Brand: 
Minute Maid
Business Category: 
Packaged Foods
Agency: 
Leo Burnett Co.
Classic cartoon enemy musclemen Popeye and Bluto haven't kissed but they have made up in this animated campaign behind Minute Maid orange juice. The two have overcome their differences to such a degree that some in the gay community (and the straight media too, such as Slate.com ad reviewer Rob Davis) have wondered if the sailors are supposed to suddenly be romantic partners.

The two play like school children on a swing, a see-saw, bury each other in sand on the beach, and get tattoos together that say "Buddies for Life." At the end, they ride a two-person bicycleùpassing usual romantic interest Olive Oyl, who calls out "Oh, boys!" and they ride past her without notice. She offers a confused, if not suspicious, look as they pedal away.

An ironic development for Minute Maid, given the anti-gay "Save Our Children" crusades by former Florida Orange Juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant in the 1970s.

Before the campaign was conceived, Dave Linne, the Popeye ad's creative director at ad agency Leo Burnett Co says the concept is "the opposite of the clich? of getting up on the wrong side of the bedö where people wake up in a good mood.

Linne came up with about 12 conceptual examples of people acting out of character and being nicer than normal, including an elementary school cafeteria line that resembles a Depression-era soup kitchen -- except for one cheery server. Another example has a husband doing "wifely" weekend activities such as laundry and brings breakfast in bed to his wife to her surprise as she wakes up.

They also wanted an example of classic enemies who become friends. "We looked at movie villains and there are so many arch enemies, so we thought, 'Let's do an animated spot.' We looked at lots of cartoon characters and we liked Popeye and Bluto for two reasons: I haven't seen them in a commercial before, and they're human characters instead of animals."

So as they were making the ad, the creative team decided to put Popeye and Bluto in various playful situations. "The only reason we put them on a two-person bicycle was because it seemed so stupid," Linne says. As they pass Olive Oyl, who Linne notes "is usually the catalyst to make them fight" not even she can get between them this time.

Linne says gay innuendo was not intentional but is intrigued about its possibility. "I think it's interesting if you can read it both ways. I guess it's working on all kinds of levels," he mused.

While Linne seems impressed that his work can be read into by the gay community, the same cannot be said for officials at Minute Maid headquarters. "We're not going to go there," says Dan Shafer, a spokesman for Houston-based Minute Maid. "Any intent to draw a (gay relationship) parallel would be wrong. Anyone who knows Popeye and Bluto understands that's not the case, there's no intent like that."
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