Friday, March 14, 2008

The Art of Predictable Headlines

Warning: I'm about to get a little pedantic here. The reason? This Sargento cheese ad, which commits so many advertising sins that it's a veritable compendium of lessons on how not to write an ad:

Let's just go down the list of the features of this magazine ad:
- Lazy headline that was cool back in 1981? Check.
- Image and signature of woefully unattractive owner? Check.
- Excruciating paragraph of boilerplate food copy? Check.
- Shots of, presumably, entire line of products? Check.
- Online call-out? Check.
- Overall busy layout? Check.
- Retarded slogan? Oh, God, check.

How, exactly, did this ad come to be? Were the Sargento people just thinking, "Nice ad. We like the three different backgrounds all frankensteined together like that. Wait, let's add the picture of the owner. Wait! And make sure the fake-looking grapes make it back in. And, wait!! How will they know it's hand-crafted? Let's add in a huge, scripted 'handcrafted' in the middle of that landscape. Perfect."

What part of this ad does Sargento think makes me want to buy cheese? No single component of this ad is that unforgivable, but the fact that it's effectively 8 different print ads compiled into one overall piece of excrement makes the whole far, far more painful than the sum of its parts.

The headline in particular, "Experience the Art of Cheese" is pathetic. "The Art of blank" is one of the most obvious and overplayed creative devices in all of advertising. Copywriters everywhere simply need to retire this line for the next hundred years.

And then there's the slogan --

Persnickety People. Exceptional Cheese.

Okay, I get the feeling that it was Lou Gentine, second generation owner of Sargento Cheese, who dreamed this baby up. Or at least I hope it was him, and not someone who gets paid to write. The first definition of "Persnickety" is, "overparticular; fussy," and the second definition is, "snobbish or having the aloof attitude of a snob." Awesome. It might as well just be:

Snobby Dicks. Exceptional... Who the Fuck Cares.

It really doesn't matter what you say after you use the word "persnickety" in a 21st century ad -- you've already convinced me I don't want your product.

If anyone else hates this ad, I encourage you to write to Sargento. The one catch is that you'll have to spell out their obnoxious address: 1 Persnickety Pl, Plymouth, WI. I'm not even kidding about that. They took that slogan and just ran with it, didn't they? I guess Sargento just loves overdoing things, whether it's packing every last bit of selling copy into an ad until it looks like a third grader's random magazine collage, or actually naming a street "Persnickety." I sure hope that cheese really is exceptional, for their sake.


Dana said...

I wasn't wearing my glasses, so when I saw the bottom slogan I thought it said "Remember People, Exceptional Cheese" which compared to what it really says is actually better.

Windier E. Megatons said...

I was so sure you were kidding about that address, even after you said you weren't, that I googled "Sargento" to find their website. Thank God I wasn't at work at the time, since it popped up a bunch of image results from Spanish language sites of like this female drill sergeant who posed for Playboy or something.

Anyway, you weren't kidding about the address. Good God. I hope no one else lives on that street.

Anonymous said...

you have far too much negative time on your hands- I think it's a great ad for a great cheese- you must be one of the ones who eats processed plastic wrapped fake cheese that claims to contain 2% milk-"whoohoo" and have nothing better to do but to disect commercials- get out there and live your life- I'm personally fussy about my cheese and thing ad is perfect!

Quivering P. Landmass said...

Hey, Lou Gentine, second generation owner of Sargento -- thanks for reading the blog!

Oh, and FYI? I actually really enjoy cheese. And Sargento is absolute shit, okay? I eat 10-year old aged sharp cheddar from a local cheese factory in rural Wisconsin. If I want mozzarella, I buy fresh, water-packed mozzarella from Whole Foods. Blah, blah blah...

If you think Sargento is, like, gourmet cheese? You are an idiot. Which, sorry, you are anyway, because the whole "get a life" thing is a sign of complete ignorance of the concept of blogging.


Anonymous said...

Heehee. I think they changed their slogan ...

Anonymous said...

Looks like you've successfully led a long term campaign against the tyrannical cheese overlords. No longer do they use persnickety in their slogan. For today, at least, good has triumphed over evil.