Monday, January 15, 2007
- Lawrence resident Sarah Greenwood on how a Spangles commercial saved her life.
- Rene Steven on people making fun of how she talks.
- Spangles director of operations Rene Steven on the Lawrence advertising blitz.
- Spangles music producer Mike Scheltgen on how people react to his songs.
- Spangles TV commercial producer Eric Zoller on why Spangles commercials stick.
A pretty blonde in a white dress shakes her hips and makes love to the microphone: Come with me, baby. Spangles got the shakes going on. Oooh, come with me, baby. Spangles is shakin' up some fun.
Daniel Goldstein, a 30-year-old KU graduate student, is irritated by the commercial-the corny song, the low production value. Yet, he cannot get enough.
"She's kind of annoying," he says. "But I find myself watching it. And then I think to myself, 'Why am I watching this?'"
Remember a world with no "mu-mu-mu-mudslide?" No "$2.99, are you out of your mind?" No "Holy moly, guacamole?" That was nearly a year ago, before the advertising blitz that preceded the April arrival of Wichita-based restaurant Spangles in Lawrence.
Has any commercial onslaught been so pervasive, so something-catchy, annoying, cute, depending on whom you ask-as that of Spangles? Call it the Spangles phenomenon. Life changes in small ways. Catch phrases are drilled into the subconscious.
Walking down Mass. Street, nearly everybody's got an opinion.
"I think they're a little obnoxious," says Rebecca Chico, 29. "The whole going back to the '50s thing kind of expired in the '80s."
"I think they're entertaining," says Michael Folendore, 30. "Granted, they're corny, but they're catchy."
"I think they're corny," says Corey Sievers, 36. "Me and my kids make fun of them all the time. They make fun of the way the lady says 'Shpangles.'"
Advertising creeps into the mind, and, not to delve too deeply into marketing theory, if the product is remembered, business will increase. For Spangles, which recently opened its 22nd location, business has increased dramatically since the restaurant chain reinvented itself as a '50s-style diner in the mid-'90s and doubled its advertising budget to about 4 percent of its revenue.
How a Spangles commercial saved my life
If it weren't for the annoyance of a Spangles radio commercial, Lawrence resident Sarah Greenwood might not be alive today.
About a decade ago, Greenwood, 35, was sitting at a stoplight in Wichita, where she resided at the time. She was first in line in the left eastbound lane.
A Spangles commercial came on the air. "Oh God, stupid Spangles ad," she thought.
She reached to change the station. The recent replacement of her car battery had wiped out her radio presets, so she looked down to turn the dial. Meanwhile, the light turned green.
"The guy in the right-hand eastbound lane goes off the line, and a cop car comes through southbound, T-bones him and kills him," she says.
She says the police car ran the intersection without its siren or lights on. If it weren't for the Spangles commercial, Greenwood says she probably would've entered the intersection on time and been the one smashed.
"Although I won't eat at Spangles," she says, "I owe them a debt of gratitude."
"We have to rake through the clutter and keep our name in front of people," Spangles co-owner Dale Steven says. "If we thought our commercials were done in poor taste, we wouldn't be doing them-even though some people may think that they are. But we do the best that we can with our budget."
TV in Lawrence may never be the same. So, if we're going to see these ads every day until the end of time, why not learn something about them?
Come on, baby, don't be shy. This mudslide was meant for you and I. Strawberry, wild cherry, here we go. Reese's, Butterfinger, and an Oreo-o. Mu-mu-mu-mudslide.
The magic of television
If you could go as far as to say magic happens, here's how it happens.
A small group of people are sitting around at a Wichita company called digitalBRAND Communications Inc., which has two-and-a-half employees and has been making Spangles TV commercials for nearly 10 years. In 2005, the company made 23 commercials-almost one every two weeks-at $3,000 apiece.
An intern blurts out, "Holy moly, guacamole!"
Soon, a short commercial is shot inside a Wichita Spangles, using one camera, a wireless lavalier microphone, and natural in-store lighting. A man takes a bite into his guacamole bacon cheeseburger and says, "Holy moly, guacamole!" Later, a second ad is shot with the same catch phrase, this one starring Miss Kansas and an actor from Wichita.
Simple as pie, the source of continual annoyance for one Lawrence citizen is born. "I turn it every time," says Anthony Birchfield, 19.
Eric Zoller, president of digitalBRAND Communications, knows that although some people love the ads, some hate them. He knows there is something about them that sticks in people's minds. He tries to explain it, but he can't. The ads are simply aired a lot, he says.
"I'm not really a philosopher of advertising, so I'm not exactly going to have anything super-compelling to tell you," he says. "But it's definitely that they're on a lot : Love it or hate it, whatever you like to say, it's just one of those things that you can't help but hear."
Mmm, zesty. Holy moly, guacamole!
The sound of Spangles
What happens on camera is only part of the equation. What would a Spangles commercial be without the music?
That's where Mark Scheltgen comes in. Before he entered the scene more than a year ago, the only Spangles song was "Spangles, it just tastes better," and the old recording didn't have the '50s feel Spangles was going for.
The first song Scheltgen wrote was "mu-mu-mu-mudslide," which he recorded in his studio, Digital Boy Records, with Wichita bluesman Matt Walsh. Scheltgen, who used to play in Lawrence with the band Room Full of Walters, has gone on to write a collection of songs about burgers, French toast sticks, banana shakes, and even a romantic love song about a BBQ steak melt.
"The thing I hear the most is, 'My kids don't stop singing it,'" he says. "Kids always sing the songs-'$2.99' and the 'mudslide' and all that. It seems like most the time the kids are driving the parents nuts."
Spangles gives him a word or a few phrases they want included, and he and some musician friends put together a jingle. He usually plays all the instruments except drums, and his wife contributes some of the singing.
Well, the news of the deal been gettin' around. Craziest one I've seen in town. First thing I said when I saw the sign, "My, oh my, think I'm out of my mind." Gourmet supreme value pack. Gourmet supreme value pack. $2.99, are you out of your mind?
The face of Spangles
For the majority of Rene Steven's life, she had no idea she slurred the letter "s."
Even after several years of appearing in TV commercials as the face of the company, no one had ever told her she was being made fun of for the way she said Shpangles.
"Usually people are always coming up to me and being very nice-'Oh, I love your commercials. I like your commercials,'" says Steven, Spangles' director of operations and the younger sister of co-founders Dale and Craig Steven. "So I don't always hear the negative part, because someone's not going to come up to me and say, 'I hate your commercials.'"
But when Spangles launched its website a few years ago, the nasty e-mails started coming in.
"People would e-mail and the whole e-mail would be, any time there was an 's,' they would write the e-mail the way I talk," she says. "They would never leave who they were. Chickens. I would always e-mail back something funny-I would e-mail them back just the way they e-mailed me.
" :It really does bother people. People think it's a speech impediment. But, you know what, if they have to have something to pick on me, that's OK."
The public proponent of countless burgers, shakes, and value packs, Stevens doesn't love all the commercials.
"You're not going to hit a home run on every commercial," she says. "I see some commercials, I like some of them and some I don't like."
She admits that, in Lawrence, going from cold turkey to Spangles' heavy dose of advertising may be overwhelming.
"It's probably different for Lawrence, because in Wichita we didn't always start this full-blown when we advertised," she says. "We couldn't afford advertising as much as we do now, so we kind of weaned ourselves into the market, whereas in Lawrence we went full-force. There was no weaning process of Spangles. It was just 'boom.'
"I'm sure it overwhelmed the media a bit to where I think some people probably said, 'Gosh, they're on all the time.'"
Dipped into syrup. (Spangles French toast sticks.) Sprinkled with powdered sugar. (I love French toast sticks.) Freshness made to order. Spangles. It just tastes better.
Yes, TV in Lawrence may never be the same.