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Mentos Disavows Ad That Made Fun of Fat People


An ad agency has apologized for creating a Mentos ad that made fun of fat people, and in doing so showed how cheating in advertising award competitions is rife, especially in Brazil: The agency, Neogama/BBH, said the ad was not approved by its Mentos client but nonetheless was "translated into English solely for international trade publications and annuals, and for participation in international ad competitions."

A similar thing happened about a year ago when DDB Brasil created an offensive Sept. 11-themed ad campaign for the World Wildlife Fund that showed Manhattan being destroyed by thousands of jets. That campaign was created merely to run once in the media so that it qualified under common advertising award show rules for competitions such as the Cannes ad festival. The industry has since made a half-hearted attempt to block such scam ads. DDB, like BBH, also apologized in that instance.

The Mentos ad -- which showed a skinny girl saying to her fat friend, "I love hanging out with you. All the boys keep looking at me" (click to enlarge image above) -- was not commissioned by Mentos parent Perfetti Van Melle. But it was created by PVM's agency, BBH. The agency said it did so "on the agency's own initiative, as is usual in the proactive relationship we've always had with our client Perfetti Van Melle in Brazil." The theme of the ad was "selfishness without guilt," and was one of three in a set that appeared on Ads of the World, and advertising showcase site. The campaign has since been removed "on request by the ad agency," according to notices on AotW.

PVM said it had rejected the ad and did not know why its agency had chosen to publicize the work anyway.

You can read full statements from both PVM and BBH to BNET, which first noted the Mentos ad earlier this month, after the related stories list.

Given that Neogama/BBH has now confessed to creating a set of fake ads for "international ad competitions," should it now be banned from all such contests this year? The ad world's award show judges will now doubtless leap into action to effect such a ban.

Related:

Statements from Mentos and BBH: From: USA, Marquardt, Dan
Sent: Thu 9/09/10 9:55 PM
To: jimedwards123@hotmail.com
Dear Jim,

Thank you for making Perfetti Van Melle aware of the offensive MENTOS(r) ad you saw which portrays an overweight woman. This creative execution was part of a series of ads that an advertising agency submitted to our company in another country but it was rejected because of its unacceptable content. It has never been used in our advertising campaigns.
We do not know how this unapproved creative was ever made public and have asked the advertising agency responsible to provide a public apology and take appropriate actions to remove the creative in any form. We regret this unfortunate incident and appreciate your willingness to bring it to our attention.
Sincerely,
Dan Marquardt
Marketing Director
Perfetti Van Melle USA

+++
From: Mônica Charoux Head of PR NEOGAMA/BBH
Sent: Fri 9/10/10 6:06 PM
To: jimedwards123@hotmail.com

Neogama/BBH is the agency that handles Mentos advertising in Brazil and created the Selfishness campaign for the Mentos Mini Mint line. We're sorry that one of the ads in the campaign was found offensive by some in the U.S.
The campaign was created in Brazil and for Brazil on the agency's own initiative, as is usual in the proactive relationship we've always had with our client Perfetti Van Melle in Brazil. In this case, the agency assumes full responsibility for the creative content of the respective ad and for its communication, independently from Perfetti Van Melle.
Conceived taking into consideration the characteristics of the language and customs of our country, which reacts in its own way vis-à-vis cultural and behavioral issues, the campaign was translated into English solely for international trade publications and annuals, and for participation in international ad competitions. This is standard procedure for ad agencies in non-English-speaking countries around the world.

We would like to point out that a humorous approach to everyday situations which satirizes human behavior is a common strategy, not just in advertising but also in entertainment, the arts, cinema, theater, cartoons and comedy shows, etc.

Talk shows, like Chris Rock's, make frequent use of edgy humor to mock political correctness. Movies, like Eddie Murphy's The Nutty Professor series (http://www.searchforvideo.com/entertainment/movies/the-nutty-professor) use obesity as a point of departure for humor. Lifetime's Drop Dead Diva (http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/drop-dead-diva) and CBS's Mike and Molly, which premieres Sept. 20, are other examples. (http://www.cbs.com/primetime/mike_and_molly/video/?pid=oVrbLmQnl_GO9Y6FxehXpmLKD84xh3_x&nrd=1).

We apologize for any discomfort this campaign, which was created solely for the Brazilian market, may have caused in the U.S.
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