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 television...you 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.

To visit Jugular (our agency) click here

16 comments:

Laura "Pistachio" Fitton said...

Nice writeup.

I'm impressed how they set up every conceivable social media account. They currently OWN their Google SERP for PJBlands, including an adwords buy. Will be really curious to see how this unfolds.

Scott Lackey said...

Hi Pistachio:

Thanks for your comment. Absolutely right. The AdWords campaign alone is hilarious. Beyond their own names, search the word "bland" and they've even bought that.

Best,
Scott

Rachel Blum said...

Of course, it would help if Chili's actually were, you know, not bland ;)

Scott Lackey said...

Rachel:

Thanks for the comment. Of course, don't forget the irony that they're likely setting up a comparison between Chili's and corrugated food. (If you take the campaign literally rather than metaphorically).

Does that set the bar on the ground? Or below ground? ;)

Best,
Scott

Rachel Blum said...

Well, it's certainly at a level that would make limbo dancing a health risk.

Of course, maybe they actually do something about that. I'd appreciate it - both BJ's and Chili's are frequent lunch choices around here... Competition in the taste department would be nice.

Susan Fitzgerald said...

I'm going to look at who you follow. I didn't see this on my Twitter stream.

Brilliant idea! Love it when brands realize that people have brains and we will follow them if they will just engage us.

Thanks for your great post!

Scott Lackey said...

Rachel:

That's been one of the leading criticisms so far in AdAge this morning.

Thanks for your comment.

Scott

Scott Lackey said...

Susan:

Thanks for the comment.

I agree. I'm more likely to eat at a casual dining restaurant if they project a sense of wit and fun. If you haven't found him, try @PJBlands on Twitter.

Bob Garfield certainly didn't like the campaign (..."enough to make you lose your lunch.") in this A.M.'s Ad Age. Oh well. He didn't see the entire effort. http://adage.com/garfield/post?article_id=135948

Best,
Scott

Merrill Davis said...

Well Rachel seeing as I'm actually a Flattop cook for Chilis, I find our food actually has a lot of flavor. Of course it changed from restaurant to restaurant, and the fact that you may be getting some snot nosed kid who just doesn't care to do his job right.

I hope that you do find a Chili's experiance that makes you feel better about the food there seeing as I do take pride in it. I think the Ad campaign is actually quite imaginative.

Ellerton Whitney said...

Chili's is just another boring chain. It's no different from Applebees or TGI Friday's. This would be a great campaign for a restaurant that could actually stand behind the point of differentiation that they are not bland. But Chili's? Too much Web 2.0/Social Media hype going on and not enough product development.

Amy said...

Great write up! I think this is the most creative campaign I've seen in awhile, integrating social media in unique ways and surprising us jaded consumers. Did you notice that if you spend enough time on the pjblands web site, a "peel" for Chili's appears on the left-hand side of the site? Exceptional. And I disagree with your criticism of the TV buy...I was actually watching SNL that night and (thanks to my fav TIVO) I fast-forward through most commercials. I actually rewound because i assumed that the pjblands spot WAS an SNL spoof spot and I didn't want to miss it...so i watched it much more closely than i would have a "normal" spot. Brilliant media buy if you ask me.

Scott Lackey said...

Hi Merrill:

Thanks for the visit and your comment. I admire anyone who does your job. As for the "snot nosed kid" reference, so prescient given the YouTube Domino's fiasco this week.

Best,
Scott

Scott Lackey said...

Ellerton:

Thanks for the visit and your comment. Chili's just launched 7 for under $7 dishes to support the program. Anyone tasted them yet?

If your name is Chili's it's a great direction...provided you can deliver.

Best,
Scott

Scott Lackey said...

Hi Amy:

Thanks for the visit and glad you liked the post. No, I haven't seen the "peel" on the site. I'll look for it.

And good point about Tivo...didn''t think of that. But, for the live audience I still wish the Chili's close had been up a bit longer. You'd be amazed by how many people don't catch subtleties.

Best,
Scott

Best,
Scott

Amy said...

true...but the magic is in the subtlety on this campaign...like you, i can't wait to see what else they have planned.

julia said...

Bleh! I never will eat at PJ Blands! Its cardboard! I hope noone might ever eat there