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

And Other Ad Review Musings

By Published on .

You know that Super Bowl commercial with the cavemen?

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

Same goes for Wendy's, and Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, and the red wig -- a ridiculous, Pippi Longstocking hairpiece put atop various unlikely characters to represent both Wendy's namesake and its point of difference: unfrozen beef patties cooked to order. Alas, the campaign did nothing to improve Wendy's flat same-store sales.

The franchisees said, "Red wig suck!" And headquarters eventually surrendered, 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.

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

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 -- angry people in forests kicking trees and so forth -- only to seem just odd and off-putting.

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

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.
On the subject of Super Bowl, we gather from the blogosphere that some people were puzzled by our review and its focus on racial stereotyping, sexism, homophobia, cheap branding of "charity" and the freaking out of small children. The complaints fell into two categories: 1) How could AdReview reduce an entire Super Bowl to a reel of lowlights? And 2) Were we hallucinating?

On the first, somehow online readers mistook an actual lowlight reel -- a seven-minute Ad Age video -- for the AdReview itself, which covered every spot good and bad. As to whether we imagined transgression where none existed, please observe, for example, that Salesgenie has pulled its campaign over charges of racism, and Bridgestone is busy explaining why having Richard Simmons, the Stepin Fetchit of effeminacy, this close to being run over on purpose isn't homophobic.

More to the point, each issue we raised corresponded to ones we have been flogging for decades. To see them all aggregated in one Super Bowl was especially horrifying, but if you care for a longer-form analysis, do please go to the library and check out "And Now a Few Words From Me." Pay special attention to chapter eight: "Hold the sleaze, please."
Don't know if you're an Obama fan. So far he has us extremely impressed/fooled. (History shows that being seduced by politicians leads to disappointment or worse.) But just a brief word on the video "Yes we can." A masterpiece. (You can find it at www.dipdive.com.)

Not just for the concept and execution, transforming the candidate's stump speech into a song, but by understanding the brand's central appeal: not his policy positions on health care and Iraq but his phenomenal ability to inspire, the idea that if he were elected, the world instantly would have a better view of America and America of ourselves. Not sure if we can. But these filmmakers sure did.
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