Sears abandons softer side for ironic humor, and scores

By Published on .

Sears. where else?"

That's the unfortunate new tagline-unfortunate for a number of reasons, but mainly because it flouts the axiom "Never pose a question if the answer is likely to hurt you."

The answer to this particular question, of course, is: "Anywhere else." Target. Kohl's. Amazon.com. Goodwill Industries. Anywhere but that godforsaken Sears store at the far end of the mall, where you cross the threshold and instantly all the style molecules are sucked out of your body like the syrup in a Sno Cone.

But hold on there. One hundred percent of the things that are wrong with this fall branding campaign (principally) from Y&R Advertising, Chicago, are in the tagline. Everything else is just dead-on right, combining charming slice-of-life vignettes with a fetching variety of Sears merchandise, gentle humor and even a touch of irony.

Historically, it goes nearly without saying, irony and Sears have gone together about like Prada and Sears. Like eros and Sears. In the past 20 years, like success and Sears.

Anyway, speaking for ourselves personally, we were won over by the very first spot we saw. Having seen the tagline in the press materials, we set ourselves up in the AdReview Viewing Lab-scientifically equipped to duplicate a typical living room-and prepared to start despising. The first images were most availing in that regard: an attractive model photographed in super-slow motion in her autumn Sears outfit, with fallen leaves blowing all around her. Here she's pirouetting, here she's swinging her hair, here assuming the compulsory high-fashion pout. And there we were on the Lab "sofa" ecstatic in our contempt.

Except that the next shot shows that this lady's actually on her lawn, clowning for her husband, who's in goggles using a leaf blower.

See how playful? They set us up to think this was some hackneyed, downscale fashion spot when it fact it is a very clever downscale fashion spot, plus a hard-goods spot, plus a branding spot which-like all the others-emphasizes the enormous variety of attractive merchandise available at Sears. The mechanism is a series of little check boxes, such as you'd find on a government form or a Preparation H commercial, itemizing the various pieces of merchandise.

The other spots do that job even better.

One, called "Keeping Baby Happy," shows a cranky little boy sitting on the floor in his Little Wonders overalls (check) as his mother frantically tries to pacify him with a Carter's blanket (check) and Euro Graco walker (check). But the infant is inconsolable. Finally, Dad comes down the steps to capture the scene on his Sony camcorder (check), but he's looking through the viewfinder and doesn't see the child-safety gate. He trips and goes flying.

The baby laughs.

The best spot is called "Getting a Good Look." It shows a woman eyeing her new Sears outfit in the bedroom mirror while, in the background, her husband shaves. The electric shaver makes it hard for him to hear her as she fishes for compliments, so he's just offering perfunctory yeses to her questions. Unfortunately, one of her questions is "Does it make me look fat?"

Aero inflatable guest bed. (Check.)

OK, sure, the gags are familiar sitcom boilerplate, but they have a very appealing universality cutting across all demographic categories. Sears, of course, needs to do the same. Furthermore, while the past 15 years have amply demonstrated that the female world wasn't too impressed with the softer side of Sears, the clothing in these spots is reasonably appealing, too.

Or at least not heinous.

So, if you're in the market for a leaf blower and a blouse, maybe a trip to the mall anchor is not out of the question. And maybe this strategy, unlike "the softer side" and toe-to-toe discounting, will finally extricate Sears' business from where it's been for the entirety of the `80s and the `90s. Which is to say: the tank.

Where else?

In this article:
Most Popular