by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki) So what does a denture adhesive have to do with lions? It seems like a stretch, but denture adhesive manufacturer Fixodent has adopted a project that proves how doing good can be good business, plus add depth to a brand’s profile.

But let’s start at the beginning, with a man called Kevin Richardson. The name may be familiar to you as the man who is known as “The Lion Whisperer”.

Saving Aslan Fixodent screengrab who's a happy kittyRichardson runs a lion sanctuary in Gauteng, which is home to some of the world’s rare white lions, and he has a unique relationship with these wild animals, as they have accepted him to the point where he can play and lie among them without getting hurt.

Richardson’s lions have starred in movies and commercials, including a feature film that Richardson produced himself, called “White Lion”. Lions are not bred here, as Richardson is an opponent of ‘canned’ lion hunting, which is where lions and tigers that are bred in captivity invariably end up.

Richardson’s YouTube channel, LionWhispererTV, has several remarkable short documentaries chronicling some of the situations he and his lions have been through. And, last year, Richardson sent out an appeal for support when one of his white lions, Aslan, developed chronic dental problems.

Fixodent, a division of Proctor & Gamble, volunteered assistance, and the entire process was chronicled in a five-minute documentary.

By sponsoring this surgery, Fixodent has made a clever move in aligning itself with a cause that is bound to generate feelings of empathy in viewers. On the site created for the project, the denture adhesive company makes this connection: “We understand the emotional and physical impact of losing teeth — and those impacts are as real for a lion as they are for a human. When we heard about Aslan we knew we had to help him get his bite back.”

By demonstrating empathy, the company makes itself into a representative not only of its customers, but also of the conservation effort happening in South Africa: it’s a unique story that can only do good for its image.

The story begins with Aslan in a very sorry state. Not only is he in extreme pain, but he has also become isolated from the rest of his pride. Richardson explains that, when a lion loses his canine teeth, he feels vulnerable and thus becomes ‘aloof’ from the rest of the pride.

Saving Aslan Fixodent screengrab carrying a sedated white lionRichardson asked Dr Gerhard Steenkamp, a veterinary surgeon with 20 years’ experience, to perform the operation. Adrian Tordiffe, a veterinarian and authority on animal anaesthesia, was the anaesthesiologist for the surgery. The operation was done in situ at the sanctuary, rather than undergoing the difficult and risky task of moving the lion to a hospital facility.

This required the use of state-of-the-art equipment that could run off battery power, but still provide the level of care that would be provided by a big hospital. Richardson initially thought that the operation would take four hours, and would entail extracting a broken canine and doing root canal on the other.

Saving Aslan Fixodent screengrab fang workBut Steenkamp had come prepared for the worst, and ended up fixing four teeth (including adding a crown) in a marathon six-hour operation.

The film is beautifully shot, with panoramic views of the African veld and Richardson’s relaxed narration guiding the story while giving insight into the work he is doing and what motivates him. He explains about his relationships with each of his lions, and provides some startling facts about the diminishing lion population in Africa.

Fixodent’s slogan, “Never stop biting life” is the final payoff line of the movie, which is an apt tie-in for the brand.

The Fixodent brand occupies a fairly niche space, but it’s clear that doing a project like this can reach much of the target market: it has already had over 7.2 million views on YouTube. Proof that good content will engage with an audience in ways other channels cannot.

The agency behind the campaign is Saatchi & Saatchi Italy.


Oresti PatriciosAd of the Week, published on MarkLives every Wednesday, is penned by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki), the CEO of Ornico, a Brand Intelligence® firm that focuses on media, reputation and brand research.

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