Sears succeeds by celebrating men's emotional tie to tools

By Published on .

Yeah, so the AdReview family just moved and while the furniture was being hauled in and the baby was screaming for a diaper and Mrs. Review was desperately rooting through cartons for, like, food, we were busy in the basement putting up pegboard for our tools.

They look fabulous up there-where they have pretty much rested undisturbed, because the AdReview staff is way too busy watching cable to actually use them. But they're like the ol' .38 in the nightstand drawer.* We feel better just knowing they're there.

Which, a bit belatedly, Sears, Roebuck & Co. has come to understand. Always a tool-retailing leader, Sears now appreciates that tools are more than just tools. As dramatized in a wonderful campaign from Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago, for Sears' expanded, discretely branded Tool Territory department, tools are fetishes, totems, maybe even subconscious sexual proxies for a nation of boy-men.

Not a new discovery. Long before "Home Improvement," comedian Tim Allen's standup act was all about men's enduring love affair with the garage-workshop. And retail tool sections have always had the atmosphere of a please-touch museum: wide-eyed kids getting to play with stuff to their hearts' content.

So it's not necessarily the insight that distinguishes these ads. It's their sheer perfection in capturing the ridiculous emotional bond between man and table saw.

One spot takes place at the power-drill display, where a man is fondling various brands, talking ostensibly to his wife but really to himself as he tests one drill after another: Vweeeerl. Veweeeeerrrll. "Twenty-two-point clutch. Looks good, too, huh? Vweeerl. But I don't know... [He grabs a top-of-the-line model] ...the Big Daddy! Veweeeeerrrll. Feels awfully good. Eighteen volts. Vweeerl ...."

Here the wife randomly grabs another drill and, with a big smile offers, "Why don't you just get this one?"

He glares at her incredulously.

"Sometimes," he says, "I feel like you don't even know who I am."

Then the voice-over: "Introducing Tool Territory, America's best tool store, with the largest selection of tool brands anywhere. Sears. Where else?"

The invocation of that cliche of female emotional grievance is laugh-out-loud funny-not merely because it deliciously turns the tables, but because it perfectly captures women's cluelessness about a) the difference between a screwdriver and a lathe, and b) men's needs.

The fact that the performances and the timing are flawless doesn't hurt, either. An even better spot shows a guy in a Tool Territory demo area trying out a belt sander on a block of wood.

"I'll take it," he says to the salesman, in barely suppressed ecstasy.

"That's great," the salesman replies. "I'll go get you..."

"NO! I want this one."

After a pause, the salesman says, "That's the demo."

"I want this one."

Because he has bonded. Hilarious.

And to the point. Each ad highlights a particular Tool Territory benefit. One is about the product-demo area. One is about salespeople with real-world experience. And one is about diversity of brand-name merchandise. (i.e., not just Craftsman, but Black & Decker, Makita and many others.)

Hey, we are on the way. We absolutely need a drill press. You know ... just in case.

*Don't worry. Just kidding. (It's a .32.)

Most Popular