New Ice Breakers Ad Wants Mask Wearers Everywhere to Mint Before They Mask

Hershey reported a 40-50% drop in mint and gum sales in an April earnings call

a woman with a face mask that says because mask breath?
Hershey-owned Ice Breakers' new spot uses stock footage to address one of the complications of mask wearing: mask breath. Hershey
Headshot of Kathryn Lundstrom

There are a lot of things to get used to in the era of the novel coronavirus. Mask wearing is one that brings its own complexities, from fogged up glasses to itchy noses to having to smell your own breath all the time.

If you’re one of those people who’s just discovering that having your breath funneled toward your nose all the time is less than pleasant, Hershey-owned mint brand Ice Breakers wants you to know that you’re not alone and that popping a mint into your mouth before masking up can fix that for you.

In a new 15-second ad that will be running on linear, FEP and YouTube preroll, Ice Breakers thanks viewers for wearing masks and acknowledges that “mask breath” is real, so #MintBeforeYouMask.

Mint and gum sales have taken a serious hit since the pandemic began to limit in-person social interactions. On an April earnings call, Hershey chairman, president and CEO Michele Gross Buck said that demand for mint and gum has dropped 40% to 50% in recent weeks.

Ryan Riess, senior director of social strategy and content at Hershey and head of the company’s in-house creative team C-Sweet, said that’s something that was in the back of his mind when he got an email from a Hershey employee in the innovation department. The employee told Riess about how his wife, a healthcare worker, often joked with colleagues about “mask breath” and wondered if that might be a useful marketing insight for the creative team.

“I basically wrote back to him immediately and said, ‘Now, I definitely think there’s something here,'” said Riess.

After receiving the email on Friday and pitching it to his creative team on Monday, they had storyboards ready to go on Tuesday afternoon.

Without the ability to organize a shoot due to the constraints associated with working from home, the team used stock footage for the ad with original voiceovers to communicate the message.

To confirm the team’s suspicions, Hershey’s in-house analytics team conducted a quick survey on mask wearing. The results showed that 89% of respondents are wearing masks, which Riess said “validated and verified” what the team had assumed: that “mask wearing has become very common across the country.”

The team created shorter versions of the spot for social and digital platforms and cut a second spot that it’s planning to run later in the summer—that is, unless things change significantly again.

“We want to be cognizant and respectful to what consumers are going through and what their needs are,” said Riess. That often means changing plans at a moment’s notice, something that’s a lot simpler to do with an in-house agency, he added.

“We have a lot of confidence in our ability to go from insight to action in a very quick time frame,” said Riess. “If things evolve and change in two months, maybe the campaign messaging evolves.”

@klundster Kathryn Lundstrom is Adweek's breaking news reporter based in Austin.