Bob Garfield's Reign Questioned (And Not Just by Us)

wendys_hole2.jpg

The Daily Ad Biz is going after Advertising Age's Bob Garfield. In a piece entitled "Fire Bob Garfield, First in a Series," the writer examines a recent article by Bob entitled "Just Imagine How Trump Would Have Looked in Wendy's Red Wig." In the The Daily Ad Biz article, Bob is taken to task, sentence by sentence, for his seemingly "out of touch crotchety old man" approach to criticizing advertising.

While some, though not us, trashed the Wendy's Red Wig campaign to one degree or another, when Bob says an ad is bad, he claims (barring a few "horrifying exceptions") he's always right and that the facts are there to back him up. So it was with great interest The Daily Ad Biz shared with us the recently released 2007 full year and Q4 financial figures for Wendy's which, counter to the belief same store sales have been flat, reports same store sales saw a 1.4 percent increase as compared to 2006's 0.6 percent increase.

Additionally, 2007 income increased 134 percent to $96 million, up from $37 million in 2006. That Red Wig campaign isn't looking so bad right now. To be clear, though Bob Garfield might disagree, it's nearly impossible to clearly tie corporate performance to a specific advertising effort. Certainly, associations can be drawn but there are simply too many other variables both promotional and operational to scientifically prove financial performance is directly related to a particular advertising effort.

That said, the existence of the Red Wing campaign at the same time the chain saw an upswing in income causes Bob's claim that "if you were to compare my ad review ratings with advertiser business results over the past 20-some years, or even campaign-longevity, you'd probably give up blogging and start a cult of personality based on my personal infallibility" to ring just a tad hollow.

To be clear, Bob Garfield is an institution. He's been an icon in the advertising industry for more than two decades. He's analyzed thousands of ads over those years. We respect his position as we would anyone who's achieved similar success. But like any institution that's been around for a while, complacent acceptance is never a good thing. As they say, question authority.

by Steve Hall    Feb-12-08   Click to Comment   
  

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Comments



Comments

Steve, I think it excellent practice to look at the financial performance of a company when talking about its corporate advertising campaign. Whether or not you can make a connection, an evaluation has to start somewhere.

You're correct to say it's difficult to tie the two together; but same-store sales and other measurements at least give some direction to a critique of an advertising program - and in the retail/franchise world, the Wendy's franchisees definitely have an influence on the chain's ads.

Garfield himself - an excellent man with a fine track record of effective writing.

Posted by: Richard Laurence Baron on February 12, 2008 8:37 PM

when did the red wig campaign start?
just a point of information....maybe i slept through most of 2007, but i thought the campaign fairly new, at least new enough to make garfield's critique news.....

Posted by: Tom Messner on February 12, 2008 9:36 PM

Thanks for the link and coverage of my post.

Though I am hard on him, I am sure that Garfield is a lovely man personally and his longevity speaks for itself.

The critique isn't personal...though I personally wish that he would do some research and stop being convinced of his own infallibility (I would be convinced of mine too if I told the bold step of saying that a campaign was bad after I heard initial sales results).

Posted by: daily biz on February 12, 2008 10:14 PM

Tom,

The campaign has been running since May 2007, plenty of time to affect 2007 figures.

Posted by: Steve Hall on February 12, 2008 11:35 PM

Thanks for the info.
A perfect demonstration that
I am truly out of it.

Posted by: Tom Messner on February 12, 2008 11:53 PM

The Wendy’s brand wants safe and can’t handle freaky. “Where’s the beef’ with a new Clara Pellar can’t be too far behind I guess. (Hey, they replaced the Maytag repairman after all and never missed a beat!)

BK/Crispin though proves freaky can work. Even with an increase in sales, the red wig was apparently too much for the original Wendy and the franchisees, (which have a say with all fast food chains).

Brand image over profits? Perish the thought.

Posted by: bg on February 13, 2008 12:21 AM

steve,
you know, your habit of entirely misrepresenting my positions, arguments, etc. to score cheap rhetorical points is really getting tiresome. oh, and do continue validating your nonsense by quoting the anonymous 'daily ad biz" kid blogger, who is using his blog to hit on girls in his agency. knowledgable guy. very thoughtful. excellent source.
-- bob

this week: "The franchisees said, "Red wig suck!" And headquarters eventually surrendered, and now the wig is gone, replaced with an utterly innocuous campaign from Kirschenbaum & Bond that would be instantly forgettable if it were noticeable to begin with. Poor burger slingers. Poor Neanderthals. The red wig was the freakin' wheel. They just didn't understand how to work it. "

6 months ago:

Wendy's Red Wig Ad: Close to Perfect
Chain Finally Discovers a Post-Dave Thomas Positioning

By Bob Garfield

Published: May 28, 2007


So close.

Saatchi & Saatchi's debut for Wendy's is so close to being extremely memorable, so close to being strategically perfect, so close to being
the best burger advertising out there. But on all accounts, it falls just slightly short.

Mind you, the work is pretty good (which is more than we can say about any other Wendy's advertising of the current millennium), but with a little more discipline and a little more vision, it could have been superb. Specific complaints to follow, but first let's look at what's good about it, starting with positioning.

Remember positioning? Remember, before it became all about punch lines, marketers tried to articulate a unique selling proposition, a differentiating benefit or at least a point of view? Nah. Why would you remember that? Positioning is just sooooo analog, sooooo uncool, the client-pandering behavior depended upon by the calcified and unimaginative.

Like Nike. BMW. Southwest Airlines. Absolut.

You know, losers like that.

Well, for the first time since Dave Thomas passed the scene, Wendy's has discovered a positioning. Or rediscovered one. Harking back to its "Hot 'n' Juicy" days of the '70s (and brief resurgence in the mid-'80s), Wendy's is reminding everybody that its burgers are cooked to order.

"I deserve a hot, juicy burger!" the protagonist shouts in one TV spot, because he's fed up with the assembly-line, heat-lamp-warmed servings of Wendy's competition. Thanks to excellent food photography, the product itself would seem to corroborate him (compared with 1986, when the Hot 'n' Juicy burger looked Warm 'n' Greasy on TV).

Indeed, all of the ads -- on TV, radio and online -- relentlessly hammer home the point. That's great, and long overdue. Salads are important these days, but in the end, Wendy's is a burger joint and will live or die on that reputation. Furthermore, turning "hot, fresh and juicy" into a mantra would enable the chain to simply substitute "crisp, fresh and healthy" or "hot, spicy, white meat" where necessary.

But here's the error: the tagline, which obscurely claims, "That's Right."

Um, what's right? Not cooking from frozen patties? Then why be so oblique about it? Maybe "Fresh fast food" would run afoul of regulators, but we suppose "Made to order" is just too obvious.

The second major strength of the new campaign is one sight gag in one ad, in which the aforementioned protagonist is in a forest, among scores of men and women inexplicably kicking trees. He chooses not to kick a tree, because he doesn't need to do what everybody else is doing. That's why he won't settle for burger-factory burgers. A quirky way to make the point to begin with, but here's the thing: The guy happens to be wearing a red-pigtailed wig, a la the iconic "Wendy" herself. He's just an ordinary dope -- in protruding scarlet pigtails. Like a punk Pippi Longstocking.

That's funny.

The rest of the 60 seconds is a bit overwrought and at least 30 seconds too long, but putting ordinary schnooks in ridiculous pigtails is the beginning of a Big Idea. Just imagine the possibilities. Alas, at least in the opening pool of ads, it never shows up again.

The rest of the ads are admirably on message but more self-consciously quirky than actually memorable. And they all seem like one-offs, lacking the sort of audiovisual consistency this positioning deserves.

Us, we'd throw out everything but the wig guy and start over, hot and fresh. Because after about the third spot, this stuff seems flat and warmed over.

Posted by: bob garfield on February 13, 2008 12:32 AM

wait. wait. ABORT! ABORT! a moment ago i screwed up royally. in the total pile-on calling for me to retire to Shady Acres, i confused one blogger with another. there is, in fact, some kid taking time out from his unrequited lust for a colleague to call me names, but this is NOT the same blogger who does Daily Ad Biz. My unreserved apologies for the error. The Daily Ad Biz, whoever that may be, at least attempted to be systematic in arguing for my dismissal

Posted by: Bob Garfield on February 13, 2008 12:41 AM

cranky old guys in advertising are funny

Posted by: Funny like garfield the cat on February 13, 2008 1:41 AM

Boy, it's hard to keep up. If the franchisees dropped the hammer on "Red Wig" as Garfiled reports, it would seem to disconnect the campaign from improved revenues. It could also mean than the franchisees don't want to give Corporate any credit for turning the profit picture around (another habit of all fast food chains).

Posted by: Richard Laurence Baron on February 13, 2008 7:55 AM

Since they have re-discovered hot and juicy, maybe they should go back to Dick Rich who discovered hot and juicy three decades ago in his negative way, at least as a consultant. Then another cranky old guy in advertising can be, if not funny, at least visibly cranky.
But this is interesting because I always thought franchisees were, first and foremost, pragmatic. They, therefore, don't care if it's edgy or sentimental or freaky or anything as long as the numbers move upward and their investment in real estate and low wage personnel and standardized food pays off.
If politics plays a role here, my guess would be that the franchisees aren't the pols.

Posted by: Tom Messner on February 13, 2008 9:45 AM

Since they have re-discovered hot and juicy, maybe they should go back to Dick Rich who discovered hot and juicy three decades ago in his negative way, at least as a consultant. Then another cranky old guy in advertising can be, if not funny, at least visibly cranky.
But this is interesting because I always thought franchisees were, first and foremost, pragmatic. They, therefore, don't care if it's edgy or sentimental or freaky or anything as long as the numbers move upward and their investment in real estate and low wage personnel and standardized food pays off.
If politics plays a role here, my guess would be that the franchisees aren't the pols.

Posted by: Tom Messner on February 13, 2008 9:46 AM

Look bob supported the whopperettes work from CPB...nuff said.

Posted by: Adam Kmiec on February 13, 2008 11:08 AM

CPB also proved that freaky doesn't work...

Haggar
Early BK work
slimJim
Orville Deadenbacher
Man Laws

and the list goes on and on.

Posted by: Adam Kmiec on February 13, 2008 11:10 AM

@Adam–I’m talking just in the FF category where Wendy's can't claim that red wig is too out there, because BK and even earlier Jack in the Box did some funky stuff. (Other category comparisons are apples and oranges in this discussion and turn it into a CP+B thread.) That earlier BK work also laid the foundation for where their sales are at now. Hiccups along the way, maybe.

But based on how long BK has stuck with Crispin, Wendy's giving up on the wig after eight months or so speaks more about Wendy's as a company than it does Crispin as an agency.

You want to debate CP+B's other work, have at it but I’m out at that point. This is about a scared brand that wants to play it safe.

Posted by: bg on February 13, 2008 12:10 PM

Don't worry, Bob. It's just the internet that hates you.

Posted by: Dean on February 13, 2008 1:58 PM

Oh dear… Once again we seem to have got our knickers in a twist. I mean even though as I mentioned on an AdScam Post the other day “Arguing over the Internet is as pointless as winning a medal in the Special Olympics,” people continue to do it. I’m with Tom and Rich here… ‘Cos we are the original cranky old men in advertising… The franchisees don’t give a fuck if you wear a red wig or a chastity belt, as long as the advertising sells lots of burgers. So, quoting those claimed minute increases in sales is as pointless as the small increase in retail sales announced by the government this morning… It was because gas costs a fucking arm and a leg now… Duh… My advice to Bob would be… Hey you’ve been around longer than dirt, you have a fucking sinecure with Crain, so back the fuck off and don’t think everyone has to think the sun shines out of your arse… I mean, c’mon… That quote from Richard Louis Baron… “Garfield himself - an excellent man with a fine track record of effective writing.” Was written by you… Right? I mean no one has a douchenozzle name like Richard Louis Baron… Unless it’s fucking Steve just milking the shit out of this comment train! In which case… Fucking brilliant Steve… Let’s ooVoo the shit out of each other again!
Cheers/George

Posted by: george parker on February 13, 2008 5:17 PM

I've ever been flamed before. Thanks...Georgie.

Posted by: Richard Laurence Baron on February 13, 2008 7:16 PM

"n"

Posted by: Richard Laurence Baron on February 13, 2008 7:18 PM

George - you had me at "douchenozzle." (There is a market-of-one at least for The Glossary to Reading George Parker.)

Your franchisee point is key. To them it's all about "asses in seats." It's one of the reasons Pepsi bought out a ton of its independent bottlers in the 90s. Pepsi couldn't stand listening to the old-coot bottlers from Iowa go on and on about how sucky the Michael Jackson commercial was. They just wanted more local funds to slap "50cents for a 2-liter" decals on grocery store windows.

McD's kills its clown. BK has success with the beyond-creepy King. And Wendy's can't figure out what to do with (or is stuck with?) a pretty young girl with red pigtails. Go figure.

Posted by: Kevin Horne on February 16, 2008 11:09 AM

Kevin... The Glossary to Reading George Parker... I like it... I'm doing a post about you and your excellent blog on AdScam right now. I look forward to "the check is in the mail!"
Cheers/George

Posted by: george parker on February 16, 2008 12:29 PM

Dam* George...and i've been doing such a good job at keeping it a secret!

"Check is in the mail"...hmmmmm...There's a recession on, ya know!?! The best I can offer you right now is a free pitcher of your favorite beer (Scotch not included).

Posted by: Kevin Horne on February 16, 2008 1:02 PM

Kevin... Beer always works. I just did a comment on your blog. Check it out... I also linked your site... A singular honor, I should stress.
Cheers/George

Posted by: george parker on February 16, 2008 1:04 PM

George:

I am humbled.

Beer it is. I know I have a coupon to Applebee's here somewhere...

I'll contact you offline, or is it online, or whatever,,,Or should i contact you thru Facebook? (kidding)

Posted by: Kevin Horne on February 16, 2008 1:23 PM





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