Canadian restaurant ad almost impressive in its layers of wrong

Posted on Tue Dec 1 2009

This ad for a Canadian restaurant chain called Swiss Chalet has been getting a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons. The sentiment is best expressed by Scott Stratten, who writes on his blog: "I recently saw the 'Rudolph Swiss Chalet' commercial that turned me off so much from the place that I've dined at countless times it actually turns me off the brand." YouTube commenters generally agreed that the ad's creepy. After watching it a few times, I think I've figured out what's wrong with it:
  1. The acting. The girl is supposed to be wary, but she seems to be expressing revulsion. The guy is trying too hard, which may fit the character, but the combination of the two leads you to wonder what the backstory is.
  2. Unresolved plot details. How long was this guy gone? It seems like he hasn't checked in with the woman since she was a child. Where has he been? (Stratten suggests jail.) How come she doesn't remember her "favorite place"? Did she block it out?
  3. The ketchup thing is just weird. (If you dare, peruse the YouTube comments for a horrible interpretation of what that's about.) Why couldn't he have gotten a salad and done the Rudolph routine with a cherry tomato?
  4. The setup is all wrong. It looks like they're on a date or something. I realize they wanted to show that this was the girl's long-forgotten "favorite place," but if they started the action inside the restaurant and had the dialogue tell the story, it probably would have worked better.
  That said, what's really wrong with the ad is that it's sad. The girl seems depressed, and it's heart-wrenching to contemplate what kept them apart so long and why they're so tentative around each other. Did he molest her? Was it divorce? Did the mother die? This is a lot to consider in a 30-second ad. I agree with Stratten that it turns you off the brand. In the end, though, I feel bad for the advertiser, which is spending good money to put this vibe out there. Unless, of course, this is a brilliant viral campaign meant to create a buzz. In that case, well done!

—Posted by Todd Wasserman


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