Celestial Seasonings brews escape for women

By Published on .

Advertiser: Celestial Seasonings
Agency: Citron Haligman Bedecarre, San Francisco
Rating: 4 stars

The images are soft, gauzy and romantic: the life of a woman in highlights and shadows. But not just any woman. This lady has found a pensive moment of sanity, of warmth, of quiet reflection. And if you are a harried, put-upon Coffee Achiever, she's telling you how to defect.

"When you were a kid, there was always a place you could go when the world got a little overwhelming. And the stuffed animals were friends who would listen and understand, and you'd sit and drink imaginary tea. And then one day you suddenly got a degree and a job and a certain someone to come home to. And you learn how life is, that you still need a time and a place for you.

"And as the day slips away, if you're lucky, so do all your worries. You pour a cup of tea and find a place where you can stop, and regroup, and reflect--a place where `calamity' loses some letters and becomes `calm.' And you sit, and sip your tea, and think, and dream. Celestial Seasonings tea. Satisfy the soul."

A bit idealized? A touch overwritten? Yeah, maybe. But on the whole these spots from Citron Haligman Bedecarre, San Francisco, are powerful, emotional and psychologically compelling advertising such as we seldom see.

Not since the Levi's for Women campaign emerged three years ago have TV spots so thoroughly gotten inside women's heads--albeit via different paths. Levi's painted broad-brush pictures of feminine thoughts and dreams, allowing the viewer to project her particular world view on the imagery and credit Levi's for the insight.

This Celestial Seasonings work is far more pointed, more specific, perhaps more presumptuous and certainly more risky, asserting as it does exactly how women--especially upscale women--savor hard-earned moments of contemplative solitude. If that assertion rings hollow or false, all is lost. But these ads ring true, indeed.

The voice is a Citron art director, Roz Romney, whose narration has more warmth and authority than conveyed by many a professional. This script, labored as it is, would have been easy to inflate to absurdity. But Romney has it nailed: Her voice is knowing but not arrogant, measured but not mechanical, empathetic but not saccharine. The result is a surprisingly affecting little homily, no less inspiring for preaching to the choir.

And preach to the choir this does, for it presumes a certain level of education, a certain living standard and a certain acquaintance with the more mundane, less spiritual, benefits of herb tea. There is no mention of flavor variety or the absence of caffeine--the very qualities that make herbals an (expensive) alternative to coffee and ordinary tea.

But this advertising is more ambitious than any mere restatement of copy points. It tries to define a mood and moment of liberation, to position herbal teas not as an alternative to caffeinated beverages but as a gift to yourself, a passage to tranquility, an escape from the pressures of life. Celestial Seasonings, in other words, is the synthesis of a solitary beach, a trusted friend and a steaming mug of Halcion.

Maybe the problem is juggling job and family. Maybe it's just Starbucks, but if revved-up life is the disease, this campaign offers the cure.

You can e-mail Bob Garfield at EFPB35A@prodigy.com.

Copyright December 1995 Crain Communications Inc.

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