Bits and Bites
A celebration of Oral Hygiene

Oral Exams
Test your dental advertising IQ

Look Ma, No Cavities
A Bite-size history of brushing your teeth

Tooth and Lies
All about toothpaste

Pulling for You
Whole pop dentists' hall of fame and more

Bad Breath
Yours and your dog's

Coming Extractions
Dentists in the movies

Strangers in Dentifrice
From Shanghai to Ceylon to Switzerland

"I'd walk a million miles,"
Al Jolson in Mammy,

   Strangers in Dentifrice
  From Shanghai to Ceylon to Switzerland

Advertisement copy from the Shanghai Toothpaste Company

One of the nice things about the toothpaste industry is that there are still some local brands out there, despite the best efforts of Colgate, Lever and Procter & Gamble to make every country dance to the tune of Crest and Pepsodent.

The healthiest indigenous industry seems to be in Asia. Shanghai Toothpaste Company is one such manufacturer. Besides Evafresh, they've got White Jade ("Your teeth will be health and no usual oral disease can occur....It does no harm to animal, it for smokers quite well,") and Bulb Poll brand for children ("With fresh melon flavour...brushing teeth would be of interest for children and they can easily get into good habits."). The significance of the names? Nobody seems to know.

The Whitening Man's Burden

"Darkie Toothpaste" Blackens Colgate's Reputation

Darlie toothpaste is a popular brand in much of Asia. Its dark secret is that it used to be called Darkie, complete with a stereotyped logo of a minstrel man. Apparently its founder had come to the US in the 1920s and seen Al Jolson in his blackface show, and had been impressed with how white Jolson's teeth looked.

Stereotypes of this sort were not unusual before World War II. What was unusual about Darkie was that its racist name and logo were still intact in 1985 when Colgate bought the brand from the Hong Kong's Hawley & Hazel Chemical Co.

Here's where the story gets a little twisted. According to Alecia Swasy in her book Soap Opera, Colgate's arch-rival Procter & Gamble learned about the sale and immediately went to work to use it to their advantage. Both companies were releasing a tartar-control formula that year, and P&G was happy to have the opportunity to portray its rival as racist. It hired a public relations firm to surreptitiously slip information to activists and newspapers about Colgate's disreputable Asian brand.

The strategy worked. There was a storm of uproar: Stories and editorials in major newspapers, threats of boycotts, and even Eddie Murphy expressing his outrage on David Letterman. Colgate was unfairly attacked for a brand it had just purchased; however, the attacks became more and more justified as the toothpaste giant dragged its feet on changing the brand fearing a loss of business. Finally, nearly four years later, it announced that it was changing the name to Darlie and making the man on the package an abstraction of indeterminent race.

The name change placated Western critics, who pointed out that the toothpaste actually sold better after the name change. What they didn't know, and apparently still don't, is that only the English was changed. The Cantonese name ("Haak Yahn Nga Gou") still stayed the same, and the Chinese-language ads reassured users that, despite a cosmetic change to placate those inscrutable Westerners, "Black Man Toothpaste is still Black Man Toothpaste."

The most exotic way to clean one’s teeth
is most certainly in the South Pacific


Other dental brands of note

About Wholepop.com || MAXIMA Multimedia || Contact Us || Privacy Policy || Copyrights || Printable Format