Strange bedfellows…

I pretty much like everything about Snickers. The peanuts. The nougat. Obviously the chocolate. It’s the classic American candy bar, a raunchier version of Hershey’s. Sort of like the Rolling Stones were to the Beatles.

I also like Snickers’ advertising; especially “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” This high profile ad campaign has been a crowd pleaser and awards-show hero for many years, manifesting in killer outdoor campaigns as well as hilarious TV commercials. Though not as spectacular online, Snickers has the prerequisite Facebook and Twitter pages with plenty of followers and friends. All in all, Snickers knows who it is and what it’s doing.


Something I don’t particularly like or understand about Snickers is their desire to be an “official sponsor of the Super Bowl.” Sure, I get they want to advertise on the Super Bowl –at least to the same degree I get any brand does.

But to be its “official chocolate.” Why?

“Um, you got any pretzels?”

When I think of the Super Bowl or football in general my mind never, ever goes to chocolate. When I watch the Super Bowl or football in general (frankly, any sporting event) I never want to eat chocolate. Why would I? Beer? Check. Chips? Check. Wings? Check. But a chocolate candy bar? It doesn’t jibe. At all. Sort of like ordering steak at Red Lobster. Or ice cream in the winter. It may happen but it’s not the franchise.

So Snickers- Make your funny commercials and put one or two on the Super Bowl. Spend that money. Get that love. But don’t gild the lily and be an official sponsor. That colossal waste of cash is for makers of beer and athletic wear.

Altoids, circa 1997

I wrote the above copy for Altoids in 1997. A year or so before, Mark Faulkner (art director) and I created the “Curiously Strong Mints” campaign for Altoids. The two of us would run this creatively driven account for about 7 years, producing myriad posters, print, ambient and digital pieces.

The campaign exploded into popular culture. Sales boomed. Within a couple years, Altoids became the number one selling mint in North America. Later, in a parlay with Life Savers candy, Kraft sold the brand to Wrigley for over 1.5 billion dollars. Pretty sweet, especially for a confection that wallowed in obscurity for over a century.

Those ads were game changers: for the client, for the agency, and thankfully for yours truly. Mark and I (plus a growing and talented team) would go on to win tons of creative awards for our work, including, in 1997, the $100,000 Grand Kelly Award for best print campaign in North America. Which, fortuitously, brings us back to the above execution: “Makes Other Mints Feel Inadequate.”

Imagine my surprise discovering it in the latest issue of People magazine! Holy crap. After all these years and all that history, they’re rerunning our ad. The headline. The typography. The color scheme. Save for a different (and in my opinion) crappier looking tin, it’s the same exact ad.

I’m baaaaaack… as seen in People, May 2013

Big deal? Well, sort of. For whatever reasons, rerunning old advertising is unprecedented. Creative has a super short lifespan. Like cicadas, campaigns appear, create buzz, and then die. Precious few last longer than their first flight. Once gone, even the most successful ad campaigns stay that way. Yes, taglines or other assets get resurrected all the time. But never the ad itself.

Until this one.

What can I say? Of course I’m flattered. But seeing my ad after all these years is also discombobulating. Like running into your ex and her new beau. Altoids was and is so personal to me. I still remember pitching the above headline to my client. In fact, I recall telling them Altoids’ smart and cynical audience would appreciate a quirky word like “inadequate.” The subtle innuendo was highly intended. (As the brand grew, its widening audience would appreciate much sillier copy. But my favorite pieces always remained true to that “smart and cynical” core.)

So, having perhaps lost its way, is Altoids’ advertising returning to its base? Literally. Look, I don’t blame agency and client for rerunning our copy. There’s a whole new generation of “smart and cynical” out there. It’ll be new to them.

Special note: I discovered a website devoted entirely to Altoids advertising. In it, you’ll find “Inadequate” along with all the others, far as I can tell, pretty much in the order we produced them. I have no idea who hosts this site or why. Pretty cool, though.