Best Buy makes its point remotely

By Published on .

Advertiser: Best Buy
Agency: Mullen, Wenham, Mass.
Rating: 1 1/2 stars

There is much zany wackiness to follow, but we don't want to spoil it. So here's the setup. Best Buy, the national consumer-electronics retailer, has a new campaign from Mullen, Wenham, Mass. OK, ready? Enjoy the fun!

The first spot opens in an appliance store, where a loudly dressed TV salesman bores in on a bewildered customer. Shod in garishly colored spectator shoes, the solid-state huckster is photographed at odd angles and grotesque, fish-eyed close-ups as he launches into his spiel.

"No, no. That one's all wrong for you," he says. "I look at a guy like you, and I say to myself: `Picture-in-picture kind of guy.' And you're gonna want stereo, hmmm? Am I right? You're a [he snaps his fingers] sports guy, right? Bass fishing, am I right? Bingo! Got a bass boat myself. But, hey, let's talk lines of resolution."

Voice-over: "Can't stand being pressured?"

"Am I right?" the salesman repeats. "Of course I'm right!" whereupon the besieged customer grabs a remote control device, points it at the sales pest and zaps him into oblivion. Ha! Then the voice-over again: "Next time, come to Best Buy. It's just the store you've been shopping for."

Then the logo shot. But, wait, there's more! After the first 20 seconds of hilarity, we see the same customer again driving along in his car. In his rear-view mirror, he spies a police cruiser in pursuit, lights flashing. So he grabs the magical remote control and. . . zap! The cop car turns into an ice cream truck! Go on, you crazy Mullen nuts! Not only are these characterizations masterpieces of subtlety, and not only does the kicker treat us to a zany and unpredictable turn of events, but we believe this marks the first time a commercial has depicted something or someone being obliterated or altered by a TV remote.

(Except for maybe 300 other ones. Four hundred max.)

What's really amazing, though is how clearly this refreshing bit of comic originality reinforces the message of the main body of the story, namely: If you go into a high-pressure appliance store that is either Best Buy, or some unnamed competitor Best Buy is ridiculing (the truth is we can't tell), and the salesman is obnoxious, buy a remote control TV anyway, and use the remote to avoid speeding tickets.

A novel positioning, we'd say. Frankly, though, we can't be sure we have it right, because although Best Buy wants us to know its sales staff is not on commission (and thus disinclined toward pressure tactics) this first commercial doesn't actually say that.

Ah, but in the second spot, an altogether different put-upon customer is confronted with a different type of nightmare salesman--this one a portly dweeb with a metronomic monotone who describes "steering logic circuitry" and similarly esoteric features. Then . . . zap . . . this salesman, too, gets remote-controlled! He suddenly loses the technobabble and says, "which basically means you get really nice speakers that sound like a movie theater."

In the nutty kicker to this one, the customer is home watching "Jeopardy!" and the answer is "It's made with cabbage and salt," and the guy zaps his dog and the dog answers, "Woof. Sauerkraut."

So that's the message, appliance consumers: Don't shop at Circuit City, because you will have to deal with actual specifications rather than vague, unsupported endorsements. And your dog won't be able to play along with game shows in your living room."

Copyright April 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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