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Ad Review: Serta Ads Are Worth Staying Up For

Mattress Company Makes Mark in Snooze-worthy Category

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As a genre, it doesn't get more boring than mattress advertising. They likely won't be handing out any Lions to mattress marketers in France next week. Trying to wrack my brain for memorable mattress ads, I come up with a dream-like blur of customer testimonials, curving spines, sleep numbers and a glass of red wine being threatened with a bowling ball.

And why would I be trying to think of memorable mattress ads? Because I've finally seen a few in the latest campaign from Serta.

Granted, what first caught my eye was the actress. You might not know who Melanie Paxson is, but you know Melanie Paxson. She's done a bit of acting on TV and in movies, but you likely remember her as "that woman who's in all those ads." She's done commercial work for Glad, Progressive Insurance, Fiber One, Target, Yoplait, Milo's Dog Treats and Red Robin (that I know of).

Should a marketer and its agency be rewarded or dinged for casting an actor who's been in a ton of other ads? Who cares? If it gets the consumer to stop and watch the ad just to see what's going on, that's half the battle won -- as long as the consumer isn't stopping to say, "God, I hate that person."

While Ms. Paxson can sometimes be grating -- the writing in those Red Robin ads is so criminally stupid she should have migrated elsewhere -- and she often plays kooky or hyperactive or both, in the Serta spots she's nothing but calm. Really, really calm.

All thanks to her Serta iComfort mattress. Across a series of spots from Doner -- which, come to think of it, brought us those somewhat memorable numbered sheep for Serta -- she keeps her cool after her husband confronts her with particularly dunderheaded decisions. In the first spot, he quits his job and hires a coach to become a professional table-tennis player. In another, his skin changes colors as he tells her he's making extra cash as a test subject. In a third, he strolls in with a hay-covered alpaca and tells her he's cashed in their 401 (k) to start an alpaca farm.

Each time, she responds with "I'm comfortable with that." Which is actually pretty clever writing for a mattress ad -- appropriate for the joke and for the product's positioning. The rest of the ad is spent on the attributes of the mattress, but there's little to be done about that. In fact, kudos for managing to get a clever joke and a product-based sales pitch into one ad.

Actually, because so many elements of the ad remain the same across each execution, I found myself wondering what else she'd be comfortable with and looking forward to the next spot in the series.
I can't remember the last time that's happened, either.

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