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?