Value, Quality, and Freedom of Choice

 

Twenty four years ago, the Sizzler restaurant chain came out with a new ad campaign that — thanks to the magic of YouTube — is trending on Facebook now. Watch it. It’s something else.

Aside from the sailor needing a haircut, to get his hands out of his pockets, and to find the undershirt he obviously lost while out on liberty with that young lady, there is a lot to love about the ad. It screams wholesome American values. It’s heavy on the baseball and apple pie imagery that are our nation’s clichés, but it started me wondering if such a thing is even possible today.

The ad’s themes are freedom, individual liberty, choice, and quality of personal experience. Was it really only so few years ago that these concepts were considered advertising gold rather than nostalgic kitsch ? Would a business in today’s America think freedom and choice were the buzzwords to attract customers, or would those words only conjure up images of the growing social chasms among the citizens? Burger King once proclaimed you could “have it your way,” and Sizzler sold itself as providing “a little freedom in your life,” but I cannot imagine such language being taken seriously in our nation where rights — even the right to be wrong — seem to disappear faster than the fried shrimp at a buffet.

There are 41 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Jimmy Carter Member

    Apparently Sizzler was on the cutting edge of culture catering gay wedding receptions.

    • #1
    • April 15, 2015, at 7:38 PM PDT
    • Like
  2. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    I preferred Golden Coral anyway…

    • #2
    • April 15, 2015, at 7:40 PM PDT
    • Like
  3. Gary McVey Contributor

    The King Prawn

    The whole theme is freedom, individual liberty and choice, and quality of personal experience. Was it really only so few years ago that such concepts were advertising gold but stir only nostalgia today? 

    Freedom, individual liberty and choice, and quality of personal experience are still powerful advertising themes, Prawn, more than ever, but now applied to sex rather than a full salad bar.

    I get your point, though. After eight years of Reagan and four of Bush I, culture had backed way, way off the do-your-own-thing individualism of the early Seventies to a different, more constructive understanding of individualism. If 2017-2029 were Republican years, could culture change again? Sure.

    • #3
    • April 15, 2015, at 7:43 PM PDT
    • Like
  4. Jimmy Carter Member

    Gary McVey:

    I get your point, though. After eight years of Reagan and four of Bush I, culture had backed way, way off the do-your-own-thing individualism of the early Seventies to a different, more constructive understanding of individualism. If 2017-2029 were Republican years, could culture change again? Sure.

    Agreed. Such a culture emanates from the top down and We ain’t got it currently.

    • #4
    • April 15, 2015, at 7:46 PM PDT
    • Like
  5. Probable Cause Inactive

    Two comments:

    1. Oh, the hair!

    2. While watching, I could almost hear the lady from the country bar in The Blues Brothers:

    “What kind of people do you have here in the Sizzler?”

    “We have both kinds! Black, and white!”

    • #5
    • April 15, 2015, at 7:59 PM PDT
    • Like
  6. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Oh, the hair! is right. I was transfixed by the styles in the video.

    • #6
    • April 15, 2015, at 8:04 PM PDT
    • Like
  7. Eustace C. Scrubb Member

    Where did they run a 4 and a half minute commercial?

    • #7
    • April 15, 2015, at 8:16 PM PDT
    • Like
  8. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Gary McVey

    The King Prawn

    The whole theme is freedom, individual liberty and choice, and quality of personal experience. Was it really only so few years ago that such concepts were advertising gold but stir only nostalgia today? 

    Freedom, individual liberty and choice, and quality of personal experience are still powerful advertising themes, Prawn, more than ever, but now applied to sex rather than a full salad bar.

    I get your point, though. After eight years of Reagan and four of Bush I, culture had backed way, way off the do-your-own-thing individualism of the early Seventies to a different, more constructive understanding of individualism. If 2017-2029 were Republican years, could culture change again? Sure.

    I hope you’re right, but it seems we’ve traded in the concept of liberty for one of license. I can’t imagine the word “wholesome” being effective today.

    • #8
    • April 15, 2015, at 8:16 PM PDT
    • Like
  9. Pencilvania Inactive

    An interesting and thoughtful post. KP, your notes about the sailor are hilarious.

    Gary’s comment is spot on. I’ve always put a heavy helping of blame on Clinton, with his notorious indiscretions with Lewinsky et al, for erasing much of the stigma of that behavior in the mind of the public. One reason I was so behind Romney was because I felt he would be a sterling and vocal role model for restoring traditional culture.

    I too think if we elected a solid Republican who wasn’t afraid to actively praise traditional values, it would help the country enormously. I still see some of the themes expressed in this commercial in current ads – but they are mostly ads for trucks & SUVS – ‘red state’ purchases.

    • #9
    • April 16, 2015, at 3:46 AM PDT
    • Like
  10. River Inactive

    A cultural milestone to be sure, and not a pretty one. At 4:42 long, who did they think was going to see it? The captive audience at a high school? A 30-second TV commercial costs tens of thousands of dollars.

    My research shows they started out with one Culver City restaurant in 1958, and had their heyday in the ’80’s. I stopped going there when I realized I was always getting gristly, leather-tough meat.

    They filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1996, closing 140 of 215 locations.

    • #10
    • April 16, 2015, at 4:37 AM PDT
    • Like
  11. thelonious Member

    The crusty old sailor sitting next to the little girl kind of creeped me out. I’m convinced all the hairspray that was used in the late 80’s and early 90’s caused a few holes in the ozone layer. Forget about going after the oil companies, Aquanet needs to be held accountable for all the enviromental damage they’ve done.

    • #11
    • April 16, 2015, at 5:48 AM PDT
    • Like
  12. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    A four-minute commercial? For a restaurant?

    No, a four-freaking-minute-long commercial would not be produced today by any sane marketer.

    • #12
    • April 16, 2015, at 6:17 AM PDT
    • Like
  13. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    River:I stopped going there when I realized I was always getting gristly, leather-tough meat.

    “I got the recipe from the Utility Grade Meat Council.”

    “They do good work.”

    • #13
    • April 16, 2015, at 6:19 AM PDT
    • Like
  14. FightinInPhilly Thatcher

    oh- what a glorious train wreck! I loved it. And I finally get to put my years in NY advertising to work on Ricochet. Here are couple of useful clarifications:

    1. this wasn’t for broadcast- it was what we called a “tone piece.” It was internal corporate propaganda that was likely used for board meetings, company retreats, meetings with suppliers, shareholders, etc. It probably also played on a loop in the headquarter’s lobby and drove some poor secretary to drink.

    2. a lot of what you are reacting to is the style, not the substance. (which is why advertising can be so powerful) The painfully slow camera moves, the sheer length of the shots, the horrible hairstyles, etc drives you to think “what’s going on here?” Our tastes have changed in 25 years so it feels foreign. That said, I suspect even in 1991 people were falling out of their chairs about how bad this was.

    3. Our personal bar for authenticity, for people to be “real” is at an all time high. That sailor wasn’t remotely a sailor, that little girl had never swung a bat, that cowboy put his hat on the girl and then realized he couldn’t kiss her- it was awkward and bad all around. (the woman licking her lips needs to be escorted out of Sizzler). As an aside, this is why politics has become harder than ever.

    All in all, if you transcribed the script and tweaked the style, all the values sustain. Check out this recent Ram Truck ad– which ran for a solid TWO MINUTES at the 2014 SuperBowl and stopped me in tracks. I don’t think anyone rolled their eyes at this- it was done right.

    • #14
    • April 16, 2015, at 6:34 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. Shawn Buell (Majestyk) Contributor

    The best part was the Gorton’s Fisherman at the beginning – he obviously was catching the “fresh” fish that was being served up later.

    Also, sweat girl… not allowed in the Sizzler. Those sneeze-guards around the Italian Bar can’t keep out those quantities of perspiration.

    This commercial is one of the more ghastly pieces of promotional material I’ve ever seen. I wonder what Mark Steyn or Lileks would do to it.

    • #15
    • April 16, 2015, at 6:35 AM PDT
    • Like
  16. Titus Techera Contributor

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWyHNsKTIlM

    • #16
    • April 16, 2015, at 6:37 AM PDT
    • Like
  17. Mike H Coolidge

    The King Prawn: Burger King once proclaimed you could “have it your way,” and Sizzler sold itself as providing “a little freedom in your life,” but I cannot imagine such language being taken seriously…

    It’s a little hard to sell freedom seriously when the internet and unbelievable wealth (in what’s available to purchase) compared to the 90’s gives the middle class more freedom than they know what to do with already.

    • #17
    • April 16, 2015, at 6:45 AM PDT
    • Like
  18. Mike H Coolidge

    FightinInPhilly:oh- what a glorious train wreck! I loved it. And I finally get to put my years in NY advertising to work on Ricochet. Here are couple of useful clarifications:

    1. this wasn’t for broadcast- it was what we called a “tone piece.” It was internal corporate propaganda that was likely used for board meetings, company retreats, meetings with suppliers, shareholders, etc. It probably also played on a loop in the headquarter’s lobby and drove some poor secretary to drink.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7rypEv47Vo

    • #18
    • April 16, 2015, at 6:50 AM PDT
    • Like
  19. Casey Inactive

    Misthiocracy:A four-minute commercial? For a restaurant?

    No, a four-freaking-minute-long commercial would not be produced today by any sane marketer.

    Forget the length, people! The speed. Pick up the pace!

    • #19
    • April 16, 2015, at 7:08 AM PDT
    • Like
  20. Rick Beideman Inactive

    I could not make it through the whole thing. I particularly hated the music.

    • #20
    • April 16, 2015, at 7:27 AM PDT
    • Like
  21. Steve C. Member

    Interesting. I didn’t realize they changed their format. We were fairly regular Sizzler customers when we lived in New Orleans. It was a great place to take a date my fiancee, because, you know, reasonably priced STEAK!

    The format was steak, potato and I think a self serve salad bar. The steaks had color coded picks (rare, med rare etc), with the steak on a metal plate insert. I seem to remember you picked up your order at a service window. I haven’t been to one since the 1980s because I have no memory of alternatives like pasta or fish and a server bringing your order.

    The old Sizzler on Carrollton Ave in New Orleans is still there but it hasn’t been a Sizzler since the 1990s.

    • #21
    • April 16, 2015, at 7:37 AM PDT
    • Like
  22. Mr. Dart Inactive

    I ate lunch at a Sizzler in Alameda, CA right around that time in the early 90’s. There were lots of real sailors there as I recall and if any kid had wandered in with a Dondi haircut wearing that Halloween costume sailor suit like in the film he well might have gotten as heavily tenderized as a Sizzler strip steak.

    Secondly, if any young lady at that Sizzler had looked like and possessed the attitude of the woman at 2:16 & 2:50 in the promotional film I’m quite sure I would have returned to the Alameda Sizzler. Alas, no one did so I never went back.

    Here’s what an actual Sizzler TV looked like in 1990. Not much like their internal imaging, but the “freedom” point is made. Albeit a tad more subtly.

    • #22
    • April 16, 2015, at 7:42 AM PDT
    • Like
  23. thelonious Member

    Steve C.:Interesting. I didn’t realize they changed their format. We were fairly regular Sizzler customers when we lived in New Orleans. It was a great place to take a date my fiancee, because, you know, reasonably priced STEAK!

    Wait!! You lived in one of the great culinary capitals of the world and you ate at Sizzler?!!! This is a crime against humanity! :>

    • #23
    • April 16, 2015, at 8:25 AM PDT
    • Like
  24. Miffed White Male Member

    Even in 1991 the Sizzler was a punchline for coastal types – it’s where the Conners (Roseanne Barr sitcom) went when they wanted a fancy dinner.

    Kind of like the Olive Garden today.

    • #24
    • April 16, 2015, at 8:47 AM PDT
    • Like
  25. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    Even in 1991 the Sizzler was a punchline for coastal types – it’s where the Conners (Roseanne Barr sitcom) went when they wanted a fancy dinner.

    The cultural reference is made in Happy Gilmore as well when the saboteur offers to take Shooter McGavin to the Sizzler (and also Red Lobster) to celebrate.

    • #25
    • April 16, 2015, at 8:52 AM PDT
    • Like
  26. MikeHs Inactive

    thelonious:

    Steve C.:Interesting. I didn’t realize they changed their format. We were fairly regular Sizzler customers when we lived in New Orleans. It was a great place to take a date my fiancee, because, you know, reasonably priced STEAK!

    Wait!! You lived in one of the great culinary capitals of the world and you ate at Sizzler?!!! This is a crime against humanity! :>

    True confessions – I must have ate at that Carrollton Sizzler at least once , ’cause sometimes you just want something like that, no fuss, no muss. Yeah, but, ya got a lot of options there; “yeah, you rite!”

    • #26
    • April 16, 2015, at 9:08 AM PDT
    • Like
  27. FightinInPhilly Thatcher

    Upon further viewing (yes- it’s that kind of day) I realize that another massive problem is that rather than actually employing slow motion technology, they’ve made these actors ACT slow motion. It’s just horrible to watch them try and slow down their natural movement and stretch the shot for a full 3-5 seconds.

    • #27
    • April 16, 2015, at 9:59 AM PDT
    • Like
  28. Gary McVey Contributor

    Older films and TV shows take, by modern standards, a heck of a long time to get to the point. Recently I saw the 1960 “Ocean’s Eleven” again–always a fun film–and it takes nearly 40 minutes, about a third of the total, before you’re told that the movie is about a Vegas heist. Now it would be clear before you were a minute into the opening credits.

    • #28
    • April 16, 2015, at 10:17 AM PDT
    • Like
  29. Casey Inactive

    Gary McVey:Older films and TV shows take, by modern standards, a heck of a long time to get to the point. Recently I saw the 1960 “Ocean’s Eleven” again–always a fun film–and it takes nearly 40 minutes, about a third of the total, before you’re told that the movie is about a Vegas heist. Now it would be clear before you were a minute into the opening credits.

    I don’t watch movies because I don’t have patience to get through that minute.

    • #29
    • April 16, 2015, at 10:41 AM PDT
    • Like
  30. Jimmy Carter Member

    Upon further reflection,

    Would a business in today’s America think freedom and choice were the buzzwords to attract customers,

    Yes. Remember Dodge Ram with Paul Harvey’s voice over from just a few years ago? The response was deeply positive; short lived only due to the counter reaction. Also, that Cadillac commercial explaining how bad ass Americans are and deserve quality cars, because We earn ’em. Again, the response was deeply positive; short lived only due to the counter reaction.

    I think these display a yearning for such attitudes, but can’t sustain the energy because culturally We “feel” We are outnumbered (when in reality We ain’t).

    • #30
    • April 16, 2015, at 11:06 AM PDT
    • Like
  1. 1
  2. 2