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Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

Recently in Walter E. Smithe Furniture Category

Mark Smithe Ice Fishing.jpgWe've come to expect the delightfully unexpected from the the Smithe brothers of furniture empire fame, at least when it comes to their advertising initiatives. And their newest spot, set to debut during the Vancouver Winter Olympics opening ceremonies Friday night, is indeed just that. Rather than fashion a new commercial around a sport that has a high profile in the winter Olympics, the Smithes chose curling, which many Chicagoans probably know little or nothing about.

Not that the new Smithe furniture spot will help explain the sport to viewers. But it will give Chicagoans ample opportunity to watch the Smithe brothers act up on ice, which is where the sport of curling is played. There are lots of plays on words in the ad's script, which Tim Smithe, the marketing guru among the the three brothers, no doubt had a hand in crafting. And there's even a reference to that most au courant of topics -- Asian carp. The Smithe's veteran ad production executive Bill O'Neil has done his usual expert job of making the spot look great too.

Smithe Babies 3.jpgGood news for some in the ad world at the Chicago/Midwest Emmy Awards ceremony last Saturday at the Park West. Lou Beres & Associates/Chicago won a Emmy Award in the public service campaign category for its "Click It or Ticket" campaign for the Illinois Department of Transportation's traffic safety division. The campaign was designed to break through to an audience of offenders (primarily young adults) and remind them that cops are there watching, even at night. "The idea was to portray cops and enforcement in a friendly manner that underscores their dedication to a motorist's safety," explained Lou Beres & Associates Chief Creative Officer Andy Madorsky.

And the Walter E. Smithe furniture company and its marketing titan Tim Smithe picked up the Chicago/Midwest Emmy for best TV commercial for a spot that had all three Smithe brothers sitting in baby high chairs. The winning commercial is but one in a long line of outrageously creative spots produced by the Smithe company. In his acceptance speech, Tim Smithe thanked commercial director Bill O'Neil for "making TV magic." Smithe also quoted the character Donald Draper from the "Mad Men" TV series in pointing out that "advertising is distilling a company's communication down to its essence."

jesse white1.JPGTim Smithe thinks it's the Smithe furniture empire's "prettiest" commercial to date. That may be, but the new spot featuring the three by-now-iconic furniture mavens is certainly not their most inspired bit of marketing lunacy. This newest Walter E. Smithe Furniture spot just now breaking has the three brothers sitting with Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White on a couch in front of Chicago's famed Buckingham Fountain. Though it's hardly a key point in the new spot, the couch on which all are seated is from the company's new Pierre Deux French Country furniture collection.

At the top of the spot we see the three Smithe brothers start mouthing French to each other as subtitles at the bottom of the screen seem to offer a translation of what the boys are saying. But anyone with even a passing familiarity with French will quickly realize what the Smithe boys are saying doesn't remotely jive with the translation -- a gimmick that creates confusion in the mind of the viewer. What's worse,though, is that it isn't funny. In any event, White suddenly mutters something in French too as the camera catches White's famed tumbling team waiting in the wings -- as it were. On cue, they start trampolining over the men seated on the couch. It's a fairly impressive feat -- exquisitely captured against a bright blue sky and the Chicago loop skyline.

But alas, the beauty of these visuals doesn't make up for the fact the commercial lost us at the beginning with all the French-speaking schtick. Still, some good will come out of the spot -- the Smithe brothers are supporting both the Buckingham Fountain restoration and the Jesse White Tumbling Team -- an organization that dates back to 1959, when it was founded as a juvenile delinquency prevention program.

Lew's view: B-

Smithes Zamboni front.JPGThey're back. Well they never really left. We're talking, of course, about the Smithe brothers -- Walter, Tim and Mark -- of furniture fame. They and their often off-the-wall television commercials are nearly always visible on some television station. Tim Smith, the middle brother, orchestrates the advertising for the Walter E. Smithe furniture empire, and he likes to play off of hot popular culture events of the moment. And we mean "popular culture" in the broadest possible sense. Right now, the Chicago Blackhawks are a hot commodity as they remain in the playoffs for the Stanley Cup. So Tim Smithe has seen to it that the latest Walter E. Smithe commercial breaking today is in part designed to cheer on the team, while paying tribute to several hockey Hall of Famers, including Dennis Savard, Tony Esposito and Stan Mikita.

These legendary figures appear on ice in their Blackhawks jerseys alongside the so-called "sofa hall of famers," while a debate ensues about who is going to play against whom. It's all handled with a very tongue-in-cheek touch that stops just short of collapsing into utter silliness, even though the spot does end with the Smithe boys being pulled around the rink by a Zamboni ice resurfacer.

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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Walter E. Smithe Furniture category.

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