fire bob garfield, first in a series

I used to just ignore AdAge’s resident ad critic Bob Garfield…but then he had a very public temper tantrum because Adrants disagreed with him and I started reading the baseball blog Fire Joe Morgan.

Why is that second part relevant? Because Bob Garfield is the advertising industry’s Joe Morgan. He is an increasingly out of touch crotchety old man who says things that are simply ridiculous and yet is somehow the resident critic at the primary trade magazine of the industry. Also, Fire Joe Morgan has inspired me to go through Garfield’s articles to point out just how tremendous they are in every way.

Let’s start with his article from today:

Just Imagine How Trump Would Have Looked in Wendy’s Red Wig

I would rather not, but since you insist: he would look awful.

You know that Super Bowl commercial with the cavemen?

There was a Super Bowl commercial with a CAVEMAN in it?!?!

They were having trouble transporting a case of beer to a party, so they invented a wheel, carved out of a boulder.

That is so racist, homophobic and otherwise offensive to my delicate-as-lace sensibilities.

But they didn’t put it on an axle and roll it; they used it as the world’s heaviest tray. “Wheel suck!” they grunted.

Ha ha. Wheel not suck. Wheel good. But caveman not understand what they had.

Ha ha. Still offensive, though. Not offensive because it is bad to make fun of cavemen, even though it like totally is haven’t you even seen the Geico spots, but offensive because these lines are the set up to a tortured metaphor that will reappear at least once in an article that is really talking about a different commercial.

I can’t believe that you do this writing thing professionally.

Same goes for Wendy’s, and Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, and the red wig…Alas, the campaign did nothing to improve Wendy’s flat same-store sales.

Well Bob, that’s not exactly true. Though Wendy’s originally announced that same-store sales were down, by the time you wrote this piece you may have noticed that they revised those numbers…to show a 1.4% increase in same-store sales (which compares favorably to the 0.6% increase in 2006). By the way, they also reported that income from operations increased 134%. That isn’t a typo. They are up 134% on the year.

Quick question: Do you do any research before you write a column? Do you read the news? Or do you prefer to just write whatever comes into your head no matter how out of date your information because it’s so much easier (and anyway you’ve spent years doing it without being called on it because the democratization of media hadn’t happened yet)?

Just asking.

The franchisees said, “Red wig suck!”…and now the wig is gone, replaced with an utterly innocuous campaign from Kirschenbaum & Bond that would be instantly forgettable if it were noticeable to begin with.

Oooh, burn!

By the way, I hate it when I agree with you.

Poor burger slingers. Poor Neanderthals. The red wig was the freakin’ wheel. They just didn’t understand how to work it.

The first four paragraphs set you up for this? If you were a joke writer for Carrot Top, not to mention someone who is actually funny, and submitted this, you would be fired (though Pauly Shore might keep you around).

Saatchi’s spots, with the silly headgear as their centerpiece, never had to be otherwise silly themselves. But they tried to be absurd and offbeat and self-consciously goofy…only to seem just odd and off-putting.

Except to the consumers who powered Wendy’s to earnings and revenue growth that, in the words of CFO Jay Fitzsimmons, left the business “stronger today than a year ago.”

But what if the wig had simply appeared in otherwise ordinary slices of fast-food life, noticed by others with squints and sidelong glances but not by the wearers themselves?

If that happened, it would be boring.

It would have been fabulous on celebrities, for instance — especially ones famous for their hair (or no hair). Donald Trump comes to mind.

Great idea! There is nothing a consumer would like more than Donald Trump in a red wig, getting squints and sidelong glances from bystanders, talking about a hamburger. That would be hilarious.

Why don’t you open an agency?

In that way, it would have been not only a brand symbol but part of an continuing, escalating story line. And the commercials might have been funny, too.

No Bob, in that way it would have been only a brand symbol because the red wig as you use it would have had no more to do with the brand message, positioning or point of difference than it did when originally conceived.

Look, I was never a huge fan of the campaign. I don’t disagree with your not really stated but sort of read between the lines point that the red wig was used to be merely off-beat and didn’t do anything for the brand, didn’t do anything to sell. I just disagree with the ridiculous idea that putting the wig on a celebrity would solve any of the issues with the campaign.

(I also think that you should have researched a bit so you knew the facts. But we covered that.)

As a final though, the campaign could possibly have been saved (in terms of aligning the spots closer with the brand message and the comfort zone of the franchisees) with additional executions that took less emphasis off of the absurdity of the spots, more on the brand message/difference and perhaps relegating the wigs to more of a mnemonic. The numbers are good. The advertising did its job.

The real question, and the real discussion point, is did Saatchis deserve to get the axe for a campaign that generate sales even though it made the franchisees unhappy?


6 responses to “fire bob garfield, first in a series

  1. You’re not quite Ken Tremendous, but you have the potential! I agree with you…how would a celebrity in the red wig position the brand more effectively? It wouldn’t. Fire Bob Garfield.

  2. gee, i noticed my comment isn’t posted. you really are a coward.

  3. @ Bob: All comments go through moderation, so that is why you may not have seen it right away, but I accepted it and it should be posted – though you may be looking at the wrong post, as the post you commented on was my earlier post about the Adrants kerfuffle. Please check there as, like I said, I did accept your comment (if it isn’t you have my sincerest apologies. It would be cowardly to delete it…I didn’t and it should be showing up, but if it isn’t I will fix the situation directly).

    Also, you make a good point about some of my critique. It was not fair to descend into calling you a name – idiot – which, though I disagree with you, you patently are not and don’t deserve.

    Blogging is to hyperbole as Bill Clinton is to parsing words, but that was a below the belt hit and I hope that you can accept my apologies for it. I still disagree, but it’s nothing personal.

  4. @ Bob Garfield: Your comment (as well as one that echoes your critique of me and my post) is indeed posted, and in a decidedly un-cowardly fashion as well. It is posted on my other entry. You can find it here:

  5. @ SarahK: I am not quite Ken Tremendous, but perhaps with time and practice. One can dream, right?

  6. Pingback: garfield pontificates on how bad blogs are « the daily (ad) biz

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