Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards

Creating ‘E.Coli Kiss’ Lip Gloss to Highlight Canada’s Indigenous Peoples’ Drinking Water Crisis

Advertising Agency
Montreal, Canada
LBB’s Ben Conway speaks to the creatives behind Sid Lee’s unsellable make-up collab with Cheekbone Beauty that highlights an issue that has been glossed over for too long

Created and developed through Sid Lee Collective and produced in-house by the global agency's Toronto team, the ‘#GlossedOver’ make-up campaign was made for Indigenous History Month and sought to shed light on the fact that one in six First Nations communities in Canada don’t have access to clean water.

The Sid Lee team created a range of contaminated lip glosses, including shades such as ‘Luscious Lead’ and ‘E.Coli Kiss’, and sent the products to influencers, alongside a social media campaign and ‘promotional spot’ for the unsellable items. Working with Indigenous-owned brand Cheekbone Beauty, Sephora Canada and the Water First charity, Sid Lee’s campaign asks the Canadian public and legislators alike, “Would you put it to your lips?”

Speaking with LBB’s Ben Conway about the creation of the campaign, Peter Sreckovic, copywriter at Sid Lee, and the agency’s executive vice-president and head of accounts service, Zemina Moosa, discuss how the Sid Lee Collective harnesses its artisans’ meaningful ideas, how they mimicked the conventions of the beauty category and persuading clients to release a campaign featuring contaminated products.

LBB> Where did the initial spark for the campaign come from? And what do you have to consider when creating a campaign for a commemorative month like Indigenous History Month? 

Peter> This project didn’t come to us as a traditional brief. Instead, it was developed through Sid Lee Collective, which is the agency's creative incubator, created to inspire and fund projects that push the boundaries of creativity. All artisans at Sid Lee (from any department) are encouraged to share ideas that can have a meaningful impact. 

My creative partner Sammy Lo and I are concerned about the water crisis in Indigenous communities in Canada. After fleshing out the idea of this campaign, we then brought the idea to Cheekbone Beauty’s team. We have been working with Cheekbone Beauty since 2020, and are deeply inspired by their mission, so we knew they’d be the best collaborators. 

LBB> Where did you get the research/insight for this campaign from? What was the most poignant and useful piece of data you collected?


Peter> We knew that we wanted to address the issue of water contamination and our initial research found that 18% of First Nations communities in Canada are still without clean drinking water (source: Water First). It’s a shocking statistic and yet many Canadians don’t know or talk about this persistent issue, because their lips will never touch these contaminated waters.  

LBB> Did you speak to representatives from Indigenous communities to help shape the campaign? How collaborative was the process?

Zemina> We worked hand-in-hand with the Cheekbone Beauty team. Through the process, we learned a lot of information that shaped how the campaign came to life. For example, there are three types of water advisories: Boil Water Advisory, Do Not Consume and Do Not Use. These informed the names of our glosses. This whole program was co-created with Cheekbone Beauty. 

Peter> Collaboration is what made this project successful. Originally, we brought this idea to Cheekbone Beauty in February of 2022 and from that point, it was a true co-creation. Sephora Canada and Water First were brought on board later on. With all the parties on board, we quickly jumped into production in order to meet our June 1st launch date for National Indigenous History Month. The whole process took about five months. 


LBB> Did you work on the branding and packaging design for the lipglosses in the spot? If so, what went into that process? 

Peter> Sid Lee developed the branding and packaging design for both the lip gloss tubes featured in the spot, as well as the box that we sent out to influencers. For the box, we worked with an external vendor to create this premium collection. For the tubes, we worked with Cheekbone and their lab to develop the colours from scratch, as well as the names for the glosses.

Zemina> The campaign, including the voice-over, was created by Sid Lee in collaboration with the Cheekbone Beauty team. We recorded the script internally at the agency using a team member who works on the Cheekbone Brand. 

LBB> The line “Would you put it to your lips?” stands out as a call to action, not just for donations and charitable support, but for the Canadian governing bodies who can help this issue. Who did you want this campaign to address and how did you try to not just raise awareness but incite action from the audience?


Peter> Spot on, that line was written to provoke a response not only from the general public but also from the powers that be. We wanted this campaign to target all Canadians since water is something we’re all dependent on. To target such a broad audience, it made sense for the campaign to exist primarily on social media, since it is such a great vehicle to spark conversation, especially when it comes to social issues. It also allowed us to reach a wide audience thanks to its bold hook. 

But going beyond awareness was really important to us. And that’s where our partners really helped bring it all to life. Having Sephora Canada on board to donate proceeds from Cheekbone Beauty’s sales to Water First was vital. Through this, the Canadian audience could discover an incredible Indigenous-owned brand and directly take action towards the issue by supporting them.  


LBB> The lip glosses in the spot look like rolling tides of water - especially with the sound design helping this effect - how did this idea come about? And what was the production process like? 

Peter> The idea for the spot came out of the broader idea of mimicking the conventions of the beauty category but with a twist. Often we see traditional beauty products shot in crystal clear water to signal purity and cleanliness, so naturally, it made sense for us to flip this convention on its head to feature dirty water instead. 

The spot was produced entirely in-house at Sid Lee. We have a fantastic team of artists who have a diverse range of skills and when we spoke with our in-house production team and director, they were confident that we could complete this with the level of craft needed to make it feel like a premium beauty ad. Most of our team was there physically for the shoot, which was done in our Montreal studio. The rest of the team was overseeing remotely from Toronto. The process was a fun one with a great deal of trial and error required to get the perfect texture and feel for the water. 

LBB> What was the hardest challenge you faced on this campaign? And how did you overcome it? 

Peter> It’s no small task to convince a client to release a campaign featuring products with contaminants. And in this case, we had to convince three separate collaborators (Cheekbone, Sephora Canada, and Water First). One key reason that we managed to create this campaign is because of the boldness and courage of each of those partners, without them, this project would never have made it past its infancy. 

Work from Sid Lee
Prime Negotiators
Maple Leaf Foods
Natural Negotiators
Maple Leaf Foods