Arby’s, the fast food chain probably best known for their sliced roast beef sandwiches, has circulated a new commercial for their 2014 campaign. Fast food companies generally allocate mountains of funding to back crowd-pleasing campaigns. In a controversial industry, its imperative to sustain a positive public image. Judging by competitors’ campaigns, that’s usually achieved through a combination of appeals to emotion, humour, and the “cool” factor. Titled, “We Have the Meats”, the commercial lacks all of these things and appears nearly as tiring as that “s” on “Meats”. As a stickler for the clean, sharp, and simple, commercials of this nature are normally higher in my books if well executed. What’s lacking here is a creative edge, drowned by a reliance on the “epic” male voiceover. It’s so painfully overdone at this point, if given the choice, I would opt for rusty nails on a rustier chalkboard.
In the commercial, we are greeted by the thud of falling slabs of meat landing on a cutting board in front of what is assumed to be an Arby’s chef. The commercial is framed with a close-up to start, slowly panning out in a single, drawn out shot. Nearing the end, a slider of 4 sandwiches is pushed out by the chef, aligning with the meat, assumed to correspond with the slabs they are placed in front of. This all takes place in front of a white backdrop, forcing visual focus on the meat and decadence of the sandwiches, as the chef’s white uniform offers little distraction. The deep, manly voiceover talks throughout the commercial, attempting to give it that “epic” (I hate that word) style that we see time and time again in contemporary advertising, especially internet-based advertising geared towards young men.
Visually speaking, the commercial is purposefully understated. This was likely done to emphasize the voiceover as the slow, widening shot and minimalist visual elements force the viewer to pay closer attention to the auditory cues. This isn’t a strike-out by nature, but what doesn’t work well, at least personally speaking, is how the simplicity of the shot is never saved by the voiceover. Your senses are cornered with boredom.
“Every meal is a victory meal”. Oh, brother. The commercial is trying to reel in the “men” via exploiting the “primal nature” narrative. “You sit atop the food chain, and these meats are your prize”. Does anyone else not pick up on the disconnection here with a fast food company trying to make the consumer feel like they earned their meal (omitting earning in the economic sense)? It’s arguably one of the least strenuous ways you could nourish a body. It’s also a little disconcerting considering all the ethical debates we don’t need to enter. It’s almost saying, “here, this mystery meat congealed behind bolted doors and barbed wire fences is your reward for surviving during the pinnacle of humanity. Thanks forefathers.” I don’t know if I’m especially keen to accept processed meat as my trophy.
Lastly, does that “s” on “Meats” not bug anyone else? Grammatically it makes sense, but similar to the word “peoples”, its a technical usage that implies categorization and divisiveness while not always reading smoothly. “Do you eat meats?” No, I eat meat, even if the former makes sense. Although Arby’s is trying to underscore their meat-selectivity as a brand-booster, I’m not entirely buying it. It’s expected, unoriginal, and borders pretentious. Perhaps you disagree with this charged opinion, but it’s difficult to deny that this style of advertising is being squeezed dry. I’m thirsty for some creativity.