max White Ultimate product. This led to our first high profile social posts celebrating pout-smashing.

Six hundred guests, including leading fashion media and influencers, attended our show, where Colgate models – all of whom had been trialing Max White Ultimate - took to the runway wearing beaming white smiles.

Our #PoutFree afterparty followed, attended by A-list celebrities and beauty influencers. Guests snapped hundreds of toothy photos in our #PoutFree photo booth and at creative Instagram hotspots set up throughout the venue. Their posts ignited social engagement, inviting their followers to try the product, take Colgate’s #PoutFree Challenge – and share their own teeth whitening journey.


“In a mood-enhancing move, models came down the runway grinning from ear to ear. Who do we have to thank for that? Colgate.” [Vogue]

The #PoutFree PR campaign resulted in 190 stories touting Colgate’s Max White Ultimate as a new beauty essential -- generating 1 billion+ impressions in mainstream beauty and lifestyle media that rarely ever cover toothpaste, including Vogue, Wonderland, Elle and Love magazines.

Colgate’s #PoutFree Challenge fueled a rise in #PoutFree smiles across social media. Influencers at our afterparty posted over 500 #PoutFree selfies tagging @ColgateUK, and hundreds more followed on Instagram. Overall social reach exceeded 7,241,000. We even tracked a 74% decrease in negative social conversation around the pout in the months following the campaign.

Our #PoutFree movement led by influencers exceeded all industry benchmarks on reach, engagements, story retention and story swipe up percentage.

• Average actual reach vs. potential reach was 33% higher.

• Average story engagement rate was 26% higher.

• Story retention rate was 91.50%.

• Story ‘swipe up to shop’ was 280% higher.

Since launch, Colgate® Max White Ultimate has captured a 1% share of the overall U.K. toothpaste market. It is now leading the growth of the UK whitening toothpaste segment and is the #1 best-selling whitening SKU on Amazon and the winner of the ASOS Beauty ‘Everyday Hero’ Award.

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