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Was Kraft Right In Hiring Ted Williams?

By: Guest | January 11, 2011 | 
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Guest post by Gregg Jaffe, the owner of Big Teeth Productions. He’s not only a close friend, he’s one of the most witty, too! Check out his thoughts on the creative behind Kraft using Ted Williams for their Mac & Cheese commercials.

If you had told me last week that the most famous Ted Williams in America would NOT be the guy who hit over .400 for the Red Sox in the ‘40’s, but a hobo with a voice of gold who traded in his cardboard sign and roadside spot for overnight voice-over fame and glory I would have laughed right in your face. Yet here we are.

This is no doubt a feel good story as Williams has already parlayed his newfound glory into appearances on the talk show circuit, but more importantly a gig voicing a Kraft Mac & Cheese commercial that generated a ton of social media buzz and already 750,000 YouTube hits. Now here’s the rub… Williams voice is totally unnecessary for that spot.

I know, edgy… controversial… scandalous! But let’s be honest here, Kraft ignored the creative needs of their commercial in favor of one that would spawn a boatload of publicity for their company.

I spend most of my days creating videos that market products and I don’t figure to ever deliver anything that gets the attention that our silk-tongued friend received from the original video on the side of an Ohio highway.

We labor over every tiny creative decision and whether it meets the clients strategic goals or if it’s just “I like blue, so this monkey HAS to be blue,” and then fall to the floor in a spastic fit until it’s changed to blue. I imagine whatever advertising team is behind the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese campaign did the same – determine the strategic/creative needs and deliver on that.

If you watch the other spots of the same campaign there is a male voice-over at the end of each spot that’s not all that different sounding from Teddy boy. My first instinct when I heard Ted’s spot was, “that voice just seems wrong for mac & cheese.” So when I did the homework and heard the other VO guy I realized that despite my personal opinions, if you didn’t know any better you probably wouldn’t catch that it’s a different guy. So Kraft really did nothing to enhance the messaging of the product but like a junkie, went for the instant high. Did it pay off?

The new commercial already has seven times the number of hits as the next most watched in the series, and it’s been online for four days! Of course the second most watched is Ted’s voice-over behind the scenes. If you scan the comments almost all of them are overwhelmingly positive towards Ted.

What do you think? Did Kraft make the right choice in going for quick publicity gains regardless of the strategic needs of their well-thought out campaign?  I’m not sure, but if you see me on the side of the highway with a cardboard sign, grab your Flip Cam, and come say hi.

Gregg Jaffe is the owner of Big Teeth Productions, a Chicago video production company; in his spare time he gets in trouble for having a big mouth. You can see his work at www.bigteeth.tv and www.facebook.com/bigteeth or enjoy his foot-in-mouth disease on twitter @bigteethvideo.

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86 Comments on "Was Kraft Right In Hiring Ted Williams?"

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a_greenwood
a_greenwood
5 years 8 months ago

They went for the easy two-fer. Great PR and a decent VO. Hard to say I wouldn’t have advised them to do the same thing. (From a VO perspective, yeah, his voice doesn’t ring “mac n cheese” to me, but it works okay.) And if Mr. Williams goes haywire down the road (his personal demons are pretty nasty), Kraft still comes out smelling like a cheese, er, rose, for giving the guy a chance.

a_greenwood
a_greenwood
5 years 8 months ago

They went for the easy two-fer. Great PR and a decent VO. Hard to say I wouldn’t have advised them to do the same thing. (From a VO perspective, yeah, his voice doesn’t ring “mac n cheese” to me, but it works okay.) And if Mr. Williams goes haywire down the road (his personal demons are pretty nasty), Kraft still comes out smelling like a cheese, er, rose, for giving the guy a chance.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@a_greenwood I think I feel the same way. When I first heard the spot it sounded off and despite the inclination to want the best creative no matter what, it’s hard to argue with the amount of press Kraft will get on this.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@a_greenwood I think I feel the same way. When I first heard the spot it sounded off and despite the inclination to want the best creative no matter what, it’s hard to argue with the amount of press Kraft will get on this.

MatthewKaminsky
MatthewKaminsky
5 years 8 months ago

It seems to me as if Kraft took advantage of an opportunity to show their compassionate side. The perception that Kraft helped this man off drugs and reunited him with his mother is what will benefit them in the short term. I agree with @a_greenwood . In the future, if Mr. Williams does relapse, I doubt the press will pick it up. By next week, we will have all latched onto a different viral video and forget all about Ted. (Anyone remember Isaiah Mustafa?)

MatthewKaminsky
MatthewKaminsky
5 years 8 months ago

It seems to me as if Kraft took advantage of an opportunity to show their compassionate side. The perception that Kraft helped this man off drugs and reunited him with his mother is what will benefit them in the short term. I agree with @a_greenwood . In the future, if Mr. Williams does relapse, I doubt the press will pick it up. By next week, we will have all latched onto a different viral video and forget all about Ted. (Anyone remember Isaiah Mustafa?)

paigeworthy
5 years 8 months ago

IMHO, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese’s target audience doesn’t give a rip about their creative strategy and who’s doing the VO for their ads. They’re going to buy their crack in the blue box no matter who’s repping it. (I am, at least.) The story and the feel-good factor are way more important.
Way to go, Kraft, for snatching up Williams first.

paigeworthy
5 years 8 months ago

IMHO, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese’s target audience doesn’t give a rip about their creative strategy and who’s doing the VO for their ads. They’re going to buy their crack in the blue box no matter who’s repping it. (I am, at least.) The story and the feel-good factor are way more important.
Way to go, Kraft, for snatching up Williams first.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@paigeworthy No consumer/end user is concerned about creative strategy, that’s the job of the people creating the ads and the company to know what their strategy is.

I think that we all like to think we’re not influenced by ads in our decision-making but big companies must think that it matters because then why would they continue to make ads at all?

I do think that the take-away is that Kraft’s decision was more about PR than it is about proper advertising regardless of the ad’s effectiveness.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@paigeworthy No consumer/end user is concerned about creative strategy, that’s the job of the people creating the ads and the company to know what their strategy is.

I think that we all like to think we’re not influenced by ads in our decision-making but big companies must think that it matters because then why would they continue to make ads at all?

I do think that the take-away is that Kraft’s decision was more about PR than it is about proper advertising regardless of the ad’s effectiveness.

hannush
5 years 8 months ago
Some would say, any PR is good PR. That’s all I see this as. Kraft, using a feel good story to come out looking like a good company. Does it sell any more Mac & Cheese? Well, if it sold 1% more, that would be good for Kraft’s bottom line and would be considered a win, right? In the long run, we will all forget about Ted Williams and get back to our lives. If someone decides to buy Kraft Mac & Cheese instead of the cheaper brand and they decide they like it and have a good feeling about… Read more »
hannush
5 years 8 months ago
Some would say, any PR is good PR. That’s all I see this as. Kraft, using a feel good story to come out looking like a good company. Does it sell any more Mac & Cheese? Well, if it sold 1% more, that would be good for Kraft’s bottom line and would be considered a win, right? In the long run, we will all forget about Ted Williams and get back to our lives. If someone decides to buy Kraft Mac & Cheese instead of the cheaper brand and they decide they like it and have a good feeling about… Read more »
FollowtheLawyer
FollowtheLawyer
5 years 8 months ago

I don’t think it will sell any more cheesy pasta, but I do think it burnishes the “family values” aspects of the craft brand because it was a decent thing to do. They don’t seem to be making a big deal out of it on their own — WOM is doing that — which I think innoculates them somewhat from accusations of crass opportunism.

Even if Williams subsequently implodes, by keeping it low-key now they will still come out ahead as a brand that gave a second chance to someone who desperately needed it.

FollowtheLawyer
FollowtheLawyer
5 years 8 months ago

I don’t think it will sell any more cheesy pasta, but I do think it burnishes the “family values” aspects of the craft brand because it was a decent thing to do. They don’t seem to be making a big deal out of it on their own — WOM is doing that — which I think innoculates them somewhat from accusations of crass opportunism.

Even if Williams subsequently implodes, by keeping it low-key now they will still come out ahead as a brand that gave a second chance to someone who desperately needed it.

FollowtheLawyer
FollowtheLawyer
5 years 8 months ago

I don’t think it will sell any more cheesy pasta, but I do think it burnishes the “family values” aspects of the Kraft brand because it was a decent thing to do. They don’t seem to be making a big deal out of it on their own — WOM is doing that — which I think innoculates them somewhat from accusations of crass opportunism.

Even if Williams subsequently implodes, by keeping it low-key now they will still come out ahead as a brand that gave a second chance to someone who desperately needed it.

FollowtheLawyer
FollowtheLawyer
5 years 8 months ago

I don’t think it will sell any more cheesy pasta, but I do think it burnishes the “family values” aspects of the Kraft brand because it was a decent thing to do. They don’t seem to be making a big deal out of it on their own — WOM is doing that — which I think innoculates them somewhat from accusations of crass opportunism.

Even if Williams subsequently implodes, by keeping it low-key now they will still come out ahead as a brand that gave a second chance to someone who desperately needed it.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@hannush I have to agree with most of what you’re saying. One thing I found interesting though is that you say “I think its an okay strategy.” What I wonder though is do you really think that Kraft did anything strategically here or just decided to capitalize on a moment?

These moments are happening a lot in the Internet/Social Media era. I like to see how brands like Kraft that are typically very slow moving and take months to develop any PR or advertising initiatives, are jumping into the fray and acting almost more on emotion than actual strategy.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@hannush I have to agree with most of what you’re saying. One thing I found interesting though is that you say “I think its an okay strategy.” What I wonder though is do you really think that Kraft did anything strategically here or just decided to capitalize on a moment?

These moments are happening a lot in the Internet/Social Media era. I like to see how brands like Kraft that are typically very slow moving and take months to develop any PR or advertising initiatives, are jumping into the fray and acting almost more on emotion than actual strategy.

timjahn
timjahn
5 years 8 months ago

@bigteethvideo @paigeworthy Is there a difference between PR and “proper advertising”? At the end of the day, Kraft needs more people to know their name and buy their products. They’ve accomplished this with capitalizing on the Ted story.

timjahn
timjahn
5 years 8 months ago

@bigteethvideo @paigeworthy Is there a difference between PR and “proper advertising”? At the end of the day, Kraft needs more people to know their name and buy their products. They’ve accomplished this with capitalizing on the Ted story.

fitzternet
fitzternet
5 years 8 months ago

I think it’s a nice gesture and I’m sure we all hope this is the “golden ticket” that will help Williams stay out of trouble in the future. Neither the gesture or Williams’ (hopefully) happy new life will matter much to Kraft’s bottom line in the end.

But Kraft would never hire a VO artist with a rap sheet half as long as Williams. I’ve seen too many of his mugshots to not wonder/hope that they did a background check to see if there’s anything else they need to be afraid of.

fitzternet
fitzternet
5 years 8 months ago

I think it’s a nice gesture and I’m sure we all hope this is the “golden ticket” that will help Williams stay out of trouble in the future. Neither the gesture or Williams’ (hopefully) happy new life will matter much to Kraft’s bottom line in the end.

But Kraft would never hire a VO artist with a rap sheet half as long as Williams. I’ve seen too many of his mugshots to not wonder/hope that they did a background check to see if there’s anything else they need to be afraid of.

hannush
5 years 8 months ago

@bigteethvideo You bring up an interesting point. I was pointing at a spur of the moment strategic move (overall doing things that look good in the eyes of the public)…rather than banking on a long term strategy, as this is very hard to predict.

It is a new era…my guess is, they just happened to have a marketing meeting when this happened. Just good timing on their part. Same with the Cleveland Cavs. I’m guessing the Cavs had a spot to fill.

hannush
5 years 8 months ago

@bigteethvideo You bring up an interesting point. I was pointing at a spur of the moment strategic move (overall doing things that look good in the eyes of the public)…rather than banking on a long term strategy, as this is very hard to predict.

It is a new era…my guess is, they just happened to have a marketing meeting when this happened. Just good timing on their part. Same with the Cleveland Cavs. I’m guessing the Cavs had a spot to fill.

fitzternet
fitzternet
5 years 8 months ago

@MatthewKaminsky @a_greenwood – I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis of the short term benefit to Kraft, but I wouldn’t be sure that the media will ignore a relapse. The press will pick it up for the same reason they picked up the story in the first place – they need stories. And we all know that the media prefers a “falling from grace” story to anything positive.

fitzternet
fitzternet
5 years 8 months ago

@MatthewKaminsky @a_greenwood – I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis of the short term benefit to Kraft, but I wouldn’t be sure that the media will ignore a relapse. The press will pick it up for the same reason they picked up the story in the first place – they need stories. And we all know that the media prefers a “falling from grace” story to anything positive.

fitzternet
fitzternet
5 years 8 months ago

@a_greenwood – Good point about his voice. I think he’d be a GREAT announcer on one of the Late Night talk shows. I think someone like Conan, Kimmel or Fallon could make him an important part of their show, while being lighthearted about his past troubles and (most importantly) giving him a daily gig so he has a job to excel at when the excitement of his rags to riches story begins to fade. His voice is perfect for it.

fitzternet
fitzternet
5 years 8 months ago

@a_greenwood – Good point about his voice. I think he’d be a GREAT announcer on one of the Late Night talk shows. I think someone like Conan, Kimmel or Fallon could make him an important part of their show, while being lighthearted about his past troubles and (most importantly) giving him a daily gig so he has a job to excel at when the excitement of his rags to riches story begins to fade. His voice is perfect for it.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@fitzternet That’s a good point too. If Ted Williams just wandered into the booth, regardless of talent, he clearly would not have been given the time of day by Kraft or anyone else.

Ah the power of the Internet.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@fitzternet That’s a good point too. If Ted Williams just wandered into the booth, regardless of talent, he clearly would not have been given the time of day by Kraft or anyone else.

Ah the power of the Internet.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@timjahn @paigeworthy You really think Kraft needs more people to “know their name”? I think they are probably in the top 5-10 most recognized brands in the country.

It’s a little deeper than name recognition but still ultimately is about capitalizing on a hot topic.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@timjahn @paigeworthy You really think Kraft needs more people to “know their name”? I think they are probably in the top 5-10 most recognized brands in the country.

It’s a little deeper than name recognition but still ultimately is about capitalizing on a hot topic.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@fitzternet @MatthewKaminsky @a_greenwood It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Ted’s story. I think we are all rooting for him to not fall from grace b/c he seems like a decent human and is genuinely thankful of his new opportunity. But part of the human interest is to see if someone who has hit rock bottom before can avoid it again.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@fitzternet @MatthewKaminsky @a_greenwood It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Ted’s story. I think we are all rooting for him to not fall from grace b/c he seems like a decent human and is genuinely thankful of his new opportunity. But part of the human interest is to see if someone who has hit rock bottom before can avoid it again.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@MatthewKaminsky @a_greenwood The Isaiah Mustafa situation was very different. He is an actor portraying a character. That’s actually a topic for a whole other blog post – the art of creating a “viral” ad vs. waiting for one to happen and then capitalizing on it.

You have to give Old Spice and their agency a lot more credit because they invented that without any sad back story. It was just plain ol’ Internet fun.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@MatthewKaminsky @a_greenwood The Isaiah Mustafa situation was very different. He is an actor portraying a character. That’s actually a topic for a whole other blog post – the art of creating a “viral” ad vs. waiting for one to happen and then capitalizing on it.

You have to give Old Spice and their agency a lot more credit because they invented that without any sad back story. It was just plain ol’ Internet fun.

JMattHicks
5 years 8 months ago
I personally think it was a great call on numerous levels: 1) It was, as @fitzternet said, an extremely nice gesture for a man who seems to be genuine in his efforts.2) As you said, you likely couldn’t tell the different in the old VO and Ted. So, if there’s no truly noticeable different, it was a great call to MAKE a difference by having Ted as the voice.3) The fact that we’re talking about it right now shows that it was effective, not to mention the millions of YouTube views. There are a LOT of people doing a LOT… Read more »
JMattHicks
5 years 8 months ago
I personally think it was a great call on numerous levels: 1) It was, as @fitzternet said, an extremely nice gesture for a man who seems to be genuine in his efforts.2) As you said, you likely couldn’t tell the different in the old VO and Ted. So, if there’s no truly noticeable different, it was a great call to MAKE a difference by having Ted as the voice.3) The fact that we’re talking about it right now shows that it was effective, not to mention the millions of YouTube views. There are a LOT of people doing a LOT… Read more »
bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@JMattHicks I’d have to agree that it seems like a correct move. I guess the cynic in me doesn’t want to give Kraft credit for the first comment you made – I doubt altruism played any role as opposed to flat out opportunism (which is OK in the context b/c both Ted & Kraft win).

But yeah, word of mouth here is as much as you could hope for and there really hasn’t been any negative comments that I’ve seen anywhere.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@JMattHicks I’d have to agree that it seems like a correct move. I guess the cynic in me doesn’t want to give Kraft credit for the first comment you made – I doubt altruism played any role as opposed to flat out opportunism (which is OK in the context b/c both Ted & Kraft win).

But yeah, word of mouth here is as much as you could hope for and there really hasn’t been any negative comments that I’ve seen anywhere.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

I didn’t include this in the original blog, but has anyone thought about the guy who Ted’s voice replaced? He had a nice comfortable voice-over job that can be hard to come by and now he’s left out in the cold.

It’s possible that he has other income and this won’t affect him, but as the husband of a voice-over artist I know how fleeting those gigs can be. Maybe he’ll have to hit the streets and reinvent himself.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

I didn’t include this in the original blog, but has anyone thought about the guy who Ted’s voice replaced? He had a nice comfortable voice-over job that can be hard to come by and now he’s left out in the cold.

It’s possible that he has other income and this won’t affect him, but as the husband of a voice-over artist I know how fleeting those gigs can be. Maybe he’ll have to hit the streets and reinvent himself.

JMattHicks
5 years 8 months ago

@bigteethvideo And I can fully understand and respect the cynicism; the PR/marketing industry has far too often proven to be about the economics of the matter rather than the ethics of the matter. I can’t blame you one bit in doubting.

But if eyeballs were the final goal, Kraft nailed it with this one.

JMattHicks
5 years 8 months ago

@bigteethvideo And I can fully understand and respect the cynicism; the PR/marketing industry has far too often proven to be about the economics of the matter rather than the ethics of the matter. I can’t blame you one bit in doubting.

But if eyeballs were the final goal, Kraft nailed it with this one.

ginidietrich (Gini Dietrich)
5 years 8 months ago

Thoughts from @bigteethvideo on Kraft hiring Ted Williams http://bit.ly/h2MPbE

SimonsGroove (Simon Jones)
5 years 8 months ago

RT @ginidietrich: Thoughts from @bigteethvideo on Kraft hiring Ted Williams http://bit.ly/h2MPbE

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@JMattHicks True on both counts.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo
5 years 8 months ago

@JMattHicks True on both counts.

bigteethvideo (Gregg Jaffe)
5 years 8 months ago

My first foray into Spin Sucks-land! RT @ginidietrich: Thoughts from @bigteethvideo on Kraft hiring Ted Williams http://bit.ly/h2MPbE

JonHearty
5 years 8 months ago

@fitzternet I gotta agree with you on this one jmatthicks . Although when hearing Ted’s voice, I don’t think “mmmm….cheeeeese”, why not use his amazing story to your company’s advantage, when the next best voice is not much different.

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