A few words on A&W’s Beardvertising and “The Appetizing Test.”

Um, there’s a root beer in my hair. Maybe vice versa?
Um, there’s a root beer in my hair. Maybe vice versa?

Word last week that A&W is advertising in beards. They got into beards because they’re associated with a company who won their attention with a “LinkedIn Bomb.”

Buzz ensued.

Apart from enjoying the general idea, and admiring A&W’s pluck after being dismissed by its parent company Yum! awhile back, I have a reservation.

Is all publicity good?

Is that answer, “Duh, yeah?”

It’s a new world, a Twitter world, a buzz world, a re-blogging world. So what I’m about to say is making me feel a little icky, a little old-fashioned.

What… er, (clears throat) …can I ask, what does my epic beard (mine, if let go, would look like Bluto’s) have to do with A&W?

Do the A&W circle and the Epic Beard circle on the funny Venn diagram actually touch? Or is it just that A&W is so desperate for publicity, it’s okay to borrow interest from the grandstanding creative fellow behind the stunt?

Really, that might be perfect.

But two things: I like a little branding—I like knowing that the hair metal song “Hot Mess” (if you follow that link, scroll down to see the Hot Mess ad) is going to return me to what I understand of Jack in the Box. JitB’s brand, the funny idea, the overall campaign, and the sales of the burgers are all stronger and longer-lasting for the discipline.

Secondly, I like to think that when you’re talking about food, you still need to think about making people a little bit hungry. Or at least think about not making them say, “Bleah.”

Hairnets are punchlines, right? And they’re funny because they’re making you think about something that makes you say, “Bleah.”

There’s always a temptation to make a joke that’s funny, but gross. At our agency we try to discipline ourselves when writing about food: even if we’re trying to be “engaging” (i.e., “smart asses”), we intend to hold ourselves to the standard of The Appetizing Test.

The Appetizing Test

  • Is the joke or creative idea making you think of something gross?
  • When you’re done watching or reading or hearing the ad, are you left with an unpleasant or unsavory image?
  • Does the ad kind of make you want to stick out your tongue like you’re saying the word “nyeh,” or “uhhhhgh”?

If those questions get a begrudging “yes” from a team that’s really excited about how funny they just were, we can all agree we’re fighting our final goal. And our final goal is to lure people into thinking of our client when they’re hungry.

So I think “Beardvertising” is a brilliant social media ploy that got A&W a bunch of RT’s and re-blogs and write-ups.

I don’t know if it’s making me want a frothy root bear float just now.

That’s debatable, I realize.

Meanwhile I think A&W is still searching to understand what makes people love it, and how they’re going to survive as a brand.