Holy Grail! Monty Python-esque Gum Ad Signals New Direction for Mentos

$10 Million Campaign For Pure Fresh Is First Ad Done Specifically For States

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In pop culture, Mentos will seemingly forever be linked to two things: The brand's corny "Freshmaker" ads of the 1990s and the explosion created when you drop one of the mints into a liter of cola.

In the newest campaign for its lesser-known gum brand, Mentos is trying to once again creep into the consciousness of American consumers with a TV ad that is reminiscent of the 1975 classic "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." The spot (above) by McKinney, New York features a medieval knight who is pelted with arrows but refuses to go down because his gum is still fresh.

Mentos Gum
Mentos Gum

The estimated $10 million media investment in the campaign marks a new phase of spending on the pellet-gum brand, called Mentos Pure Fresh Gum, which was launched about five years ago in the U.S. by global candy marketer Perfetti Van Melle. The TV ad began airing recently and will run on network and cable TV primarily during comedy programming.

The company, whose headquarters are in Italy and the Netherlands, in recent years had been focusing in the U.S. on a newer stick-gum brand called UP2U that launched in late 2010 and gave consumers the option of choosing one of two flavors from the same pack. But the product was discontinued last year in the face of weak demand that has plagued the larger gum category.

"It's only logical that in the current state of the gum business that you really want to put all your resources behind your biggest bet and the strongest part of your business," said Mehmet Yuksek, president-CEO of Perfetti Van Melle North America.

For Mentos, that bet is on the Pure Fresh gum, which is outperforming the larger sugarless-gum industry of late. Sales grew 23% in the year ending Jan. 26 to $78 million, according to IRI. The growth came as the $2.6 billion sugarless-gum category experienced a 5.9% sales decline in the period. At a 3% share, Pure Fresh still significantly trails leading brands such as Wrigley's Orbit and Mondelez International's Trident, however.

Perfetti Van Melle's overall U.S. sugarless-gum sales fell by 10% in the period, according to IRI. That drop is likely due to the discontinuation of UP2U, which started well out of the gate, but eventually faltered. "Things started to go sideways so they decided to move on," said Matthew Hudak, who covers the candy industry for Euromonitor International. "Gum chewers are pretty fickle," he added. "They don't have a ton of loyalty … People stopped trying it."

For the Pure Fresh brand, Perfetti Van Melle is going "back to the basics" of gum marketing, by touting the same "freshness" attribute that the Mentos mints have long been linked to in a "charmingly quirky way," Mr.Yuksek said. The brand's 1990s-era "Freshmaker" campaign was known for its cheery jingle and corny storylines.

The mints last year ran a similarly sprightly ad called "Roll With It" which was created by McKinney shortly after it won the account from the Martin Agency. Mentos mints rank No. 2 in the "plain mints" category as tracked by IRI with $104.8 million in sales and 29% market share.

The gum ad marks the first U.S. campaign for Pure Fresh in three years and the first spot created specifically for the states. The ad also signals a "new direction" for the umbrella Mentos brand, Mr.Yuksek said. He said it was too early to discuss details, but indicated that brand would not stray from its historical freshness positioning.

Peter Nicholson, exec creative director for McKinney's New York office, suggested that a forthcoming mint ad would continue the theme introduced by the gum's new tagline: "Long Last The Fresh," in which "The Fresh" is used as a noun, rather than a descriptor.

The gum ad was shot at a castle in the French countryside. The lead actors are British and the supporting actors were pulled from groups that reenact medieval battles in France, Mr. Nicholson said. Mentos, he said, has a "fun, quirky European feel and we wanted to preserve some of that in the feel and the tonality of what we did with the spot."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly quoted Mr. Yuksek as saying Mentos' freshness positioning has been promoted in a "charmingly perky way." He said "charmingly quirky way."

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