Philips takes advantage of backfired Colgate promo

Philips has moved quickly to take advantage of a Colgate promotion offering commuters free toothbrushes that had to be shut down due to safety fears by launching a tongue-in-cheek ad campaign and offering freebies of its own.

Philips Sonicare Colgate ad
Philips Sonicare press ad poking fun at Colgate’s mishap.

Staff at Network Rail were forced to shut down Colgate’s “BrushSwap” promotional stall yesterday (9 July), after it was besieged by hundreds of would-be bargain hunters looking to take advantage of the offer which gave commuters the chance to swap any old electric toothbrush for one worth £170.

Some commuters had even arrived to the stall at London Waterloo as early as 5am to claim their toothbrush, but it was closed down by 9.30am due to “crowd numbers” and its limited supply of 750 ProClinical A1500 products running out.

Rival Philips’ Sonicare toothbrush brand quickly deployed creative agency Ogilvy and media agency Carat to create a teasing ad campaign with the strapline: “The best things in life aren’t free”. The ad has appeared today (10 July) across The Times, Evening Standard and in a digital takeover of Waterloo station.

Meanwhile, Philips’ PR agency Emanate has been contacting commuters who expressed their disappointment on Twitter about being unable to redeem Colgate’s promotion with the offer of a free Sonicare toothbrush.

Brent Kokoskin, Philips Sonicare UK marketing director, says: “We know that many people were left with a bad taste in their mouth yesterday and, as the number one sonic toothbrush brand in the UK, we wanted to help disappointed consumers enjoy a better brushing experience.

“Hopefully our quick response brought a smile back to people’s faces.”

Yesterday (9 July) Colgate UK took to its Twitter account to apologise for closing its BrushSwap stand, adding it is “looking at alternatives” as to how it can repeat the promotion at a later date.

Philips’ reactive campaign comes a month after O2 took advantage of an EE promotion that backfired. O2 offered a free pass to its Academy venues to the “winner” of EE’s Glastonbury tickets competition to whom EE was unable to offer a prize because it had changed the terms and conditions half way through. 

It later emerged that the “winner” of the competition, who had drummed up a social media campaign against EE demanding he receive his prize, may have copied his winning competition entry from an artist’s work

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