07 August, 2008

Bob's Discount Furniture, Macaroon and Machiato Emporium

A couple weekends ago on a trip to Boston, I kept passing this truck while sitting in Friday afternoon traffic on the grueling stretch of I-95 between New Rochelle, NY, and New Haven, Conn. (after sitting in traffic for two hours, I decided I was either in hell or just an exit ramp away).

Bob’s Discount Furniture is a New England-based furniture chain. Now this isn’t the exact same truck. My attempts to take a picture resulted in no less than three near collisions, so I figured discretion was the better part of valor and hoped the Internet would be able to help me out. And once again, my dedication to the preservation of human life coupled with laziness paid off when a simple yahoo image search yielded the above photo. It’s not the exact same truck (mine didn’t have the graffiti), but you get the gist of it. Pictured on the truck is Bob, the slogan “I promise you sweet deals,” dried out-looking chocolate chip cookies (Bob does love to tease the diabetics) and for some reason, unbranded paper latte cups (possibly Bob’s social commentary on post-industrial revolution capitalism and how the world is no longer by mother’s milk, but by pure Columbia grown caffeine).

I see two problems here.

1) Mixed messaging. You’re trying to advertise a good price—a “sweet deal.” Well what’s something sweet? Cookies, of course. Now suddenly this furniture truck is covered in cookies. I assume Bob feels his unique selling proposition is good prices, which it very well may be. But if you now took “Bob’s Discount Furniture” off the side of this truck, you’d be left with cookies, lattes and a guy with a forced grin promising “Sweet Deals.” I’m sorry strange sir, but my children will be sticking with Chips Ahoy, thank you very much. Now please move your truck.

The phrase “sweet deals” doesn’t bother me at all. It makes perfect senses for this Dairy Queen advertisement. But now the imagery chosen for Bob's advertisement no longer reflects his product. Perhaps a better choice would have been to replace the mustard yellow background (which totally clashes with Bob's shirt by the way) with a furniture spread, and in the foreground have Bob holding a lollipop or a spoonful of sugar. Although, I’d probably be more likely to take a stale cookie from a smiling, gaunt stranger than I would candy or some ambiguous white powder. The lattes? There I’m totally clueless.

2) Now I could see paying for this ad to throw in the Sunday circular, but wrapping a truck is not cheap. And there are at least two of these trucks out there, so this wasn’t just one isolated accidental truck wrapping incident. Someone thought this creative campaign should be emblazoned on the side of many Bob’s trucks, confusing many adults and causing countless New England children of reading age to crave not a trip to Mrs. Field’s for their afternoon snack, but a ride to Bob’s Discount Furniture.

There’s the rub. This is not a campaign for now, but a campaign for 20 years from now, when these young crumb munchers will be buying furniture of their own—nuclear powered torchiere lamps, hover futons, and carbon fiber papasan chairs. Bob, the Pied Piper of Hartford, just might be the smartest furniture man in all of New England. Or maybe I put way too much thought into an ad campaign that needed just a little more.

--Captain Awesome, Copywriter

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