Intense Sensory Experience? Sorry, Wrigley's 5 Is Just Gum

Ads Promise More Than Product Can Deliver

By Published on .

Here's a term that should make you laugh out loud: chewing-gum technology.

Yet there is such a thing. Gum science has vastly advanced over the past two decades, as manufacturers have discovered microencapsulation and a "compressed powder" process for enhancing and extending flavor. So, yeah, though half the world lives in grinding poverty, gum is sweeter for longer. Thank God.

And now comes yet another advance, with the introduction of Wrigley's 5.

"5 appeals to the senses and is the most exciting development in sugar-free stick gum since the launch of Extra more than 20 years ago," Bill Perez, Wrigley's president and CEO, told his shareholders.

He said a mouthful. We ourselves are still excited by Extra, which already appeals to two senses (taste, touch) so this new product promises a sensory increase of 150%. We're frankly curious as to what they may be. (We'll give them "smell," although we're not sure you can smell your own gum. After that we're stumped.)

But let's put that aside for a moment, because what tipped us off to 5 in the first place was an introductory commercial from AMV BBDO, London, and Energy BBDO, Chicago.

The spot begins with a voice-over stating the premise: "How it feels to chew 5 gum." From that we are taken to some sort of weird circular laboratory, which -- in its fascist architecture and blue-gray hues -- looks for all the world like the auditorium in Ridley Scott's "1984." But, no, there's no telescreen or grotesquely devolved PC users here -- just a floor covered four inches deep in tiny beads. It's like the colored-ball pen at a kiddie gym, only the gunmetal balls are smaller than marbles.

A young man strides through them and lies supine. He has long brown hair and a scraggily beard. When he extends his arms, he looks like Christ on the cross, albeit with better lighting. In a moment, he is half buried. Then someone turns on the sound system.

Immediately the beads begin to pulsate to the bass beat. No problem. This isn't a crucifixion. It's a gum commercial. The feeling makes him smile.

"Spearmint that tingles as you chew," the voice-over says. "Stimulate your five senses."

Wow. That's a lot of production -- and some heavy imagery. But we'll say this: It got us interested.

That, of course, is tantamount to success -- as long as the actual product experience lives up to the hype. But there it opens itself up to trouble, as the ad is so preposterously overwrought, hyperbolic and generally excessive that it puts very high demands on a taste test. That excess was on our mind when we sampled 5.

Well, we'll say this, too: pretty impressive. Whereas Extra lasts an extra, extra, extra long time, this new 5 lasts an extra, extra, extra, extra long time -- a flavor-retention increase of one entire extra. It also seems a bit denser and grittier, which probably has something to do with the sweetener-embedding technology referred to above. We remain at a loss, however, as to how it's supposed to stimulate all five senses.

Sure, if you listen for the sounds of your own chewing, you can hear it. But that's a generic attribute, and not a particularly attractive one. As for sight, we suppose they're talking about the novel package design. This product, aimed at teenagers, comes in a 15-stick box that looks strikingly like a pack of cigarettes.

That seems a bit depraved. So, no, we didn't experience the full-body orgasm implied in the ad, but if you're looking for a fifth sense, you can rule out shame.

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