Wrigley and Its Agency in Foul Breath Ad Coup

19 March 2003

The William Wrigley Junior Company and its UK ad agency Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO will be celebrating the success of their latest TV commercial for Xcite breath-freshening chewing gum.

Its calculated grossness achieved the doubly whammy of attracting the highest-ever number of phone-in complaints (688) to the Independent Television Commission – plus massive editorial coverage which ensured that both ad and brand penetrated the public consciousness to an extent that would otherwise have added millions to the media budget.

The offending ad depicts a hungover twenty-something slob sprawled over the remains of a kebab. He then retches limb-by-limb a CGI-generated mutt which barks until offered a piece of Xcite. The drunk's girlfriend enters and kisses him to the accompanment of the subtle end caption: “Avoid Dog Breath”.

On Monday, Wrigley “voluntarily” pulled the ad and apologized to viewers. “Our intention was, and remains, to communicate the benefits of the Xcite brand in an impactful and engaging manner,” the firm claimed. The ITC has yet to adjudicate on the ad.

[Such shock tactics, although not new, are increasingly favoured by some UK agencies, aware this is a proven model for achieving high brand awareness at relatively low cost – with the added benefit that appropriate creative concepts are freely available from any prepubescent source. Furthermore there is virtually no punitive action open to the regulators save to ban the ad – usually unnecessary as by the time adjudication is forthcoming, it has been “voluntarily” pulled by its perpetrators.]

Data sourced from: AdAgeGlobal.com; additional content by WARC staff