Garfield's AdReview: Cool Kmart spots a classic example of bait and switch

By Published on .

Welcome to the latest installment of "Survivor: Troy, Mich.," as the new owners of the freshly solvent Kmart try to keep their company alive with a large dose of advertising.

Of course, Kmart's problems, historically, have had almost nothing to do with advertising and almost everything to do with not being able to compete with Wal-Mart. Let's just say that that condition is still critical. So this advertising isn't being introduced as a cure so much as for its narcotic value-starting with a really upbeat R&B rendition of the new slogan: "Right here, right now!"

No kidding?! So what?!

While Kmart sounds awfully excited about, you know, having products to sell immediately in its stores, that news isn't itself likely to energize potential customers. The salient question is: what is right here? And the best thing we can say there in the new campaign from Grey Worldwide, New York, is that the strategy-glorifying the various sub-brands available only at Kmart-at least suggests an answer.

`it's in the k!'

Martha Stewart Everyday. Joe Boxer. Thalia Sodi. Even Route 66 and Thom McAn. The message is that Kmart is no longer utterly devoid of fashion sense. This is communicated by the soulful sloganeering and video of extremely cool-looking New Yorkers grinningly outfitting their cool bodies and cool cribs with Kmart merchandise. So turned on are they by the Kmart experience that they spontaneously blurt out, "It's in the K!"

This is where the ads run into some little problems, much in the way Martha herself has run into some little problems. (By the way, is she saying "It's in the K?" or-what it sounds like-"in the cake?" Is she speaking of surprisingly hip merchandise or a contraband metal file for sawing through iron bars?)

Anyway, the point is, what's "in the K" is still mainly one employee per hectare, a lot of downscale shoppers and lots of clothing produced in places where you need a shot in the arm not for stimulation but to ward off cholera.


Sure, this is advertising, so we have to allow for a little puffery and idealization. And, sure, Joe Boxer does offer at least an oasis of coolitude, much as Martha Stewart Everyday manages to inject some class into the epicenter of declasse. Furthermore, credit Kmart with not completely insulting us by highlighting its Kathy Ireland and Jaclyn Smith collections of turquoise polystyrene women's apparel.

But let's not get too irrationally exuberant. For there to be an oasis, there must be all around it a vast desert. There is simply no point in positioning Kmart as a happenin' place, because Kmart isn't a happenin' place, and everybody knows it. And if one didn't know it beforehand, and were one to be lured into a store by this advertising, one would locate the cognitive dissonance in a New York second.

Talk about bait and switch; there would be an instantaneous understanding that the imagery is too hip for the room, and a corresponding sense of consumer betrayal.

Consumer betrayal, needless to say, is not the injection you get from your advertising Dr. Feelgood. It is the injection you get from Dr. Kevorkian.


Grey Worldwide, New York

Ad Review Rating: 2 stars

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