Did you know ‘the mint with the hole’ wasn’t actually the first mint with a hole?
Allegedly, George Harris, the man behind the Polo, saw the US “Life Saver” mint and brought the idea back to the UK in the early 1930s.
Harris was quite the confectionery-ist. According to the Rowntree Society, he was the “innovative and visionary director who led Rowntrees through these fundamental changes to become one of the UK’s most successful companies”.
With less guff… he was pretty good at marketing.
And when you look at what brands he built, I think I’d agree. Because the fact KitKat, Smarties and Aero (and others) are still going says a lot. (Even after the sugar tax!)
Anyway, after sitting on the back burner for a number of years (thanks to a small global conflict), Harris reintroduced Polo to the world and started manufacturing in 1948.
And like most of the other brands he built, they’ve been loved ever since. Over 70 years later!
Let’s have a look at one of their ads that caught my eye. And see what’s going on.
Written by Alex Ayuli and Philip Cherrington and art directed by Paul Austin and Chris Pay during their time at JWL, this ad was nominated for a Silver Poster Campaign in 1984.
I think it caught my eye for a few reasons.
One of the main ones being context.
In fact, the more I think about it, I can’t recall seeing many confectionery ads in any online ad circles. It was only whilst I was researching for this article that I found Paul Austin’s site with a few other Polo ads (which are also very good).
The only confectionery ads I can recall seeing are actually mint ads. I wonder why that is? Quite a few clever ones spring to mind – like this one from Altoids.
It’s interesting how some products tend to inspire better ads than others.
Anyway, context aside, there are also some techniques used here that I’d like to share with you.
The Headline Test
First, ask yourself, if you cover up the headline, does the ad still work?
In our case here, yes. Yes, it does.
And generally, that’s a good sign because we process images much faster than words (language is still “new” to our primitive brain). Ads with lazy art direction miss the biggest opportunity to grasp the reader’s attention and make an impact.
Words are just the sprinkles on top. They add context, dramatise, offer different perspectives and can enhance an ad. But art direction builds it.
The ‘Aha’ Moment
Next, the penny drop. As with every great ad, there’s always an ‘aha’ moment – a point where you have to complete the message yourself.
This helps the message stick and creates a ‘positive ad experience’ – both vital parts of any ‘commercial communication’. Because the more the mind works to reach a conclusion – and solve the message – the more enjoyable and memorable it is.
Naturally, as advertisers, there’s a fine line. We only have a split second to hook the reader. So it instantly needs to look easy to solve. If it doesn’t, we’ll push the reader away before they get a chance to read our ad.
Striking this balance is something I’ve really come to admire with the great advertisers. I have no doubt it takes a lot of skill and experience.
Fortunately, this ad is an example of it done well. And it creates the ‘aha’ moment with an elegant double meaning.
Like my last breakdown, it’s very playful too (as most double meanings are). And positive, playful feelings are great for brand-building ads because they transfer over onto the brand itself.
Remember, the more we like a brand, the more we tend to buy from them.
The Double Meaning and Symbol
What’s particularly clever about this double meaning, though, is how it’s combined with a very emotive symbol (a wedding ring).
So, not only does this unconsciously bring up feelings of love and marriage, it nudges you into associating them with Polo (and your relationship with your tongue).
In one single picture, you have a clear emotional benefit of a Polo. The copy just clarifies.
That’s the power of a strong symbol. You get more for less.
And then what’s more, double meanings also add depth to communication. You don’t have to be so explicit about the benefit you want to convey. And instead, you can wrap it up and slide it under the door with more charm and impact.
Now, I’m not sure if this was intentional or sheer coincidence… but the ad goes further with the symbol of wedding rings.
Not only do you already have the image in your head, but when you eat a Polo, you act it out too.
Because if you’ve eaten a Polo before, you know how hard it is to not put your tongue through the middle.
So each time you put a Polo in your mouth, you end up “putting a ring” on your tongue, reinforcing the emotional associations – and the message of the ad.
If it was a coincidence, it was a fortunate one.
Okay, so I explained earlier that Polos aren’t original. But they’re still pretty distinctive.
There are no other UK mints or sweets that have holes in them like Polos do.
And the ad doubles down on this distinctive asset. They use it to their advantage. They suggest the benefit of the Polo in a way only they can.
And this only further reinforces their distinctiveness and mental availability.
So to summarise, the art direction is strong. You don’t need a headline to grasp the ad.
There’s an ‘aha’ moment – from a clever double meaning and symbol complex.
You act out the ad each time you eat a Polo (maybe a lucky accident).
And they say what they say in only a way they can.
The Next Step
That’s it for today, I hope you enjoyed it.
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