The Great Mentos Revolt
Fans fight freshened format

A funny thing happened when Mentos replaced their 10 classic ads with three shorter, 15-second spots. The Church of Mentos didn't like them.

See also...
... by David Cassel
... in the Whoa! section
... from October 7, 1999

"Obviously," says Reverend Roy Batchelor, "the church has no intention to allow our teachings to be diluted in order to reach a broader (and certainly less fresh) market."

The chewy mint candy has spawned a broad Web following that embraced the original ads' messages about obtaining the cheeky freshness to stalk movie stars or walk through people's cars. Since 1998, Reverend Roy has been counseling followers seeking to duplicate, say, the miracle of creating a jacket with sporty stripes by sitting on a bench labeled "wet paint."

Batchelor acknowledges there can be problems incorporating the televised scenarios into real life. ("Hey, you with the soccer ball -- get out of here! And you're not kissing me, either.") But having embraced the ads, the new format is a slap in the face. "We suggested that they're looking just to sell mints, and not to change people's lives."

The new spots maintain the fresh attitude, argues Mentos U.S. brand manager Steve Ferro. "One involves a guy refreshin' himself in a fountain," he explains. "Another one, uh, some band members caught out in the rain. And another one is a pregnant lady who finds a way to get to the head of the line." Which leaves the two parties embroiled in an incredibly pointless they-said, we-said.

Mentos Brand Manager: We tried to stay true to the freshness of Mentos and the fresh thinking that we think is part of our Mentos mentality.

Church of Mentos: Where's the conflict? Where's the obstacle that the Mentos eater will overcome with the mint?!

Mentos Brand Manager: I think if they'd seen enough of them, they'd see that there is a, uh, a fresh way that the quote-unquote "heroes" in them go about approaching the obstacles that they face.

Church of Mentos: You're not really reaping some rewards like you would if you got up at a restaurant and pretended to be a waiter so that you could get a drink delivered to your table.

"But I thought nothing got to you," I said to a clearly agitated Batchelor.

"Very little gets to us. The, um.... There's no storytelling," he reiterates, "just a montage of shots that looks like the opening of Friends or something!" But -- they're just ads. "They're NOT just ads!" he exclaims. "They're important life lessons! Who doesn't want to get into a rock concert pretending to be paparazzi? Who doesn't want to kiss the bride because he crashed their wedding with a soccer ball?"

Er, who is this guy? By day Batchelor works as the corporate Webmaster for a big faceless corporation -- where there's not much opportunity for fresh-making hijinx, he admits. (Though "If I wanna do a personal fax, I might have a Mentos so I won't get caught," he says.) The 37-year-old San Jose resident ran the "Burn This Flag" BBS, which is where he started his church, along with a variety of other projects. (, AK Press, Zine Net, MonkeyBots.)

For years Mentos' cheesy ad campaign has been a favorite target online, even without the formality of Batchelor's church. ("We really appreciate what's happened online," says U.S. brand manager Ferro, citing at least 16 fan sites.) In 1998 Batchelor placed his own humble Mentos page online, with just four threadbare links. But when the geek culture site Slashdot first linked to it, Batchelor served out 200 megabytes of traffic in a single day, and now claims the church has "untold thousands of followers." He concedes they've only received a few hundred emails, but "For each person that communicates, there's a certain ratio you have to assume...."

The church even has its own linguistics, Batchelor explains. There's the stigminta -- "the holy paper cut you might get if you're reaching for your Mentos when you extract it to pull out one of those small miracles." But wait, there's more. "If people get married in the church of Mentos, it's called mentrimony." Have people been married in the Church of Mentos? "No," he says honestly. "We need, obviously, a fresh man and woman. Who want to be married in the church of Mentos."

Though someone would probably show up with a soccer ball....

So far, his campaign against the new advertising format has met with limited success. He's appeared on two radio shows in Las Vegas -- including "The Merle and Earl Morning Show" -- and one in Montreal. And he's only amassed 150 names for the petition. But the Mentos brand manager is keeping an eye on the situation, and concedes that "if they get enough names, we'll definitely have to pay attention to it." He also points out that three more of the short-format spots are scheduled for next year.

Batchelor will keep an open mind -- but still misses the irrational optimism of the earlier ads. "They kept us warm and cozy with a sense of purpose and direction," he quips. And, more to the point, "We're gonna really miss it if it doesn't come back."

David Cassel is Interactive Media Editor for GettingIt. He once hurt his back trying to lift a Fiat out of a tight parking space. And he knows Greg Brady.