Vanessa Branch has a thing for dirty mouths.
The petite, peppy blonde has helped make Orbit the No. 1 gum with her quest in commercials to show that Orbit can clean up a dirty mouth "no matter what."
Each ad features a vignette in which someone has some kind of "dirty mouth." At the end, Branch, 34, holds up a package of Orbit and says, "Dirty mouth? Clean it up."
She then does her catchphrase, "Fabulous," in an English accent as flashes of light ping off everyone's teeth to show Orbit did its job.
The campy ads, by Energy BBDO, Chicago, have changed little in more than 20 versions as Orbit climbed to be the USA's top-selling gum in just five years. Branch has been the mainstay in her '60s retro, white outfit.
"She becomes an element that is readily identifiable for the brand," says Paul Chibe, vice president of U.S. marketing. "She can embody the brand personality, deliver a stylish personality and quirky sense of humor and do it with flair."
Branch landed the job in a quirky audition during which applicants had to keep reading their lines no matter what — such as, in Branch's case, a tennis ball was flung at her.
It hit her smack in her forehead, but she didn't flinch or miss a line.
"I'd been doing theater since I was 3, so I knew you just keep going," Branch says. "I looked like an idiot, but it seems that's how I stood out."
Q: Did speaking Mandarin and French help you get the part?
A: No, I don't think so. But I'd love for Orbit to do a Chinese ad.
Q: You've been part of Orbit marketing since Day One. How much do you feel you've contributed to its success?
A: It's a combination of it being a fantastic product and a fantastic campaign. It's very funny and has obviously appealed to consumers. It's become a pop culture thing. I hope my character as the common thread through the ads has been part of it, but I think it has more to do with the gum and the writing.
Q:You're getting more exposure: You just appeared a third time as Giselle in the latest installment of Pirates of the Caribbean,and you have the lead in the independent thrillerCold Playthat's about to start filming. You've been featured in magazines such asMaxim and Stuff. Is there any concern that your other work overshadows your Orbit work?
A: I don't think so. The campaign has its own interesting flair, and I think those things play off each other for me and the brand. I don't think it impedes either. I think it's helpful for Orbit that I'm getting more noticed. But sometimes people don't know it's me. They say, "You look like the Orbit girl." I don't tell them it's me.
Q:The current Orbit ad has a companion, 90-second, behind-the-scenes video on YouTube with Steve-O of Jackass fame showing how he chugs sand. Do you foresee more Web-related scenarios in advertising?
A: I hope so. It seems like it's the wave of the future. Fans love seeing outtakes. I think it's really smart to go in that direction. This is a society that watches reality TV. Everyone wants to see behind the scenes.
Q:Should actors be compensated for ads shown on the Web?
A: It's a very tricky subject about what spaces are free domains. But I can see both sides of it.
Q:You've made nearly 20 commercials —what's been your favorite so far?
A: That's a really tough one. I really loved Prague. I was standing in a city square wearing a big furry hat. I loved the outfit; it was so fantastic. I convinced myself I was in a Bond film. But they are always fun and interesting. In one, I had an ostrich chasing me, and there I was, wearing a circus costume with fishnet stockings, a top hat and tails, jumping over a bale of hay to get away from the ostrich. There are a lot of ridiculous situations.
Q:You were part of the MTV Awards this year presenting the inaugural Orbit Dirtiest Mouth Moment award. Was it required attendance, and were you nervous up on stage?
A: I was working doing Orbit stuff, but there was no need to require me to go. It was my first time, and it gave me a good adrenaline rush. You get used to accepting that this is what I do for a living.
NEW & NOTABLE
Rap titan 50 Cent pocketed more than small change when Coca-Cola snapped up Glacéau VitaminWater for $4.1 billion in May: His minority stake in Glacéau brought the rapper tens of millions. So it makes sense that Fiddy wants to become a playa in another health-oriented area: supplements. Coming this fall is an enhancement line that will include protein powders and amino acids, says Chris Lighty, CEO of Violator Management, which represents the star. The new products will target teenage athletes and "kids that want to be healthier," Lighty says. Coke and Glacéau are not involved in the new line, but fellow rapper LL Cool J might back it, Lighty says. The Ad Track team has another suggestion: Approach pop-star Colleen Fitzpatrick, who has performed under the name Vitamin C, to join in as well.
Watch your back, Fiddy and friends.
Smirnoff is moving in on your hip-hop turf. The booze behemoth already had a hit with a rap-themed video for its Raw Tea malt beverage. (In it, East Coast yuppies belt out lyrics such as: "We sail yachts and we ride on horses. Every meal we eat comes in multiple courses.") And now, in a shout out to its new green tea drink, Smirnoff has gone West. It planted a video from the faux group Boyz in the Hillz — that's Beverly Hills — on YouTube. The left-coast lyrics include lines such as: "Now I'm looking in the mirror for my daily affirmation. Skin's still glowing from my microdermabrasion."
Marketers go hog wild.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which ended Sunday, draws thousands of bikers to the Black Hills of South Dakota each year. "Official sponsors" such as Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser, Jack Daniel's and Geico have roared in as well. But Allstate thinks there's vroom for others (such as itself) to capitalize on the week-long event. It brought in a "mobile garage" — a 38-foot trailer — and had on-site experts offer tips on how to keep choppers in top shape. The goal: rev up its bike insurance business. Yet, the Ad Team thinks that Bud topped Allstate in building brand buzz: The King of Beers flew out top race-car drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brandon Bernstein for a public appearance. While there, the drivers made a pit stop at a local biker bar — and bought beer (Bud, of course) for the crowd.
By Laura Petrecca and Theresa Howard
ASK THE AD TEAM
Q. Who is the cute girl in the "yellow polka-dot bikini" in the Yoplait Light commercials? What else has she appeared in?
A. It's Sarah Kozinn in the bikini in the ad that also features the 1960 Brian Hyland hit Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini. In the commercial, Kozinn bashfully wraps herself in a red inflatable raft. However, when she thinks about how she's been eating Yoplait, she suddenly becomes confident and drops the raft to show off the bikini.
Kozinn has a master's degree from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and has appeared in Law & Order Criminal Intent. She has been in ads for Red Lobster, National Geographic and Gain detergent.
She's not the first to appear in a yellow bikini for Yoplait Light. In 2003, Alexandria Raymer slimmed down with Yoplait to fit into a yellow polka-dot number in the brand's first bikini ads by Saatchi & Saatchi, New York. Yoplait has created an online social site that included the diet journals of six real women and the opportunity for site visitors to share their reactions and experiences. See the women's stories at www.whatsyourbikini.com.