I have a lot of respect for chain restaurants. I also have a lot of envy, too – because they have such a big advantage over us independents, particularly in advertising.
You can’t get through the day without being bombarded on TV with countless commercials. And some are pretty good. “Crabfest” at Red Lobster, Olive Garden’s “When you’re here, you’re family,” even the “Grand Slam” ads from Denny’s.
It’s not even that independent restaurants compete directly with the chains, or that we’d even consider TV advertising. It’s an issue of scale. The chains can make a media buy and spread the cost of the spot over multiple restaurants in a market.
The independent operator can’t afford to take a media buy “hit.” So they need to “SPIKE” – break through the clutter and the noise of TV and radio with a MESSAGE – a message that causes you to stop and look again…messages that shock….messages that make you laugh, piss you off, are sometimes naughty, and are often politically incorrect – frequently VERY politically incorrect.
So THE MESSAGE IS THE THING.
Here are a few from my collection that you may find amusing…or annoying and offensive.
- Butch Dog Food. This is a New Zealand company. How’s that for “breakthrough?”
- “AW, PHUKET. Let’s get takeout.” That caused me trouble as well. Especially after we posted on a billboard overlooking the Jefferson Elementary School playground.
- “MORNING WOOD. Brunch with Chopticks.” The only thing that saved us with that one was the fact that lots of older people didn’t even know (or had long forgotten) what Morning Wood refers to.
- LUCKY CHENG and JUSTINE were just kinky…
- And HORSE’S ASS was a pleasant surprise.
- Our first billboard for Buca was “ITALIAN DINNERS & SANITARY BATHROOMS.” Everybody thought I was stupid…until Jay Leno picked it up for national TV…Now who’s stupid?
- Absolut Vodka was a pioneer in marketing to the gay community. Now everyone is in the act. I also like the Cosmopolitan Hotel ad that says “Just the right amount of wrong.”
- And John Wayne?
- Mr. Pibb is just plain funny.
- And Altoids sure gets your attention.
- Locally, I love Fuji-Ya’s old billboards.
- Ditka’s in Chicago was great, too.
- I’m not certain that I get RA Sushi. They’re funny, but I don’t understand what they’re trying to communicate. (Or rather, I hesitate to speculate about it in this family forum).
- Hard Rock? Well, it’s Hard Rock…
- Stella’s is really clever and spot on.
- Dixie’s will make you smirk.
- Salut sure pissed off a lot of people with “FULL BAR FOR EDINA’S DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES.” I remember one of the calls I got – from a very angry Edina housewife who sputtered about how she was not, in fact, desperate. (She did, however, sound a bit tipsy.)
- S&M…and a Dominatrix speaks well for Richard Branson and his Virgin Megastore in Paris.
- And then there’s Manny’s being Manny’s. In an age of political correctness, we went with anatomical correctness.
- STRIKE hits the mark.
- And I love PINOT ENVY.
- That brings us to Figlio and the last series of billboards that we ran before we closed. Damn, they were GOOD!
I don’t know if you’ve been entertained by these images, or if you’re disgusted.
But don’t take your wrath out on me. Take it out on the demented writer that came up with this disgusting stuff for Chino, Buca, Stella’s, Salut, Manny’s and Figlio. His name is Tim Alevizos and he’s a principal at Supervox Agency here in Minneapolis.