CLIFF FREEMAN LOSES ITS MIDAS TOUCH

Agency Stumbles Badly With Geriatric Nudity Spot

By Published on .

Advertiser: Midas International
Agency: Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York
Star Rating: 0

This is so hard because it's always hard when someone whom you admire disappoints you. When an ass behaves like an ass, it's like, "Well, what do you expect?" But when the misbehavior comes from a respectable source, it's just such a shame.

Shame, then, on Cliff Freeman & Partners.

This is the rare agency that has been consistently funny for its entire history while also being consistently (not to say entirely) on message. Furthermore, in brilliant campaigns for Staples, Little Caesar's, Fox Sports and many others, it has done so with a minimum of outrages, the vulgarity for attention's sake that has so compromised the reputation and -- if you ask Ad Review -- the net effectiveness of advertising worldwide.

Lost its golden touch
From its roots two decades ago on Wendy's, in the convergence of comedy and selling Cliff Freeman has had something like a Midas touch. Now, though, in its inaugural campaign for the automobile-repair chain called Midas, the touch has turned

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into a lead sap, applied brutally upside the head. One of four spots opens in a Midas shop, where the manager recalls a strange episode.

MIDAS GUY: "People love Midas parts because they're so reliable. Just last week I was explaining to a customer that our shocks and struts come with a lifetime guarantee. That way they'll always be as good as new." [We see a plaque touting Midas's lifetime on shocks and struts.]

OLD WOMAN: "Lifetime guarantee? That's great. What can you do with these?" [She removes her shirt, revealing for the nonplussed employee her sagging breasts, which presumably could use some support.]

MIDAS GUY: [looking down] "There are limits to what we can do."

Cut to a clipboard, where a box labeled "Lifetime guarantee" is checked off, followed by the tagline "Midas. We do that."

That's just gross
Well, that's just gross. Why in the world, in order to communicate "lifetime guarantee," did anyone see the need to conjure images of geriatric nudity? Is it a concept that is pleasant to dwell on? No. Is it something apt to upset, even offend, large numbers of viewers? Yes. Is the connection so trenchant as to justify its inherent vulgarity? No. No. No. On the contrary, if you please, it's a stretch.

The Midas organization is reputedly thrilled with Freeman's ads, which seem to have jump-started the brand. No surprise there; they are attention-getting. The previous work, from Euro RSCG McConnaughy Tatham, Chicago, was attention-deflecting. Tepid. Invisible. Not merely unmemorable but utterly unrememberable. With that as a baseline, improving consumer response is like fishing with dynamite.

Psychic vandalism
Which, by the way, is wrong. Because fishing with dynamite catches some fish, but destroys the very ecosystem in which it occurs. No degree of short-term sales jolts or client contentedness justifies such behavior. The agency rationalizes it's act of psychic vandalism by citing the client's need to attract a younger audience. If that sounds familiar, it was also the brief for Pep Boys, the auto-supply chain for which Cliff Freeman & Partners last went over the top, with an image of roadside urination.

A former client, naturally.

The whole episode is just plain embarrassing. Not just on taste grounds, or even selling effectiveness. On top of everything else, the spot isn't even funny.

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