Yeah, not really.
The TV commercial, which has appeared on Comedy Central and is generating lots of interest on YouTube, shows a succession of people checking into their Extended Stay lodgings and immediately taking the opportunity to let one rip. Hips shift.
Sheets billow. Curtains flutter. Papers rustle. The only sound we hear is the opera-aria music track, but there is no doubt as to what is taking place -- i.e., gastric relief.
The tagline: "No place makes you feel more comfortable."
OK. Got it. You are so relaxed that suddenly you solve the riddle of the sphincter. With nobody within sniffing distance, THAR SHE BLOWS! Hate a distended stay? Try Extended Stay! Point taken.
We regret to inform the sponsor and Toy, New York, that, contrary to their protests of daring and subversion, no boundary is being pushed here.
True, there hasn't been a whole lot of U.S. TV advertising about flatulence, but fart gags aren't unprecedented, either. And they are mild, even benign, even banal, compared to the norm of basic-cable humor. In a "South Park" world, a little furtive cheese cutting is hardly worth mentioning. Public discourse has so coarsened, the society has so defined vulgarity down, that post-prime-time butt bugling has no problem passing the smell test.
So the question becomes: What benefit does Extended Stay Hotels enjoy by positioning itself as Your Hindquarters Headquarters?
Well, actually, a fair amount. Operating in a crowded category, burdened with a generic brand name, Extended Stay will, for the first time in its history, stand out in the crowd. A series of cheek spreaders may not be boundary-pushing, but the ads remain eye-catching and, yes, attention will be paid.
That's the prize, and one for which all involved have accepted a substantial, maybe even reckless, level of risk. Because -- as anybody who's ever let one slip in public knows only too well -- standing out in a crowd is not always a happy experience.
Someone on the AdReview staff counts, as one of his searing memories, doing a little crop-dusting at 14th and F streets in Washington, thinking he was completely below the radar, only to have a pedestrian 30 feet behind him shriek, "Eeeeeew! That's disgusting." There was absolutely nobody else around who could have been mistaken for the culprit. To she who smelt it, there was no question as to who had dealt it. Ten years after the fact, the humiliation lingers like ... well, never mind.
So, one wonders, does Extended Stay want to generate disgust? Does it want prospects to wonder just how stinky the methane-clouded rooms are? Does it want viewers to speculate about what else previous guests have felt comfortable enough to do, beyond laying air biscuits in the hallways? Let's just assume there won't be follow-up spots showing montages of toenail clipping or shower peeing or relaxed guests having themselves a quick wank. In the aftermath of the current exercise, those images are kind of hard to suppress.
Still, the outcome is hard to predict. We can easily imagine a franchisee meeting ending with the CMO's head on a pike, but our best guess is that the value of the attention will outweigh the risk. Just as there is comfort in numbers, there may well be numbers in comfort.
Or, as the old expression goes: Now you're cookin' with gas.