The agency that made those is Crispin Porter + Bogusky, and is considered one of the nation’s great hopes for ads that don’t insult a person—they’ve managed the trick of becoming big and attracting big companies with big media budgets, while retaining the right not to behave like a big, boring agency.
So most of us ad guys love CP+B. And expect a lot of them.
Let’s look at this review in Adweek. Basically the guy admits that the chief virtue of this campaign is that it improves significantly on the “cheesy” ads Applebee’s did before. That is, of course, something of faint praise. In all, though, the reviewer goes pretty easy on them.
But a common issue I end up having with much of CP+B’s work is that they don’t really seem to get at the truth about a brand. They can make me laugh or enjoy a stunt and even have an emotional reaction. But in many cases (not all) I feel their work is less about the brand and more about the joke.
And if that ‘just makes me like them,’ that can be enough. I ended up a big fan of the Burger King campaign, for example, despite its fragmented history (it started as an almost manifesto-esque “Have It Your Way” reprise that recalled the early Mini advertising, then became a bunchy of goofy stunts both memorable and not). By the time they lost the account, their work had steadily and reliably amused its target audience, and eventually just sort of seemed to represent the Burger King brand’s willingness to go for it.
Back to Applebee’s. I submit that, as much as I thank them for making ads that have a wry sense of humor and improve on the old stuff, these ads are all obvious strategy + old jokes. When they do amuse, it’s a brief credit to the actors or a throwaway bit of copy. In the end, the ads don’t seem connected to anything I already know or believe about Applebee’s, and don’t convincingly persuade me to change any of my opinions about the restaurant.
I can picture the meetings. These ads make sense. But they don’t convince, and they don’t do the basic job that funny ads are supposed to do and ‘just make me like them.’ They’re too responsible. They’re pleasant. They’re (no creative wants you to say this about their work) cute.
That’s my final word on the subject: these ads are pleasant and cute.
Who are they for again? Chili’s? O’Charley’s? Ruby Tuesday’s?
Looking forward to CP+B’s upcoming big work for Arby’s. They’re doing that with their Burger King CMO friend.