Sometimes you just have to cringe. Of course every ad campaign wants to differentiate itself from the rest, but it's how ad agencies go about achieving that goal that sinks more than a few well-intentioned efforts. No one will fault True Value, a retailer-owned hardware cooperative, and its ad agency Marc USA/Chicago, for trying to separate the hardware chain from the rest of the pack in a category where there is a lot of competition that advertises quite heavily. Hello Lowe's and Home Depot.
True Value apparently has determined that spotlighting its store clerks is a smart way to differentiate itself, though we recall Home Depot has, in the past, gone a similar route. A couple of new True Value spots breaking this week seek to have fun with the fact the aforementioned clerks -- known in True Value parlance as "associates" -- are remarkably knowledgeable and even more astoundingly aggressive about demonstrating their vast store of information -- even to the point where they seem a bit smarmy about it.
The back-and-forth banter between associate and customer in each of the True Value spots is clearly intended to be amusing. And it is -- in a mild sort of way. But what finally upends this particular campaign is that real clinker of a campaign theme line -- "Masters of All Things Hardwarian" -- that comes at the end of each commercial and is highly visible in various print and outdoor executions. Hardwarian? Could Marc USA have found a more awkward, off-putting neologism? We don't think so. If this is meant to be clever, please give us dumb and simple instead.
We are perfectly willing to consider that premise that True Value has well-informed sales assistants, but we don't need to have it summed up in a theme line that simply makes the whole subject of customer service sound totally absurd.
Lew's view: C+