The summer “Big Electric Brush Swap” advert, which ran across the Evening Standard, The Times and outdoor ads, enticed hundreds of bargain-loving commuters with the prospect of receiving a free ProClinical A1500 toothbrush at a branded stall at London Waterloo station.
Colgate-Palmolive had not expected such high levels of interest, however, and was forced to axe the promotion prematurely as a result of its limited supply of 750 toothbrushes running out. A complainant said the advert was misleading as a result of not being able to redeem the offer adding that neither the price of the product or the opening time of the stall was made clear.
The toothbrush maker defended the marketing stunt claiming it had planned for additional demand based on a similar promotion it ran the month before. It added a replacement promotion was run online to treat customers “fairly”, while also claiming it did not believe the opening times of the stall needed to be stated in the advert.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) concluded Colgate-Palmolive had failed to make a “reasonable estimate” on the campaign’s response and did not use a price that reflected the brushes general value at different retailers.
The stunt ended badly for the toothbrush maker after Philips took a swipe with a tongue-in-cheek tactical ad promoting its rival Sonicare product that read: “The best things aren’t free”.