BOB GARFIELD'S AD REVIEW;RALLY'S TOUTS TASTE, THOUGH IT HAS NONE

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Dear Rev. Wildmon:

All right. I give up. How do I join?

You may be a small-minded, overbearing, sanctimonious prig, but as of now I'm on your side. There's a new ad out for Rally's hamburgers, from McCabe & Co., New York, and at long last enough is enough.

The spot opens with a pickup truck waiting at a traffic light, where a convertible pulls up with a guy driving and two beautiful babes aboard.

"What's he got that I ain't got?" the envious pickup driver says to his friend.

"Oh," his friend responds matter-of-factly, "he's probably got a Big Buford."

The driver stares downward in astonishment: "Look at the size of that thing!"

"Yeah," the friend says, "it's a third of a pound. Two beef patties, double cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions. The works." This, as we see the women in the car eating their burgers in a sexually suggestive way. Lots of advertising is fallacious. This is fellatious.

"You like 'em big, huh?" the driver says to one of the women.

"It's not the size," she says coyly. "It's the taste, stupid."

The creator of this campaign, arrested adolescent Ed McCabe, insists this kind of shockvertising is necessary to leverage a media budget that is dwarfed by the fast-food competition. Rally's advertising, he says, has to stand out and demand attention.

Which, of course, is the same kind of twisted psychology that makes the short, goofy kid in the class make fake flatulence sounds with his armpit, to impress that cute cheerleader in the third row.

Please note: Nobody can stand the short, goofy kid. And he never gets the girl.

The half-witted Rally's ad is actually far less innocuous and far more troubling, as yet another advertiser embraces this strange, Machiavellian calculus that the end of breaking through the clutter justifies any smutty means. No doubt McCabe fancies himself quite the daring advertising guerrilla, but this is more like terrorism: an outrageous act victimizing the innocent for the sake of some obscure, unrelated cause.

And this is an outrage. Also offensive, cheap and brainless. Even among teen-age boys the joke is old and obvious. Therefore, not even funny. Whoever green-lighted this thing should fall to his knees and pray for forgiveness.

Not just because it's plain wrong to run prurient, tasteless advertising designed to offend. And not just because the controversy will bring further disrepute upon advertising. He should prostrate himself in disgrace because he has endangered his entire franchise. Think back to what they taught in Food Marketing 101.

1) Identify your customer base.

2) Bring products to market to satisfy a measurable demand.

3) Don't make your sandwiches conjure up images of genitalia.

Yes, in case nobody noticed, this commercial equates the product with a large penis. Call me sensitive, call me an old fuddy-duddy, but that's not the imagery that makes me want to head to Rally's and really chow down.

"May I take your order?"

"Yeah, I'm, starvin'. Whaddaya call your big burger?"

"Big Buford."

"Oh, that's the one tha....where's the nearest Taco Bell?"

They can whine about their piddling media budget all they want, but burger envy is certainly no way to solve the problem. When it comes to outrageous advertising campaigns, it's not the size. It's the taste, stupid.

Rally's: McCabe & Co., New York

Ad Review rating: No stars

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