Not that we measure the Internet the way we do athletes, but The Onion's 2012 is shaping up as something out of the Babe Ruth canon, minus the Rubenesque torso and frequent near-asphyxiation on husks of ballpark meat. It became the first media institution to reduce a sitting Vice President to a caricature for purposes of light entertainment (Dan Quayle doesn't count - he did it to himself). Its weekly editorial cartoon, sometimes presented with commentary by the artist himself, has tarred 95 percent of "real" editorial cartoonists by association. Then there are the digital assets - in particular, "Sex House," which started as a reality-show parody and spiraled into something darker and more disturbing (er, in an exceedingly funny way). It's operating on a higher satiric plane right now.
Hence when The Onion says, "Chew gum, knave!," it is gum that I chew. Such was the emotional call to arms last Thursday, when The Onion assumed control of Stride's Twitter feed in a bloodless coup. The goal: Crack wise enough in 140-character bursts to prompt gum aficionado and curious prospective chewer alike to click over to Stride Gum's video introduction to Mintacular, a new… flavor? variety? model? I'm not up on the latest gum-related verbiage.
Over the course of the day, Stride's feed teemed with a series of come-ons, eachsillier and more faux-marketing-speak-y than the next. My favorite: "#Mintacular won't change the way people chew, but it'll change what they taste when they do chew." Upon reading this, the Wrigley employee responsible for branding Juicy Fruit face-palmed with great and furious I-should've-thought-of-that-first vigor.
The Mintacular clip continues in this same turbo-wry vein. It opens on the company's "vice executive senior president, sports gum ideation & development," dressed in the self-styled-tech-guru uniform of head-to-toe black. His mess of meticulously unstyled styled hair is tinged with silver and his hands entwine meaningfully after his every ruminative utterance. Everything about his appearance suggests that he is here to illuminate, to surprise, to delight.
Against a white backdrop - I guess we're semi-mocking Apple here? - he speaks about how Mintacular's predecessor was "one of the most advanced celebrity-endorsed chewing products we've ever developed… it's gone on to define the sports-gum category." He's then joined by two other black-clad, self-serious, silly-titled white guys who similarly endeavor to explain the creative and chemical processes that birthed this transformative foodstuff. One talks design, taking us deep inside the thinking that led to Shaun White's beginner-goatee depiction on its packaging.
In the clip's most dramatic moment, they focus on Mintacular's ease of use: "You immediately connect with the simplicity of the product. From the moment you pick it up, you instinctively know how to use it." Cue shot of supermodel lolling on her couch, smiling while examining her pack of Mintacular - and as she does so, the words "sequence shortened" are superimposed on the screen. The clip concludes with one of those grand promises you hope somebody will someday keep about something: "Mintacular will change everything you thought you knew - again.
It's a devastatingly detailed little masterpiece of anti-marketing. Hell, even the names of the fake execs are perfect: "Jamie Gill-Sans," "Scot" with a single 't,' etc. You know these guys and you want to punch them in their affected-modernist throats.
The Mintacular intro video isn't Onion-caliber, because so few clips of its kind are. But if you placed the video alongside material from the Onion News Network without identifying it as a piece of marketing content, it wouldn't come off as an obvious impostor. That's pretty much the highest compliment I can pay it.