Client of the Week: Giving Listerine a novel push

Richard Cook investigates Leslie McCaig’s bold move to drop Clifford the Dragon.

Richard Cook investigates Leslie McCaig’s bold move to drop

Clifford the Dragon.

I’m not sure if working in mouthwash passes the party test. You know the

one: ’What do you do?’ ’Oh, I’m in mouthwash.’ But scrap your

advertising of seven years, draft in a hip director and an even hipper

star, and I suppose it just might.

Lesley McCaig works on brands ranging from ’haemorrhoids to head lice’

at the multinational chemist, Warner Lambert.

It is McCaig who has ended the seven-year reign of Clifford the Dragon

as the Listerine spokes-man, instead casting Keith Allen as a

grimy-around-the-gills tooth fairy in an innovative new campaign devised

by J. Walter Thompson and directed by Trevor Robinson (Campaign, last


McCaig considered Listerine’s work from the US and from Australia - a

spoof dentist campaign from one and exploding mouths from the other -

before deciding to go her own way.

’It was one of those ideas that could easily have fallen flat on the

screen,’ McCaig admits. ’But I think the presence of Allen and the

skills of the best director I’ve ever worked with have helped make sure

it hasn’t.’ For McCaig, Listerine represents a shot at the

consumer-friendly multinational brand - a rarity in its sector.

A bio-chemistry graduate, McCaig cut her teeth on the less flamboyant

end of the market.

During a three-year stint at Wellcome she worked on lower profile

over-the-counter products. ’One of the things I’ve learned is that you

can’t judge products like Listerine just in terms of their immediate

sector competition. The ads will appear up there on the screen with

lavish car commercials so they’ve got to work in that environment as


McCaig would like to uproot to Europe or North America with the company

once she has seen through this campaign. In the meantime, she commutes

to work in Eastleigh from London. McCaig admits she couldn’t bear to

abandon the bright lights of city living for the country just yet.

And, if this campaign is as well received as it should be, the chances

are she won’t have to.

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