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So a man walks into a commercial, and there's a stand-up comic there. It happens to be Gilbert Gottfried, amusing the audi ence with convenience store jokes:

"I went into a 7-Eleven," Gottfried be gins, amid the smoky ambiance of a com edy club. "I said, `Here's $75. Can I have some cough syrup?' They said, `For $75 we can't give you the whole bottle. Just open your mouth. We'll pour some in.'|" Then, from the audience, appreciative laughter.

And no wonder. Everybody knows how those convenience stores gouge you. I personally went in once for a bag of disposable diapers. Luckily, they offered 48-month financing. Bidump bump!

But it's not just Gilbert and me. There's another comedy-club commercial with Louie Anderson. You know, the fat guy from Minnesota.

"And they're small, the 7-Elevens," he says. "There's hardly room for me AND the Big Gulp. I mean, you go in there, you open the cooler to get a soda, you're back outside."

Yeah, once I bent over to grab some Ding Dongs, bumped the lever and Slurpeed my butt. No, I mean it. A guy came in to rob the place, and told everyone to lie on the floor. It was terrible; he had to stack us. Luckily the cops came right away. They were in the parking lot, doing that cop-car mating thing. Whaddya get when two cop cars mate? A little Ford with one a regular tire and three donuts.

No, but seriously .|.|.

After airplane flights and TV commercials themselves, there's no bigger target for stand-up comedy material than 7-Eleven. Therefore, it's not all that surprising to see the gags show up in advertising-except that the gags are brought to us by J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago, and Southland Corp.

That's Southland Corp., as in 7-Eleven, taking a pioneering step in marketing history.


No, not that U.S.P. While spending millions to publicly trash your own brand is certainly a Unique Selling Proposition, this is another U.S.P. altogether, a brave, bold advance in communications theory, a brand new, never-before-used, revolutionary concept in advertising! U.S.P.

Using Sodium Pentathol.

Truth serum advertising. "We're 7-Eleven. If we can squeeze you in, we'll cheat you."

But, of course, that isn't Southland's message at all. In this campaign-which truly is breakthrough advertising-7-Eleven acknowledges consumers' negative perceptions as a first step to disabusing them. The Gottfried spot, for instance, concludes with the comic walking the store's (wide, brightly lit) aisles and shrieking, "Hey, these aren't 7-Eleven prices! These are reasonable!" And Louie Anderson is similarly surprised by the repositioned chain's inviting layout. "It looks new!" he says. "Nice layout! .|.|. I can find things now. Ooooh, pastries!"

Ooooh, risk-taking!

Not since a desperate, bankrupt Eastern Airlines' docu-style mea culpa campaign have we seen such advertising self-flagellation. Southland's bet is that its disarming candor will be deemed a charming and honorable way of calling attention to the consumer-friendlier stores-of-the-'90s. The risk is backlash from what is tantamount to a corporate admission of ripping us off throughout the '80s, '70s and '60s.

But it's a good campaign. It's spicy, dangerous and, because of the nightclub atmosphere, seems to have been made last night.

Hey, just like the chili dogs. Bidump bump!M


Self-abasement as advertising strategy is the latest gambit by 7-Eleven and J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago.

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