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NY Times: Get Off the Internet, and Chew Some Gum


Print advertisements for the new Dentyne campaign, called “Make face time.” By borrowing phrases from the realm of electronic communication, the campaign is trying to question whether new technologies are bringing people closer together.

Published: September 24, 2008

BORED subway riders and air travelers in major American cities might have noticed — right around the time they were itching to get back on an Internet connection — a series of ads encouraging them to “power down, log off, unplug … make face time.”

The brand with the temerity to tell us to disconnect from our totally wired lives? Dentyne chewing gum.

The campaign, called “Make face time,” was created by McCann Erickson for Dentyne, a brand owned by Cadbury, the No. 2 gum maker in the United States after Wrigley. The ads feature happy people embracing and kissing — their breath presumably freshened by Dentyne — as an alternative to pounding their BlackBerrys or sending electronic messages to their Facebook friends.

The ads, which have appeared in several major cities for about a month, are now going nationwide with a Web campaign this week and television spots next week.

The campaign will reintroduce the Dentyne Ice line, which includes Dentyne Ice and Dentyne Fire gums, with updated products, names and package designs. The timing is critical, as sales of Dentyne Ice fell 9 percent and those of Dentyne Fire fell 26 percent from 2005 to 2007, according to Mintel, a market research company.

People under 20 are the most avid gum chewers, the industry says, and the Dentyne campaign touches on the explosion in digital tools that help those young people connect, share and network. But it also seeks to make customers stop and question whether all that online communication is really making them closer.

“Everyone loves technology and everyone uses it,” said Josette Barenholtz, the marketing director for Dentyne. “What’s meaningful is being reminded that being face to face can’t be substituted.”

That strategy could be a gamble, as the ads focus on exactly the people who are most passionate about these digital tools.

“I think most college kids would roll their eyes” at the ads, said Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who studies the way young people use technology to socialize. “In fact, they’re checking out these sites in the hopes that sooner or later it will end up in a hug or kiss.”

The Dentyne posters show naturalistic, sometimes provocative, photographs of people in intimate situations, shot by Ryan McGinley. The copy is borrowed from the online world. In one, a woman leans out of a cab to receive a kiss. “The original instant message,” the ad says. Friends hug tightly under the words, “Friend request accepted.” A young couple lies in the grass, limbs intertwined. “Send and receive,” the copy reads.

The print ads have appeared in transit hubs and on outdoor walls in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and Philadelphia since mid-August. The television commercials, which begin showing nationwide on Monday, show vignettes of people playing soccer, swimming together or kissing.

A related Web site, www.makefacetime.com, was unveiled on Monday. It opens with a warning announcing that it will shut down after three minutes. “When people are surfing the Web, they’re missing the best part of life — being together,” it reads.

The site includes a Face Time Finder, powered by Google Maps, to locate places to meet offline. The Smiley Chamber of Doom takes aim at the “annoying” emoticons that people use to express humor or sadness in e-mail or instant messages, showing them being killed by fires and sumo wrestlers. An essay contest asks users to write about how social networking has led them to be “disconnected to the people that matter most.”

The campaign’s online presence was a particular challenge, said Craig Markus, executive vice president and executive creative director at McCann Erickson, part of the McCann Worldgroup unit of the Interpublic Group of Companies.

“There was a real paradox in that we want to have an online presence, but wait a second, we’re telling people not to be online,” Mr. Markus said. “That’s where we came up with the idea of the three-minute Web site.”

Ms. Tufekci said that the idea that social networking sites and other digital tools have separated people from those that matter in their lives will probably not sit well with the gum industry’s young customers.

“This is a false dichotomy,” she said. People use online tools as a way to be more social, she said, updating their acquaintances on what they are doing and making plans to meet in person. Her research has shown that people who use these tools have just as many offline friends and spend just as much time with them as people who do not socialize online.

Ms. Barenholtz said, however, that the ads had been getting a positive reaction from consumers. One contacted the company and said, “Have we gone overboard with the ‘pseudo-intimacy through virtual hyperconnectivity and social networking thing?’ Dentyne, you may be at the forefront of an emerging social phenomenon!”

Furthermore, Ms. Barenholtz and Mr. Markus said, the ads are not antitechnology, but rather reminders of other forms of connection.

Dentyne gum was invented in 1899 by a New York drug store manager who combined the words “dental” and “hygiene” to create the name. Dentyne Ice was introduced in 1997. It is an intensely minty gum that was one of the first to come in pellet form. The newest version, which is hitting stores as the campaign is unveiled, has an improved texture and flavor, Ms. Barenholtz said. The name no longer includes the word “Ice,” and the box has been redesigned with a new picture of ice cubes.

Cadbury declined to disclose the campaign’s budget, but said it was comparable to a new product introduction.

Dentyne ads have always pictured romantic couples, in which the guy gets the girl thanks to his minty fresh breath. Chewing gum ads have traditionally trumpeted the practical benefits of gum, like fresh breath or healthy teeth.

The new ads break from those traditions. The message is emotional instead of functional, Ms. Barenholtz said, and appeals to a broad range of people looking to connect with family or friends, not just lovers.

“It is time for Dentyne to up its game and own a credible and meaningful message,” she said.


One Response to “NY Times: Get Off the Internet, and Chew Some Gum”

  1. […] Let’s all drop out … By emilythinks So in reference to my last post I got this link from a friend Adam. It’s a pick up from the NY Times and is about the latest Dentyne campaign. See – https://541aesthetic.wordpress.com/2008/09/25/ny-times-get-off-the-internet-and-chew-some-gum […]

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