Commentary by Rance Crain


'Creep' Factor Entertains but Does It Pull in Paying Customers?

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Six Flags might have been too clever for its own good.

All the mystery and secrecy surrounding its hugely popular -- and slightly creepy -- ad icon

Rance Crain, editor in chief, 'Advertising Age'

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Mr. Six seems to have planted a seed among parents that this old guy (young guy dressed up like an old guy?) is not to be trusted with their children.

Getting on the bus
Oh, sure, Mr. Six is a fun guy for an old codger. When he comes around in his cool metro bus and woos the local populace -- men, women and children -- with his frenzied dancing, who isn’t charmed by his Pied Piper shenanigans? But when it comes to getting on the bus with Mr. Six, I don’t think Mom and Dad would approve.

Don’t you think he’s trying a little too hard to attract a busload of young kids? Apparently that’s what a lot of people thought, because in spite of a $100 million global ad campaign, attendance at the 31 Six Flags amusement parks declined 4% for the first six months of this year. The Oklahoma City-based company said bad weather hurt parks in Atlanta, Chicago and Texas, and a late Memorial Day weekend reduced the number of operating days in the season. Six Flags has also been hurt by a dearth of new attractions -- and by splashy new rides at Disney and Universal.

Don't trust him
I’m sure those are all valid reasons for Six Flags’ disappointing results. But to me there’s a much more fundamental reason: We don’t quite trust Mr. Six. And is Six Flags trying to hide something lurking in his past? Is there a rap sheet on their “Ambassador of Fun” out there somewhere?

Now is not the time to clam up on the details of Mr. Six’ life: Where’s he from, what did he do for a living (I assume he’s retired), is he a veteran (that would help), what

Mr. Six, the star of Six Flags TV commercials, lures children and adults onto his fun bus with a frenzied dance.
sports does he follow, and how did he learn to dance so well?

I’d also like to know if he has a family, and if there’s a Mrs. Six. Maybe even a passel of Six grandchildren.

A Mrs. Six?
I think it would be more than a good thing when Mr. Six emerges from the bus that he’d be followed by his wife and at least a few of his grandkids. And they all could be dressed alike, with the same big spectacles, power red bow tie, tuxedo (and tuxedoette) and two-toned shoes. And they’d all be bald, of course.

Maybe Mr. Six and his family can be interviewed by a local TV person (Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy would be nice) about all the wholesome fun they have together at Six Flags and why they want to spread the joy to other wholesome families across the country.

You must admit that right now Mr. Six does not come off as wholesome.

Goosed Diane Sawyer
When he showed up at ABC-TV’s Good Morning America he goosed Diane Sawyer. And one TV spot shows Mr. Six enticing two caddies to abandon their golf bags and run off with him to greater adventure.

One Chicago radio DJ put Mr. Six’s charm this way: “It’s a little disturbing to see a guy who might have to wear a colostomy bag doing a high kick. But the creep factor is what’s selling it.”

The creep factor, unfortunately, doesn’t fill roller coaster seats. The Six Flags’ ad slogan is “There’s time for work and time for play. It’s playtime.” Maybe it is, but if you don’t mind I’ll wait for the next bus.

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