Some smart guy out there has recut Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Bloodsport as a Mentos commercial (via Reddit, DeathandTaxes). And when I say “recut,” I mean pretty much just stuck a Mentos logo at the end of the goofy chase scene between Van Damme and Forrest Whitaker from Bloodsport. Oddly, that’s all Bloodsport needed to look exactly like a Mentos commercial.
In fact, it looks like Bloodsport and those classic Mentos commercials from the nineties could’ve been shot by the same production company. They both have that camp-cheese tone and ambiguous, English-as-a-second-language Eurotrash feel. In the back of my mind I always sort of assumed they were shot by some Belgians Van Damme could’ve gone to high school with.
Bloodsport (1988) came out of Cannon Films, an 80s B-movie house about whom there was recently an entire documentary, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (which I would recommend). As for those Mentos commercials that premiered in the early 90s, however, figuring out who made them is still shockingly hard.
I tracked down an old New York Times article from 1995, listing the “Freshmaker” ad agency as Pahnke, “an agency in Hamburg, Germany,” corroborated by a few other sources, including Entertainment Weekly, who in 1997 named the original Mentos commercial one of the 50 best commercials of all time. EW credits the agency as Pahnke & Partners. The mystery was apparently by design:
Representatives at the Kentucky subsidiary of Breda, the Netherlands-based confectionary company, have long refused to comment on the popularity of the chewy candy, its commercials or its camp following, as has Media Buying Services International in New York, the company that handles media placement for Mentos in the United States.
And one of the only resources on the matter is “The Mentos FAQ,” a rather infamous, early internet phenomenon, a BBS-style, proto-Wikipedia dedicated entirely to Mentos, created by then Purdue senior Heath Doerr. A 1996 article profiles its early viral success, boasting “about 300 people visit the site a day.” The FAQ still exists in fragmented, cannibalized form, but still seems to be one of the more definitive accounts of the Freshmaker origin story online:
The U.S. company subsidiary of the Dutch company Van Melle, consults with an agency named Pahnke & Partners, which is based in Hamburg, Germany. Van Melle uses New York based Media Buying Services International to buy airtime in the United States. “We try to have an American focus but it’s a global campaign,” according to Ms. Gold. “As your correspondents have noted [their “correspondents” were mainly anecdotes from friends and Purdue students who had lived or studied abroad, adorably listed in the original FAQs with full name and email address -Ed], several of the spots were filmed in the U.S. Two or three new commercials will be shot in January 1995″, she said.
Wikipedia says the commercials were shot in South Africa, which seems to have been true in at least one or two cases. Like this 2006 story about a South African actress who had appeared in “The Car Movers” but had never seen it. That’s about as much as I know about who made the commercials – Pahnke, a German ad agency shooting for a then-Dutch brand (they later merged with an Italian brand) filming everywhere from South Africa to Los Angeles. As for the Mentos FAQ:
Maintainer Jeff Wayman, a junior at Temple University, said that, at last count, about 300 people visit the site a day.
Wayman collects any information he can for the page from fellow Mentos devotees and never leaves home without a roll of his favorite candy. When reached by phone recently to talk about his Mentos obsession, he revealed he was carrying a peppermint roll.
“You never know when you need to be fresh and full of life,” he said. [Hartford Courant, 1996]
My God, that is so Gen X it feels like a Reality Bites outtake. That is so Gen X I want to start my own zine about it. Can you imagine the burden of having been the first to discover ironic humor? Ultimately, that may have been what killed Kurt Cobain.
Anyway, I probably didn’t need to fall down this rabbit hole for a dumb mash-up, but thanks for going on this journey with me. Good luck getting that f*cking Mentos song out of your head today.