Philips toothbrush ad

Philips has put out an ad poking fun at Colgate’s failed toothbrush giveaway

Readers of The Grocer will have probably heard by now that Colgate had a bit of bother at London’s Waterloo Station – but might not be aware of a rival’s swift response.

For those not yet in the know, Colgate turned rush hour into brush hour yesterday morning after opening a promotional stall offering commuters the chance to swap their old electric toothbrush for a new £169.99 ProClinical A1500 brush. But the company underestimated demand for the offer, which had been promoted in advance, and had to close down the stall before all 750 brushes allocated for the giveaway had been distributed.

Last night’s Evening Standard reported this resulted in “hundreds” of disappointed people overwhelming staff and causing “mayhem” on the concourse. By 9.30am Colgate had posted a tweet saying: “Due to crowd numbers we have been asked to close down the stand”.

“We know many people were left with a bad taste in their mouth yesterday and wanted to help disappointed consumers enjoy a better brushing experience”

Brent Kokoskin, Philips

Bad news for Colgate, but a great opportunity for rival Philips, which today ran an ad with the strapline: “The best things in life aren’t free”. Below this was a picture of a Philips Sonicare toothbrush and the words: “And worth every penny.”

And Philips’ fun didn’t end there, as the company used Twitter to contact commuters who had been at the Colgate stand, and offered them one of its own Sonicare toothbrushes instead.

“We know many people were left with a bad taste in their mouth yesterday and wanted to help disappointed consumers enjoy a better brushing experience,” said Philips Sonicare UK marketing director Brent Kokoskin.

“We created the advert yesterday afternoon and booked full-page adverts for today in The Times and Evening Standard and a digital campaign at Waterloo to catch the commuters. Hopefully our quick response brought a smile back to people’s faces!”

As for Colgate, it has apologised for the “inconvenience” caused and said it would be looking at alternative ways of running the Colgate Big Electric Brush Swap.

“Due to unprecedented demand and the risk of overcrowding, we are unable to continue with the London stations promotion, and will not be returning to London Waterloo this week,” it said.

A spokeswoman added: “We are fully committed to continuing the Colgate Big Electric Brush Swap and will now be making this a nationwide initiative by running the promotion online. Due to the strong consumer interest, we are making the promotion bigger – swapping 7,000 electric toothbrushes, 1,000 more than originally planned.

“To apply for your chance to swap your old electric toothbrush for a brand new Colgate ProClinical A1500 simply visit and complete the online registration form. Registration is open until midnight on Saturday 20th July to UK residents (excluding Northern Ireland).”