Business·Analysis

Dentists know you're going to eat Halloween candy, they just want you to brush after

Every Halloween offers the chance for kids to collect even more candy than the previous year and gives dental marketers the opportunity to capitalize on all the potential cavities.

Rather than telling kids not to eat any treats, dental professionals push for harm reduction

Dental marketers are capitalizing on all Halloween candy and potential cavities. (Steven Depolo/Flickr)

Every Halloween offers the chance for kids to collect even more candy than the previous year, and gives dental marketers the opportunity to capitalize on all the potential cavities. 

Some dentists used to sternly wag their finger at children and warn them to avoid Halloween candy — advice kids mostly ignored. Even today, many dentists are still trying to pry the candy out of kids' sticky hands.

In one case, the candy a Windsor dentist bought from his patients — at a dollar per pound — went to Canadian troops serving overseas. Other dentists passed the candy on to local shelters.

More constructively, one Calgary dental clinic trashes the candy and donates an equivalent weight of apples to a local food bank.

But rather than outright prohibition, some dentists are taking a harm reduction approach in their messages.

Instead of just saying no, such dentists recognize the reality of children's behaviour and create marketing messages designed to show kids and parents how to enjoy candy responsibly.

Beyond dentists themselves, toothbrush and toothpaste marketers are also starting to run Halloween-themed commercials.

In this animated 2012 ad from Thailand, we see someone in bed, unaware that a horde of monstrous mouth germs is lurking. Suddenly the head on the pillow is revealed to be a skull which scares the germs away. Then the skull removes its mask, and we see it's a Colgate toothbrush.

The dental fun continued in 2013 with this simulated focus group, in which Halloween candy is replaced by healthy treats.

After a total revolt by the kids, the video ends with type that says, "Nothing is more horrifying than Halloween without candy. Thankfully, there's Crest and Oral-B."

Within days, the video had earned over 7 million YouTube views. So the same marketer was back last year with a new simulated research video, in which kids are asked to test the effects of Halloween candy.

At the end, type says "Halloween candy may have an effect on your kids, but not on their teeth. Thanks to Crest, their teeth are covered."

Basically, dental marketers are transforming Halloween into an opportunity to build allegiance with kids and parents.

Instead of just saying no — and causing everyone to simply tune them out — marketers are learning it's much more constructive to demonstrate ways they can help kids enjoy Halloween candy without suffering the consequences.


Bruce Chambers is a syndicated advertising columnist for CBC Radio. 

now