Bad Breath Is the Enemy in This Gaming Activation From Listerine

Searching for mouthwash in Complexo

Something's rotten in the 3-D gaming universe. Hey, it's your avatar's breath! Thankfully, Listerine rides to the rescue—which is only right, since the Johnson & Johnson mouthwash brand created the problem in the first place.

Working with Wunderman Thompson Brazil, Listerine launched an open-world "Breathcalypse" activation set in the popular virtual-game city of Complexo. Characters suddenly wake up spewing stinky green smoke and suffer from increasingly blurred vision and heightened anxiety.

The tension builds, culminating in a frenzied, stench-face "apocalypse." Or maybe not, as we learn in this video:


Players can set the digitized world right by procuring Listerine from Complexo's pharmacies and vending machines, and Brazilian funnyman Fábio Porchat provides comic relief with an in-game performance. He gargled, presumably.

All in all, it's a diverting, brand-boosting goof. Do folks really resort to fisticuffs and devolved into street-panic over halitosis, though? Actually, in 2022, they probably do.

Does "Breathcalypse" reek of success? Muse chatted with agency creative chief Keka Morelle about how the project came together:

Why is the metaverse and bad breath a great match? And I mean that unironically, I think.

Keka Morelle: Bad breath isn't an easy topic to broach. It can make people uncomfortable, and to be honest, oral health isn't a sexy subject that usually generates interest. We thought that bringing Listerine into the metaverse to talk about the germs that cause bad breath would connect people with the brand in a simple, playful and engaging way.

How would users discover this stink-mouth world?

The activation is happening in a role-playing game called Complexo, which became famous in Brazil through players streaming their competitions on Twitch and Facebook. It's a game where you need an invite to play. So, the best way for people to find the "Breathcalypse" is by watching streamers play via these third-party platforms.

So, Listerine just hacked into the game one day? To users, it came as a complete surprise?

The activation began on Oct. 25. On launch day, the players were living their normal lives inside the game and then got a surprise—everyone woke up with bad breath! If you were around someone that had bad breath, depicted via green smoke coming out of people's mouths, your character's stress level would gradually increase. Nobody knew where it came from. In their livestreams, players reacted to this new dynamic and tried to understand what was happening with the help of thousands of viewers. Then, the biggest influencer in the game received a package with a tip about how to solve the problem: Listerine! The players needed to buy the product in the game and use it to get rid of the bad breath. Billboards appeared with hints about product whereabouts.

Sounds like a funky "get-fresh" pitch, a tried-and-true strategy, but delivered in a hyped tech venue.

People understand the purpose of the product, but don't know how it works or why they need it. Inside the game, all actions have consequences. Working makes you money, committing a crime can land you in jail, and not eating elevates your character's stress level. Now, through our activation, if you don’t do your full oral healthcare routine, you’ll face the consequences of a bad breath. Just like in real life.

Why make a niche play for such a mainstream brand?

Some players can reach more than 100,000 viewers per day on their livestreams. And the average stream time of each player is eight hours. Everyone saw players having fun, laughing and getting rid of the bad breath. Just in the first 24 hours, we got 100 spontaneous livestreams—or 395 hours of branded content, and 3.8 million views.


Client: Johnson & Johnson
Products: LISTERINE® Cool Mint Refrescância Suave
Approved by Gustavo Miranda, André Zanetti, Nelson Kadubickei, Marina Leitão, Taís Trevisol, Martin Zanlungo, Sabrina Tichauer, Tomas Bouthemy, Daniella Brissac
Communication from J&J Consumer Health: Roberta Catani, Priscilla Barone e Gisella Aguiar.
Agency: Wunderman Thompson Brazil 
Creation Team Keka Morelle, Alvin Shiguefuzi, Sabrina Villar, Maicon Gomes, Lucas Durães
Executive Business Director: Ticiana Gomes
Accounts Management: Camilla Marcondes, Bárbara Costa Pinto, Gabriel Pereira
Strategy Team Stella Pirani, Diana Junqueira, Renata Nappi, Mansur Atique, Nathalia Cristina, Fernanda Galdino
Content and Influence Team: Mariana Hasselmann, Samantha Prado, Nathalie Ferreira, Mariah Villanova
PR WT: Vivian Zeni, Suellen Ciriaco e Hellen Araújo
PR Loures: Bruno Nogueira, Luiza Cirino, Ana Dettilio, Bruna Sion
Media: Bruna Feco, Augusto César
Social and Influence Spark: Tatiana Katibian, Fernanda Tavares, Amanda Ramos, Thaís Marques, Beatriz Amorim, Erika Daykem

WT Graphic Production: Flavio Colella
Graphic: Pixel Collections 
Graphic Producer: André Canalonga

Production : WT Production
Production Direction: Michel Gubeissi
Project Management: Orlando Nascimento e Luiz Cobalchini
Game Development : 3C Gaming

CEO Renan Philip
CCO: Paulo Aguiar
Creation Director: Lucas Pinheiro
Art Director: Lucas Pinheiro
Text: Lucas Munhoz e Giovanna Cartapatti
Customer Service Head: Marcelo Trivilato
Customer Service: Rayanne Lourenço e Igor Felício
Head of Operations and Project Manager: Hugo Martins
Producer: Stephan Natal
Traffic: João Pedro Bezerra 
Production Assistant: Bianca Pacheco 
Technical Producer: Hylan Dias
Broadcast Engineer: Nykolas "Wokin" Costa
Broadcast Operator: Everton "Shino" Barbosa
IT Manager Rafael Souza
Photography Director: Walter Zucchini Jr. 
Lighting Assistant: Marcelo dos Anjos
Chat Moderator: Thiago Hass
Teleprompter: Flavio Neto de Almeida
Teleprompter Operator: Luis Henrique Uchoa
Filmmaker: Julio Cesar
Video production
Producer company: WTP
Executive Producer: Carol Pimentel
Production Coordinator: Dani Galletta
Editing and Motion: Fernando Lamb, Sergio Mendes, Rui Barbosa
Audio production: Oliver Dherte
Voiceover: Renet Lyon (BR), Jason Birmingham (Global)

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