Last year, I wrote a post called the Bunker Ad Critic that took a light-hearted look at some TV commercials that I found a little baffling. The idea was to explore commercials that seemed annoying or even creepy then try to discern the strategy that led to them or, failing that, simply to make fun of them.
I recently saw a commercial that single-handedly made me decide to revive the Ad Critic feature and write a follow-up piece. Several weeks ago, while I was watching TV, Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider burst onto my screen in this commercial spot:
While the sight of Dee in his old makeup was jarring enough on its own, it was nothing compared to the shock I felt upon realizing it was an ad for Stanley Steemer. I had to come to grips with the fact that somebody thought it would be a good idea to make Dee Snider the pitchman for a floor cleaning service.
My initial reaction was, “That is one of the most laughably bad commercials I have ever seen!” My second thought, was, “Dee Snider must be broke and desperate for money if he’s now singing Stanley Steemer jingles.” But then a funny thing happened. As much as I didn’t like the execution of the commercial, I found myself talking to my friends about it. Some of them liked it and thought it was funny, others echoed the sentiment about how it was just a sign that Snider must need money. Regardless of the merits of the commercial itself, Stanley Steemer had succeeded in making me and some other people think about them a lot more than we otherwise would have.
I suppose what really kept me thinking about the commercial was that it essentially told me that I (or perhaps my long-suffering wife) fit the profile of someone who Stanley Steemer currently considers to be their target customer. You see, I was 16 when Twisted Sister was on the charts with their anthems of teen rebellion. I owned their album “Stay Hungry” and played it loud, just like the rest of my knucklehead friends did. To this day I still vividly remember my father looking at the album cover after I bought it and then looking up at me like he was wondering where he had gone wrong as a parent, and perhaps pondering if he should ship me off to military school. But I digress. The point is that the people who grew up listening to Dee Snider’s music are now in their 40s and at the stage in life where they own houses filled with kids and pets and clumsy adults who make messes. In that sense, the spot would seem to be grounded in some pretty sound demographic and ethnographic assumptions.
Still, I’m not sure Snider is the best possible Generation X icon to speak to the intended audience. I strongly suspect that a significant portion of Stanley Steemer’s users are women. Based on my memory, Twisted Sister was a band that tended to appeal a lot more to teenage guys than to teenage girls back in the day. I can’t help but wonder why a more female-friendly spokesperson wasn’t chosen. It must be that Rick Springfield didn’t need the money.