The Other Other German Composer

John Groves, born in Hamburg to English parents.

I came to appreciate his genius when a vintage Mentos commercial recently appeared on one of my devices.

At the time it came out (1992) I had the same reaction as everyone, i.e.
WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS. But this being in the before times, prior to Makerbot inventing the internets, I had to simply wonder how the abomination arose, and wallow in ignorance.

But now…
Enter Bastard Research Division.

The candies, in various formats, have been around since the 1930’s, and are owned by the Perfetti Van Melle, an Italian-Dutch corporation. Van Melle hired the ad agency Pahnke & Partners out of Hamburg, to come up with the ad spots. Groves composed the theme, which is available in extended format!!

The bulk of commercials were shot in South Africa, and aimed squarely at the US and Canada.

Viewers who spotted the ads when they premiered in July 1992 were driven to distraction by one intangible: The ads seemed disconnected from actual human behavior, and the song itself was critiqued for appearing to be an English translation that didn’t get the lyrics quite right.  

When Van Melle was asked “what the actual fuck?” they responded coyly, realizing they had a phenomenon on their hands. The less they answered, the more interest there was. Sales went from $20M in 1991 to $140M in 1996, worldwide. In the late 90’s, Altoids caught fire and were blamed for a decrease in Mentos market share.

The singer is allegedly Richard Ryan Graves (aka Frank Ryan), who takes zero credit for it on wikipedia or elsewhere. He was in Hamburg at the time, so he remains a likely suspect.

10 Replies to “The Other Other German Composer”

  1. You filthy bastard.

    I used to jokingly say, “The frischungsmacher!” whenever the commercial came on because I assumed it was German.

    1. One of my all-time favorites. If they’d revive such nonsense ads, I might actually watch TV again.

      Are you young bastards old enough to remember late-night greatest hits compilation ads? Like this classic where Ace Cannon rocks the party with the Blue Danube? Or the road-worn, demented-looking Boxcar Willie? I queried at least one thousand people of all ages (many of them knowledgeable musicians) while that ad was extant, and I could not find one person who’d ever heard of Boxar Willie. I was convinced they invented him just for this ad.

        1. One of those ads (I think RW) said “not sold in stores…at ANY PRICE.” As if someone will start making offers when told the store doesn’t stock it.

      1. Coincidentally, I was at a work meeting earlier where we were asked to meditate to music that was either Zamfir or an imitator. Hardly meditative to someone like me. Makes me want to break things.

  2. I’ve never seen Zamfir before. The stuff I learn here.

    [significant wife is familiar with the pan flute guy. Another broad swath of culture I somehow missed, lending more credibility to my theory that the aliens didn’t program me properly when they dropped me off here]

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