Out to Launch

Chili's launched a bland TV and online campaign to promote its "10 under $7" menu. The campaign centers on a fictional restaurant chain, aptly named P.J. Blands. This is the franchise where customers settle for bland food that's not bad or good, just average. And made entirely from cardboard. The first ad, seen here, watches P.J. Bland receive consumer feedback. "Hey P.J., my meal has no taste," says one customer. "You're welcome," he responds. The ad is abruptly cut off by a Chili's logo and the statement: "Life's too short for bland meals." P.J. Bland conducts market research in another ad, seen here. Adding cardboard to cardboard still leaves customers with food-shaped cardboard. There's even a P.J. Blands Web site with an elaborate menu layout, bios of employees of the month and an 800 number to call and leave a message for P.J. If you Google "bland food," a paid search ad for P.J. Blands appears with a Chili's ad following. Hill Holliday created the campaign.



Residents of Hidden Valley, Minnesota love the taste of Kraft ranch salad dressing. Don't tell the neighbors. Samantha Bee from "The Daily Show" goes on a road trip to bring the improvements made to Kraft ranch dressing right to people's doorsteps -- because she's never invited inside. Driving a Kraft-branded bus and armed with an unlimited supply of ranch dressing, Bee hits Hidden Valley neighborhoods, conducting her own flavor of market research. When confronted by police, Bee remarks, "I guess if great taste is a crime, then take me off to flavor prison... Please don't take me to prison." Watch the ad here. McgarrybowenChicago created the campaign and Mediavest handled the media buy.

Gatorade Tiger launched a TV spot last week called "Woods of Wisdom," starring a youthful, animated Tiger Woods, having trouble focusing on his golf game. Tiger is mentored by a grizzly bear, reminiscent of Wood's late father, Earl, who leads the youngster to Focus Falls. Once Tiger drinks from the waterfall, he's able to hit the ball straight through the forest. See the ad here. I like that the ad is promoting a low-calorie drink for athletes, but it feels like it should be running on Nickelodeon, targeting kids, rather than someone like myself, who's on the lookout for low-cal sports drinks. TBWA/Chiat/Day Los Angeles created the campaign.

Before Padma Lakshmi devoured every morsel of her Carl's Jr Western bacon six-dollar burger, the brand ran a TV ad starring a doctor jonesin for bourbon. The doctor has bourbon on his mind as he scrubs up for surgery, glances at a patient's X-ray and walks the hospital halls. "If I don't have a bourbon by noon, look out," says the good doctor as he enters an operating room. The ad promotes the Bourbon Burger, complete with a zero proof label. Watch the ad here. A radio ad, heard here, describes people dubbed as "bourbon burgeraholics," or those who "care more about Bourbon Burgers than their family's welfare." There's a place for them offline at Carl's Jr. and online at The site rates what type of bourbonaholic you resemble. Apparently, I'm a happy one. In-store ads continue the theme and pair bourbon with Coke. See an ad here. Mendelsohn Zien Advertising created the campaign.

Dr Pepper launched a new flavor, Dr Pepper Cherry. I can't wait to see how this differs from the taste of regular Dr Pepper. The brand found another fake doctor to hawk its new product. Last year, Dr Pepper used Dr J, Julius Irving, in a TV spot; this time around, it's Dr. Love, aka Gene Simmons. Decked out in KISS makeup, Simmons is surrounded by pyrotechnics and lovely ladies as he makes his case for Dr Pepper Cherry. Nick Simmons, Gene's son, emerges onstage to inform his father that he's not being smooth enough in his delivery. Watch it here. Deutsch LA created the campaign and Initiative handled the media buy.

If print isn't dead yet, it might be soon enough, once STIHL is finished with it. The company launched a print campaign in the Wall St. Journal where chainsaws, blowers and trimmers demolish copy. Words are no match for the STIHL products; mock stories are blown away and newspaper columns are chopped down to a more manageable size. See the ads here, here and here, created by Winsper.

Unum insurance launched a national 30-second spot on cable networks such as WE, Food Network, HGTV and Bravo that takes place in a fashion studio. In less than 30 seconds, an evening dress is sketched, approved, created, promoted and walking the runway. Hard work is rewarded with Unum benefits. See the ad here, which launched April 5. The VIA Group created the campaign and handled the media buy.

How do you make the best stuff on earth better? Tweak the packaging, place greater importance on the health benefits of green and black tea, and replace high fructose corn syrup with real sugar. That's what Snapple seems to have done. Two new TV spots launched March 30 and describe the change in Snapple... without really describing the change in Snapple. It's all a mystery. A team of Snapple researchers in the jungle stumbles across "better stuff." This better stuff is packaged in a crate and shown to employees, but viewers have their vision blocked. Watch the ad here. Another ad, seen here, shows a marketing team brainstorming for a new campaign slogan. Deutsch LA created the campaign and Initiative LA handled the media buy.

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