POM Wonderful, the litigious juice maker pummeled by the FTC over allegedly touting its product as a remedy for erectile dysfunction among many other health issues, unveiled this week a star-studded national TV ad campaign soaked in erotic imagery.
The campaign, a highly stylized black-and-white cinematic feat, includes three 30-second ads that offer a provocative take on key mythological scenes. One of the spots offers a glimpse into "the Garden of Eden" by showing a naked "Eve," played by the Swiss bombshell Sonja Kinski, being caressed by a snake as she reaches for a bottle of POM Wonderful. A voiceover breathily intones: "Some scholars believe it wasn't an apple, but a ruby-red, antioxidant-rich pomegranate with which Eve tempted Adam."
Another spot suggests Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love played by the Swedish actress Helena Mattsson, introduced the pomegranate to the island of Cyprus as an aphrodisiac. The scene opens under water with Mattsson, who has appeared on "Desperate Housewives" and "Iron Man 2," swimming to the surface and emerging drenched, victoriously holding a bottle of POM.
The third ad casts a chiseled Erik Fellows, star of "Days of Our Lives," as a steely warrior walking through a sandy expanse with a bottle of POM in his hand.
A spokesman for the company said the star-powered commercials have been planned for more than a year and have nothing to do with the recent FTC complaint against the company.
"We disagree with the FTC and feel that they have shamefully misrepresented our science. We think we'll be vindicated in the end," said Rob Six, referring to allegations that POM lied to consumers about the drink's health benefits. He said the sensuality of the new ads aims to break through the clutter in TV advertising: "We have the voice of God and we hope people will listen."
The ads are narrated by actor Malcolm McDowell of "Star Trek" and "A Clockwork Orange" fame, and filmed by Academy Award nominated cinematographer Wally Pfister ("Dark Knight" and "Inception"). They end with the tagline: "Powerful then. POM Wonderful now."
Six said the $10 million TV campaign aims to reinforce the idea that POM is the only juice beverage made of 100% pomegranate juice, with "four whole pomegranates" in every 16oz. bottle. "These ads really go after the Cokes, Pepsis, Tropicanas and Minute Maids of the world" that have jumped on the pomegranate bandwagon since POM introduced its blockbuster drink to consumers in 2003, he noted.
In recent years, the pomegranate fad has spread to everything from tea to cocktails to salad dressings, even lip gloss. POM sued Coca-Cola, Minute Maid's parent, in 2008 for allegedly seeking to exploit and ride that wave of popularity and contended that Minute Maid's Pomegranate Blueberry juice blend contains less than 1% of the fruit.
The juice maker has filed similar lawsuits against Tropicana, Welch's and Ocean Spray. But it has also itself been the target of numerous federal and consumer lawsuits over its health claims, some of which suggest the juice could alleviate symptoms of atherosclerosis, blood pressure, prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction, heart disease and high cholesterol.
Six said POM, which expects to sell three million cartons or about 72 million pomegranates this year, is discontinuing the problematic ads until next May, when a hearing will be held to adjudicate the case.
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