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Van Melle USA is taking its Mentos brand on the road to freshen the candy's image among college students.

The Mentos Freshmaker Tour, tested in five markets last year, will expand to 25 college campuses this fall and spring, with concerts targeting the 18- to 24-year-old demographic Van Melle has found hard to reach with traditional media. Featured bands include Biff Naked, Our Lady Peace and Run DMC.

The series will be supported with advertising and live concert telecasts on National College Television, which airs in college cafeterias and student centers. The company plans to place ads in Link, student newspapers, on the Internet and campus radio stations through May.


In November, the marketer also will launch a print ad campaign for new Mentos Cool Chews, billed as the "first chewy strong mint." It will go squarely up against the double-digit growth of Kraft Foods' Altoids brand.

The product, in mint and spearmint flavors, will be backed by $13 million in TV advertising next year. That's about the same amount as Van Melle spent in U.S. measured media for the core Mentos line last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

J. Walter Thompson Co., Am-sterdam, handles the TV; Barefoot Advertising, Cincinnati, did the print work.


The effort is an attempt to compete more strongly against the $72 million Altoids franchise, which grew 38% for the 52 weeks ended July 18, according to Information Resources Inc.

Kraft's Callard & Bowser-Suchard unit currently is introducing a third flavor of Altoids-Cinnamon-and last summer launched a repackaged, rebranded La Vie de la Vosgiennne hard candy, positioned for women.

Strong mints grew 60% last year, said Steve Ferro, brand manager for Mentos. But sales of Mentos remained flat at $45.9 million during that time period, according to IRI.

"We're trying to link Mentos, known through ads as 'the Freshmaker,' with fresh new music and the Internet because those two things are passions with this target," Mr. Ferro said. "We want to continue to reach consumers where they are and with what they're interested in."


Three new TV spots in the global "Freshmaker" campaign, also handled by JWT in Amsterdam, arrive in 2000 and maintain the quirky "Fresh goes better" jingle. The ads target the mint candies' broader 12 to 34-year-old demographic, Mr. Ferro said.

To narrow in on media-elusive yet Internet-savvy college students, the company will focus on promotions via its Web site ( hyping the tour.

Van Melle will allow consumers to vote on which band should open the tour's final concert, and offer chances to win concert trips, inflatable Mentos whirlpool tubs and the official tour guitar.


Although company executives declined to give specific results of its tour tests last year, Mr. Ferro said online research surrounding the 1999 tour showed it brought enough new users to the franchise to continue and expand.

To attract even more new users, Van Melle will offer retailers a menu of four in-store promotions to complement the concerts. Among them: a mail-in offer for a free Freshmaker Tour CD; a contest offering a new CD a month for life; and the chance to sit onstage at a concert in a La-Z-Boy recliner that will later be shipped to the winner's home.

"The Freshmaker Tour is a great way to extend [Van Velle's] heavy media schedule and take the brand interaction to the next level," said David Botsford,

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