Mentos: A fresh makeover

By , agencyfaqs! | In | August 05, 2003
The latest television commercial for 'soft chew' mint brand Mentos is a bolder and wackier take on the brand's global 'Freshmaker' positioning

One can either love it or hate it. One can even come away with mixed feelings. What one can't do is choose to ignore it.

The 'it' here refers to the new television commercial for 'soft chew' mint brand, Mentos. The one where the guy's drink gets sucked down… No, no. Let's go through the commercial a bit in detail. For the fun of it (or the coarseness of it, depending upon personal sensitivities) lies in the telling of the story.

The commercial opens in a dim-lit bar. The bar is pretty much deserted, save for this bald gent seated on one of the barstools. Tables are being tidied and chairs are being put away as the bar is winding down for the night. The lone patron, however, is in no mood to leave, his eyes keenly following the svelte barmaid as she punches out a bill for him. The barmaid is only too aware of the customer's persistent gaze. Giving him a withering look, she slams his bill down in front of him, and for effect, abruptly turns of the music playing in the background.

Water off a duck's back. The egghead just won't take the hint as he goes letch, letch, letch.

Push comes to shove, and a young man cleaning up the bar saunters up to the customer and taps him on the shoulder. The youth points to his watch, implying it's time to say goodnight. Undeterred, the customer points to his full glass (one of those tall cocktails), shrugs helplessly and immediately goes back to sucking on the straw and leering.

The young man opens a pack of Mentos and pops one into his mouth. His face brightens as he chances upon an idea to get rid of the lecher. He picks up a vacuum cleaner and starts vacuuming the bar. Vacuuming one barstool seat after another, he slowly works his way towards the customer. As he draws up behind the customer he suddenly pushes the vacuum cleaner's nozzle under the customer and turns up the motor. Whine!

Slurp! Down goes the tall drink in one straight pull. Coughing and spluttering, the customer stares at his empty glass. His excuse for hanging around in the bar having been sucked away unceremoniously, the vexed customer hurries out, leaving the youth and the barmaid smiling. 'Mentos. Dimag ki batti jala de,' goes the slug.

The second television commercial for Mentos to have gone on air since the brand's relaunch in October 2002 (Mentos was first launched in India in end 1999 by Perfetti's erstwhile group company Van Melle Confectionery India, but was relaunched following the merger of Van Melle and Perfetti in India), the new communication is a bolder and wackier (and more scatological, some would hold) take on the 'Freshmaker' positioning that has, globally, stood the brand in good stead. The first commercial ('lift') for the new-and-improved Mentos was quite goody-goody, telling the story of an everyday sort of guy who manages to hitch a ride by pretending to be the owner of a swank but broken-down car.

That ad was, in fact, too goody-goody. So much so that it didn't necessarily stand out in the clutter, a fact that AK Dhingra, director, sales & marketing, Perfetti Van Melle India, touches upon. "The response to the 'lift' commercial was excellent, but then, conceptually, Mentos advertising was also quite similar to (rival) Mint-O, causing confusion in the minds of the consumers," he says. He insists, however, "brand volumes have been picking up consistently and the brand salience has also been growing progressively".

While the need to distinguish Mentos advertising from that of rival brands - Mint-O and Polo compete directly with Mentos in the mint-flavoured breath fresheners segment, although Mint-O and Polo are hard-compressed candies while Mentos is a soft chew (a cross between a gum and a candy) - was pressing, Dhingra clarifies that there was no firm brief to O&M (the agency handling the account) that the new ad had to be wacky. "The brief was that the commercial must clearly demonstrate the meaning of Freshmaker through the story and possibly the tagline, and it had to be distinctive, clutter-breaking, entertaining and 'fresh'," he says. "This wacky idea came across and we decided to go ahead with it."

The idea itself was the handiwork of Piyush Pandey, group president and national creative director, O&M India. "Piyush had the picture of somebody using a vacuum cleaner to suck something out of somebody in his mind, and the opportunity to use that idea came with Mentos, as there was a fit with the brief," explains Abhijit Avasthi, creative director, O&M. "The brief was that 'Mentos kha ke idea achha aata hai', and we used the idea Piyush had and built a whole story around it."

A story has been built, approved and aired. But it's not one that everyone in the industry has taken an instant liking to. The client and the agency are unfazed. "While thinking up the idea, we knew we were treading on an area that some might think is crude," Avasthi agrees. "But we also knew that if we want to make something edgy, wacky and clutter-breaking, it's not easy getting everyone's approval. We showed it to the client and they are the best judges of what to do and what not to, and they decided to go with it." Perfetti's Dhingra, for his part, reveals that the ad was put through quite a bit of consumer research. "The ad was liked, and there were no significant negatives," he informs. "However, even before the shoot, DD (Doordarshan) had rejected the storyboard, therefore we created a second version specifically for DD." That version has the bar cleaner putting the vacuum cleaner's nozzle into the customer's ear.

A half-measure, not nearly as punchy (or funny) as the 'bottom' version, it must be said. There are times a joke needs to be told like it is, never mind if it borders on toilet humour. © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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