Smiling at Listerine’s clever branded content innovation

You think of branded content, you think of a TV ad; yet another distraction that today’s consumers just don’t have time to absorb. Somehow, Listerine has managed to buck the trend and create something with true purpose.

Their ad from August last year resonates with relevant and realness, because it doesn’t promote the mouthwash product in any way. Instead, it offers a glimpse into consumers’ lives, and a snapshot of what they really care about. And that’s not about using Listerine as a product, but about knowing the power of a smile.

There’s no lengthy intro or flashing logo – we cut right into the conversation and get pulled into these average people’s lives for three-and-a-half minutes. People like you and me. Except there’s one obvious difference…

Chloe kicks us off saying: “I can imagine that seeing a smile could be a really pretty thing to see”. We feel a little more uncomfortable when Adi says, “When I could see, I loved having eye contact with people, and I lived it when people smiled and you could see the smile on their faces and the smile in their eyes”. Then we cut back to Chloe who adds that, “If I smile at my boyfriend for example, I’m not sure if he’s also smiling at me or looking at me the same way. If you love someone that much that you actually want to work out how they’re feeling, it can be quite hard.”

Only then does the reality set in that Chloe and Adi are blind or only partially sighted. So to them, the power of a smile is more than just something to see, it’s something to feel.

Listerine has used this sentiment to create a way for everyone to feel they’re being smiled at, even if they can’t see it.

It goes on to show Sarah saying she found it easier to tell if someone was smiling or not when she could see more, now that she doesn’t have that to go on she has to rely on how they’re speaking. Anna then explains how, as a very small child, her mum would get her to feel her face – a face just feels different when you smile, it seems to come alive.

Adi adds that since losing his sight he’s totally forgotten about the smiles he had experienced and how powerful they were. That really hits home as there’s no guarantee any of these people will ever see again. But all hope is not lost.

Subtitles then show Listerine asking if they could make something for those who can’t see a smile, feel a smile (with ‘feel’ appearing in Braille.) It introduces Listerine Advanced White ‘Feel every smile’ – even more fitting is that none of the blind cast can see the wording on the screen. It’s effectively an app that makes your handset vibrate when it detects a smile in the form of upturned mouth.

I dare you to watch the ad and not smile along as Adi, Chloe, Sarah and Anna smile with surprise at ‘feeling’ those smiles they get in return.

As Sarah says, knowing you’re being smiled at is something most of us take for granted. Through the app, you can ‘know again that you’re being smiled at’. The Listerine Smile Detector app is available through IoS and Android, but there’s no active punt for it through the ad – instead, you’re simply shown how good the app makes its users feel.

I love the realness of it. It feels like you’re actually sitting with the various storytellers. That’s the power of a smile, the purpose of the ad spot and the essence of truly effective branded content.