Pretty #$@!&*% Clever, Orbit

Depending on where you go around the country, the colloquial voice of the locals can quickly reveal their location, even if you don’t have a map.  While accent, pronunciation and certain phrases may distinguish Boston from Jackson or St. Paul from San Antonio, if there is one thing we all share it is the sometimes frequent spicing up of our language.  Words like #&*$ or @%&#, or even %!*&, peppered throughout a conversation can drastically change the tone, and subsequently, its outcome.  And if there are two things we share from sea to shining sea, we sure as #&*$ like to chew gum.  (I’m trying to keep this family-friendly, dammit.)

For several years now, Orbit gum has been cleaning our dirty mouths out and replacing the filth not only with a “good, clean feeling” but with terms like “lint licker” and “pickle you, kumquat.”  Their latest foray into the cleaning business has teamed the Wrigley-owned brand, and agency Energy BBDO, with the comedic stylings of Jason Bateman and Will Arnett (including talent from Colleghumor).  The two Arrested Development alums have started a production company, DumbDumb, which is debuting with the Orbit “Dirty Shorts,” as they are known.  If you recognized all those names, I’m impressed.

What’s all this then? Orbit’s TV commercials have always been entertaining.  They’ve suavely crafted a dirty mouth/proper-British-spokeswoman combination into a distinct brand personality.  Keeping a campaign fresh can be tough, yet Orbit has consistently flexed its 30-second muscle over the years.  The progression into online digital shorts has preserved the essence of “a good clean feeling no matter what,” even though the nameless, female spokesperson has been replaced with two well-known comedy personalities.  So will attaching celebrities to the brand make any difference?  Not if the new content is just an uninspired, extended commercial.  Whether or not you’re inclined to overlook the “branded” focus will have a major impact on your opinion of the videos.  That, and quality of writing, of course.  Personally, I thought both efforts have been entertaining, though the second (“The Dancer,” watch below) is a marked improvement over the debut.  Still, I’m not convinced these “Dirty Shorts” are any better than the library of high quality TV spots.

One element the Arnett-Bateman project is missing, as an online entity, is interaction with its audience.  Sure, fans can tweet about and ‘like’ the videos, but this branded content doesn’t appear to pack the punch that a truly digital-maximizing campaign like, say, Old Spice did with its epic 24-hour YouTube run.  I realize ‘epic’ is a lofty term to live up to, but aren’t ‘revolutionary‘ ideas supposed to generate buzz from someone other than the people responsible for said revolution?  There is no call to action from the campaign, and the official Orbit website has no mention of the “Dirty Shorts” nor does it provide a link to ANY of their social media pages.  What is the incentive to visit the site?  Aside from learning about the various Orbit flavors, not much.

Bottom line: Orbit has an intriguing, albeit un-revolutionary, concept on their hands, though execution has been more dachshund than greyhound out of the gates.  If they decide to continue with a branded content strategy, the sticky substance slingers would be well served to fully integrate their digital identity.  Make it easy for gum chewers to enter the #$@!&*% conversation. *ding!*

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