NEW YORK: Crest, Procter & Gamble's oral-care line, successfully showed how brands can profit from subverting category norms by "championing", rather than chastising, kids for eating candy on Halloween.

Erica Herman, svp/global strategy at agency Publicis Kaplan Thaler, discussed the brand's award-winning campaign from 2013 year at the 4A's (American Association of Advertising Agencies) Strategy Festival.

Typically, she reported, dental-care marketers play the role of "finger-waggers" during Halloween, and discourage children from participating in the ritual of eating the candy collected while trick-or-treating.

Such messaging, however, had clear drawbacks. Firstly, this stance represented the "world's biggest downer" at a time of fun and mischief. And, secondly, this type of output made no impression.

"It absolutely fell on deaf ears," said Herman. (For more, including results from the brand's Halloween campaign, read Warc's exclusive report: Halloween treat: Procter & Gamble's Crest co-conspires with kids and candy.)

For Crest and its P&G stablemate Oral-B – which had both "been protecting teeth and mouths for generations" – a shift in approach was obviously needed.

"Our message had to change … We had been hitting something at a very deep, nasty level by pushing people away from something they want to dive right into," said Herman.

The imperative for Crest and Oral-B thus read as follows: "It's time for you to cross battle lines. It's time for you to be champions [and] cheerleaders for candy consumption, and celebrate the ritual for what it is."

Undertaking a suitable transformation in attitude, Herman continued, would see the brands become "co-conspirators" in celebrating a Halloween tradition.

Such an alternation in perspective, though, did not require ignoring the legacy of these brands, as occasionally eating candy was not the core problem.

"They could do this in very good conscience,"said Herman. "Candy isn't the enemy – not brushing is the enemy." 

With numerous key brand metrics improving as a result of the seasonal repositioning, Halloween 2013 thus proved to be a "perfect teachable moment" when it came to bucking expectations.

Data sourced from Warc