Peter York on Ads: Number 238: The advert with the hole

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The Independent Culture
Who among us has not experienced Polo Supermints? Who has not engaged in an animated conversation lasting, say, a full minute about the ingenious packaging: a giant Polo. Who has not remarked on the delightful product, a competitor to the Tic-Tac box. And hardly a single calorie per pack. The Polo Supermint phenomenon obviously transcends class, age and region. This is a product suitable for housewives, sportsmen, pensioners and website designers. And it's mined, of course, from a rich seam of social history: the hollow tunnel of peppermint, the mint with the hole. Why then is its advertising so conspicuously computer animated? Why then is it Intel Inside with a vengeance, and Peperami Plus? The birth of new Polo Compact is presented as one of those robotic factory nativities where the creature, once spawned, shows lots of attitude.

It is also quite difficult, for anyone over 12, who hasn't spend their formative years on Mortal Kombat, to follow. In other words Polo acts as if its target market was overwhelmingly young, as if Supermint had been launched to make it younger still, and as if the Polo brand was quite desperate to hang on in there by hanging out with the Lost Boys of Cyberland. That isn't my impression of Polo and its target market at all, though it may actually be their quandary.

I'm not saying there is no fun to be had here, though I do think I've seen this sort of thing before. I even think I've heard this kind of soundtrack - all-too-organic, heavy-breathing, angry squeaking creative stuff - allied to computer animation before.

However I quite like the bit where the baby Polo jumps through the hoop of the big one and then goes through the wall, leaving a cartoony round hole, and if I was about eight I'd like it even more, since it mimics the designer tot's brain rhythms. And I do enjoy the pullout shots of an animated factory wreathed in smoke looking just like a 1920s fantasy of industrialisation. But I'd really prefer the most klutzy, consumer- benefit-laden commercial possible, one that played back the wildfire social spread of the Polo Supermint ritual and was possibly rendered in the style of Wrigley's chewing gum.