‘Kya aapke toothpaste mein namak hai?’ — Colgate ad that yielded one of the most remembered slogans

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New Delhi: Even today, when 21-year-old Harsha Mini searches the big supermarket shelves for toothpastes, she can’t help but turn to Colgate Active Salt or its many variations.

“I can’t help but imagine actress Lara Dutta popping up out of nowhere to ask me simple agar toothpaste me namak hai (if my toothpaste has salt),” Mini, who is based in Delhi, told ThePrint.

In 2010, the large FMCG company Colgate-Palmolive (India) Ltd launched an advertisement for Colgate Active Salt toothpastes which was new in content and tried an assertive and confident image.

The commercial shows Dutta playing the role of a cashier in a grocery store, when suddenly a customer (played by actor Sahil Anand) feels discomfort, reporting a toothache. Dutta is then shown as a TV reporter delivering the iconic dialogue: “Kya aapke toothpaste me namak hai?(Does your toothpaste contain salt?) She then goes on to explain the benefits of the product.

This question has become one of the most remembered iconic slogans by consumers.

There was just something about Dutta going from being a cashier to a reporter in seconds that really struck people. “She interrupted the guy and for a few seconds into the ad I was terrified, but it was just as funny,” Mini added.

The ad propelled Colgate into cult status. The ad was created by Red Fuse Communications, an integrated global WPP team that was created for Colgate-Palmolive worldwide.

There were subsequent adverts in the same format – celebrities playing journalists would pose the question in dramatic fashion.


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Public reception

Before Colgate’s ad, Indian consumers had never seen a product that incorporated salt into something that was supposed to be sweeter. Seeing a popular toothpaste brand experiment with salt was surprising.

“For a second I thought it was a joke, then when I saw it in the stands I knew I had to give it a try,” Mini said.

Vishwajeet Rana, an advertising professional who lives in Gurugram, told ThePrint: “It’s a category (oral hygiene) that you don’t really pay attention to or question unless you have a problem, so there’s an inherent trust.”

This “confidence” is also reflected in the company’s figures. In 2016, 55% of the oral hygiene industry market share was held by Colgate-Palmolive. Of the 55%, 7% was held by the product Active Salt. Around 25% of Active Salt’s market share came from South India.

In the same year, a new variant of Colgate Active Salt was able to secure a 1% market share. As of March 2020, Colgate-Palmolive was still able to hold a 52.7% market share, even with stiff competition from herbal giants like Patanjali and Dabur.

Among school children, these ads have also become hugely popular memes. People also used the slogan “Kya aapke toothpaste me namak hai” make fun of and take teasing.

“As a kid, I remember it was a funny joke that everyone would join in on. It was one of those rare jokes I could do at home and people didn’t find it too offensive and often joined in on it. ,” Mini recalled.

why it worked

The Red Fuse team had been using what’s known as the “pause campaign” format for some time and wanted to refresh it, which would increase the recall value of the ad.

That’s why, although the Colgate commercials had actors like Sandhya Mridul and Koel Puri earlier, it was the one featuring Dutta that really caught on. It wasn’t just the jump scare and the fast-paced nature of Dutta and Anand’s interaction that really sold the ad to consumers. It was the absurd nature of the question itself.

Rana said: “When someone suddenly asks you like that, you can’t help but think – ‘oh ok, I didn’t know there was something like that on the market’. And especially when you have an established brand that says that, you’re like, “Oh, there’s some truth to that.” That’s why they were able to stay for decades.

He added: “The publicity was straight to the point and I guess the abrasiveness of it stood out then because our media wasn’t like that.”

The question asked in the ad is not personal but just catches off guard. Hearing someone ask what kind of toothpaste you use and if it contains salt was definitely weird on the ears.

If there were variations of this slogan, it was because Colgate was promoting a new product. “You need a tremendous amount of courage to do something different as a marketer and unfortunately we rarely do that in Indian advertising. We use proven methods,” Rana said.

This ad format really worked for the brand as they then featured more actors in different variations of the original ad. Actors Kareena Kapoor Khan and Anushka Sharma also posed as reporters asking unsuspecting victims: “Kya aapke toothpaste me namak hai?”.

Interpretations in pop culture

Delivery service Swiggy Instamart released its own version of the Colgate ad in 2021. Swiggy’s ad was one in a series of many others that were designed to recreate the iconic Colgate ad.

Many other brands have come up with their own interpretations of the “Kya aapke toothpaste me namak hai? slogan, as seen in a 2020 advertisement for the Country Delight milk brand.


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