Bad breath advert creates a 'stink'

AFTER making waves with its print advertisement for Nestle's Kit Kat, featuring the Prince and Princess of Wales, J Walter Thompson Hongkong (JWT) has caused controversy again with a television commercial.

Its television commercial for Warner-Lambert's Clorets breath fresheners, shown on Hongkong's two Chinese channels on February 13, provoked argument in agency circles over its deliberate parodying of McCann-Erickson's Hennessy XO cognac ''He's so XO'' advertisement.

Advertising sources said the Clorets spot was considered disparaging to Hennessy XO and had upset both the client and the agency.

JWT has described its Clorets commercial as ''a refreshingly light-hearted approach to the problem of bad-breath''.

It stars up-and-coming actor Lau Ching-wan as a dinner guest who discovers he has been seated alongside a woman known for her beauty and her bad breath.

Rather than switch the place-cards, as in the Hennessy XO spot, Mr Lau leaves a packet of Clorets by the woman's plate, reasoning it would be a greater disservice to shun her beauty.

''The old Clorets [commerical] was targeted solely at the male segment of the market,'' said JWT creative director Ms Christine Pong.

''The client wanted to expand the product's appeal to women and a broader group of men - not just the stereo-typed macho men.'' ''In media and production terms, the budget was small, so we decided to ride on the success of another well-known commercial.

''We chose Hennessy XO, but played a little trick on the story by reversing the roles to have Lau switching the place-cards and then having second thoughts.

''I've only heard that people find it funny, rather than disparaging.'' While there is no legal framework within the 4As code of advertising practice concerning disparaging advertising, members are expected to follow ''fairly straight'' guidelines.

The Television Entertainments Licensing Authority is understood to rule against disparaging advertising in its television advertising code, but there appears to be no legally binding means with which to prevent it happening again in Hongkong.

This is the second time in recent advertising history in Hongkong that a McCann client has been parodied in an advertisement.

The first time was in a Carlsberg spot when what were obviously San Miguel bottles were featured being discarded in favour of bottles of deadly market rival, Carlsberg.