hard sell

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The Independent Online
Client: Haitai gum

Agency: Landsdowne Conquest

Spend: pounds 2m

Wrigley's gum TV advertising is in a league of its own. Badly dubbed, badly lit, and with a script that defies parody, Wrigley's commercials are classics of a kind. In one ad, which seems to have been running for the last 20 years, two girls, a blonde and a brunette, are waiting for their boyfriends in a restaurant. They are not feminists. "I wonder where the boys are taking us tonight," muses the brunette. "I feel like a dance," says the blonde. "Is my hair all right?" "Don't worry about your hair," says her pal, pointing at the raw onions in the salad she's eating. "Worry about your breath!"

Of course, she's got nothing to worry about, because she uses Wrigley's Doublemint. The boys arrive; cue lots of toothsome grinning and a chaste kiss for the blonde from her beau. His nose doesn't so much as wrinkle. Wrigley's has saved the day again. She rests her head on his manly shoulder while he gazes into the distance, like a cheesy still from a Gillette ad, while the stirring, patriotic soundtrack crescendoes as a choir belts out the good news: `Doublemint! Refreshes your breath ... naturalee!' as if this were the kind of thing that mobilised whole nations.

Haitai gum's advertising cleverly exploits this creaking, clean-cut legacy of Wrigley's advertising by promoting itself as "un-American" - sexy and non-conformist. In one commercial, shot in grainy, faded colour that looks like a public information film from the Fifties, we see various pillars of American society - bankers, soldiers, cheerleaders - arrested and led away by poker-faced FBI agents, not because they are Communists, but because they are chewing Haitai. The end-line spells it out "Haitai: thoroughly un-American gum."

The Haitai ad is smart, well put together and witty. All the things that Wrigley's advertising isn't. And who knows? Maybe Wrigley's might be galvanised into action by this cheeky challenge and commission commercials that don't look like recruiting films for the Young Mormons.