Thursday, April 9, 2009

PJ Bland's (Chili's) New Campaign: Social Media and TV Spot Attacks Boring Casual Dining Chains.

A terrific new spoof campaign was launched today that reaches across the world of social media from a website to Twitter to Flickr to YouTube to Howcast--and many more-- about a fictitious (and ubiquitous) corrugated burger/casual dining chain called P.J. Blands. Yup, ubiquitous. Wonder who that refers to?

I found it on my Twitter stream this afternoon as @PJBlands engaged many of the Twitter elite that I follow in comic repartee about it's "bland" food (please click to enlarge to full screen):

This led to a terrific, expensive, and well executed web page which signaled you weren't in Kansas anymore--but you were dealing with a sophisticated company mounting a major campaign and putting some serious dollars behind it. Featuring a bland (of course) pitchman , the site is deep and filled with video links to food stylists, the history of the company and more.
Take a look by clicking here.

Or...take a look at this new "behind the scenes " YouTube video on the filming of their newest commercial.

There are still shots on Flickr which set up the line of attack on burgers very clearly:

And there are numerous other specialized sites on the list too..some empty shells waiting to receive P.J. Bland's ammo.

What's the point you say? The campaign is being run by Brinker International, who owns Chili's Grill & Bar, On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina and Maggiano's Little Italy.

Why advertise cardboard fast food? To set up a straw man strategy that their "high flavor restaurants" offer an alternative. P.J. Bland's = the good, old boring burger chain/casual dining restaurant devoid of flavor (hyperbolically corrugated cardboard) versus a "hot" and "spicy" alternative. Where does Maggiano's fit? We'll see. Maybe not.

Smart start. Let's see how it rolls out and how the Chili's, On the Border and (maybe) Maggiano's brands enter the fray. The web site promises a spot on this week's Saturday Night Live (4/11). Perhaps the battle will start there.

Update: Sunday 4/12 at 12:41 AM. P.J. Bland's did run a spot on Saturday Night Live (SNL) tonight. P.J. Bland wandered about a "casual dining" restaurant showing his bland, cardboard entrees and interacting with customers and showing his entrees.

Update: Sunday 4/12 at 1:35. Here's the the YouTube "PJ Bland's Official SNL Commercial" spot which I was sent directly from PJ Bland on Twitter a few moments ago (with a kind note thanking me for "the great coverage.") They work late at P.J. Bland's. But this isn't the actual Chili's spot that aired on SNL because the jokes never stop with P.J. Bland. I'll get to that. Take a look first.

What's missing is the ending from Chili's, the real sponsor. Why? Because the real spot that aired is ultimately critical of bland food. The actual SNL spot THAT AIRED ends with a wham, as a bright red Chili's logo is quickly stamped on the screen--together with a flavor line. I'm looking for the an embed code to post the spot that actually aired here. It will be up as soon as I find it.

Monday 2:10 pm. Someone helpful (you guess) just sent me the actual Chili's Saturday Night Live spot: Take a look:

So at this point the P.J. Bland's campaign looks like strawman campaign only for Chili's, without reference to any other Brinker International restaurants (especially On the Border).

A problem I had with the media buy is that the spot appeared in position 1A, the first spot immediately following the opening monologue. Frequently, spoof spots appear there. The P.J. Bland's spot appeared as if it was a SNL spoof, particularly since the Chili's logo appeared for such a short period of time that many people may have missed it.

So...despite the massive social media plan there's still a role for bet. Why. The number of eyeballs and the ability to build reach quickly.

Let's see what follows. My bet...more detailed Chili's spots building the comparison. And more fun stunts.

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