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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.

46 comments
YogiBerra
YogiBerra

I totally think Kraft did a smart thing by hiring Williams -- and doing it *immediately* when the viral video crested in popularity. Someone is going to benefit from that 15 minutes of fame, and it might as well be your company and your product. Also, it makes you look compassionate; this story had a suffering, redemptive hero at its heart and Kraft was able to play the good knight coming to the rescue. Seems like win plus win for Kraft. And nice for Williams.

Shonali
Shonali

Obviously I have no idea what the thinking behind this was on Kraft's part. Seems like it was a nice thing for them to do, and it's a cute commercial. I actually do think Ted's voice fits with the VO (I'm usually more irked by precocious kids who are know-it-alls in commercials, but that's just me).

The main question here is what was Kraft trying to achieve. They probably don't expect to see an immediate rise in sales from this one commercial, but were/are looking for eyeballs, as @LFJeremy put it, or looking like the company that did a nice thing, as @FollowtheLawyer and @hannush said. Neither of those are bad things, but it will be interesting to see what steps, if any, they take down the road to move from eyeballs to conversions.

@HowieG OMG, I can totally see him as a game show host!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

I perused many of the comments and I see the heart of the matter. The question isn't should Ted have found a gig with his voice. I think we agree his story is worthy even though seems today him and his daughter had an argument that brought the cops and them to the station for a bit today. So jury is still out on true redemption until this lays out.

They question is 1] Why Kraft and 2] Why their Mac and Cheese. I agree with Gregg that it was more a PR stunt Kraft was jumping at. Great for a commercial selling a very high calorie food to parents for their kids to eat?

Would of made more sense for him to get picked up by a game show for an announcing job.

"Yes Johnnnnnny, behind curtan number 3 is an all expense paid trip to Chicago for 2 to get a tour of Arment Dietrich, lunch with Jack Bauer and their very own Guest Post on Spin Sucks......but this only if the Price is Right!"

JoshPGreenberg
JoshPGreenberg

I agree Ted's part in this commercial is totally irrelovent. This is just a move to get eyeballs on the Kraft brand. If there are positive attitudes for Ted then maybe Kraft is hoping that will rub off on their brand. All I know is I'm out of college now and don't want to see Mac and Cheese for a long long time.

bigteethvideo
bigteethvideo

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.

John Fitzgerald
John Fitzgerald

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.

FollowtheLawyer
FollowtheLawyer

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.

hannush
hannush

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 the company...they may become a loyal customer.

To me, this is no different than a companies offering to send a portion of their proceeds to charity. It doesn't hurt anyone, and it helps. In the long run, I think its an okay strategy.

paigeworthy
paigeworthy

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.

MatthewKaminsky
MatthewKaminsky

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?)

a_greenwood
a_greenwood

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.

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