Commentary

Variations on the Same Word. I Got My Chef Together and then I Shipped My Pants

 Online video advertising is more free form and because the Internet is the Internet, online video ads can be more risqué, more wink-wink than their counterparts on television. Whether these commercials do a lot more selling is as hard to figure as it is to figure any commercial’s impact on the impulse to buy. I suppose a naughty or clever off-color ad sticks in your mind, but mostly, that’s it. And maybe that's enough.

“Ship My Pants,” the Kmart commercial that’s going on 20 million views on YouTube, made a lot of noise, but has it increased the number of consumers shopping Kmart online? Maybe yes, maybe no, but as Adweek reports, it may have helped Draftfcb keep the account. Agencies apparently have lots of fun bending familiar sayings into off-color ads, another recent one being a silly commercial for Rent-a-Center in which a fat guy in too-short shorts accuses a female clerk of “checking him out.”

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I hope there’s nobody on Madison Avenue who has the Prince Albert account.

It’s absurd, but with a whole wide smuttier world available to them, it is amazing commercials aren’t a lot more sexy, especially after the years of being repressed by network censors. Amazingly, in 1977, far into what might be termed the modern era of television, CBS wouldn’t allow a Muriel cigar ad featuring Susan Anton, then a fresh-faced 26-year old former Miss California, prancing around pitching the cigars in a men’s locker room, mainly because she was a woman in a men’s locker room. That was about it, plus she was a pretty woman singing, “Let Muriel turn you on/That is my desire.” (I can’t find one of those locker room commercials, but here’s another one.)

That was a big deal, even in the comparatively sexually-liberated late 70s. It wasn’t so long before that that bra manufacturers couldn’t show a woman actually wearing one in a commercial. They just floated around through the air, or showed up on mannequins and it mostly stayed that way until the 70s, by which time many younger American women had burned, then abandoned, and then resumed wearing bras.

Stuart Elliott in The New York Times writes about a new Kraft Food commercial campaign for a new Kraft line, Kraft Recipe Makers, that uses a little naughty word play in its tagline: “Get your chef together.” It features celeb chefs Rocco DeSpirito and Carla Hall, who are impressed that the cook in a household (a man) could prepare such an tasty Italian dish. That tagline, a play on a different phrase I’ll assume you know, is also the name of a new Kraft Web site.

To me, though, I can’t hear the cleaned up Kraft version without thinking of the original, and that makes it a problem for me. The ad was created by Being, a unit of TBWA Worldwide, which, Elliott reports also produced other ads for Kraft Zesty Italian dressing featuring a sexy dude who sometimes appears shirtless or seemingly naked. (but covering what USA Today actually called his “male signifier.” So that’s what that thing is!)

These commercials and a print campaign have drawn the ire of a Christian group, One Million Moms, which is a lot more than most salad dressings can claim. You gotta wonder though, if Kraft couldn’t have found a simpler way to sell that brand, and also if it’s safe for Susan Anton to go into a locker room yet.

pj@mediapost.com   

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