IDEA: Ads for discount furniture aren't usually very funny—at least, not intentionally so. But Translation's new work for American Signature breaks away from the category's tired old direct response model and casts the product as a central player in quirky vignettes directed by a master of the absurd, Harold Einstein.
The company—which operates the Value City Furniture and American Signature Furniture retail stores—wanted to reinvent the brands yet reinforce their point of difference, which is "to have a true connection with our customers and make furniture shopping easy," said American Signature president Jonathan Schottenstein.
"Talking about furniture should be as fun and exciting as everything else," added John Norman, Translation's chief creative officer. "Our goal was to disrupt the retail space and give the American Signature brands a voice. … These are stories about the product, told with charm and humor."
COPYWRITING: The scripts are simple, witty, odd and disarming. In one spot, a couple get a lovely new couch and are suddenly disgusted—literally to the point of gagging—by their old coffee table next to it. In another, a husband rolls around on his new king bed, pointing out areas for business (where his wife is sitting up, doing work) and pleasure (where he's sprawled out invitingly). In a third, a couple argue over the pronunciation of the word chaise.
"Buying furniture can be such a stressful experience; we wanted this campaign to embody the complete opposite," said associate creative director and copywriter Katherine O'Brien. "We'd start with a piece of furniture and build the story around it. Each setup was grounded in reality, but a reality pushed as far on the humor spectrum as possible."
The spots close with shots of three-piece furniture sets (living room, bedroom, lounge) against a gray background. "All we can do is make getting great style easy. The rest is up to you," says a male voiceover. "Style comes easy." They are tagged with either the Value City Furniture or American Signature Furniture logo, depending on the market.
ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Einstein shot six spots in five days, bringing his typical obsessive attention to detail. "The running joke on set was that he'd never finish a meal because he'd get so focused," said O'Brien. "There was constantly an uneaten snack resting just out of his reach."
The visual look is clean, with the product always the hero. "A lot of the crew had experience shooting cars, and they were able to light and capture the furniture in a really luxurious way," said associate creative director and art director Kasia Haupt Canning.
"The wardrobe and locations were chosen to keep the characters and scenarios relatable and not draw focus away from the furniture. We wanted viewers to feel like they were getting a glimpse into someone's home and watching them enjoy their new furniture in an odd but charming way."
TALENT: Casting was tricky. "These are comedy spots, but we didn't want any of the lines to be delivered as jokes," said O'Brien. "The actors are the anchors that keep these spots relatable. Sure, that couple's old coffee table is making them gag, but their performance makes it seem completely within the realm of their reality. Over-the-top performances would have flattened these spots. … The natural, relaxed dialogue that each of these actors delivered really made them stand out."
SOUND: Lightly jaunty classical music plays during the voiceover pitch—"an extra little smile on the end of the spot," O'Brien said.
MEDIA: The TV spots launch in all of American Signature's major markets in mid-July, supported by digital and social media.
Client: American Signature
Campaign: "Style Comes Easy"
Chief Executive Officer: Steve Stoute
Chief Creative Officer: John Norman
President: Nils Peyron
Executive Creative Directors: Marc d'Avignon, Jay Berry, Eric Kallman, Chris Valencius
Partner, Group Strategy Director: John McBride
Associate Creative Director, Copywriter: Katherine O'Brien
Associate Creative Director, Art Director: Kasia Haupt Canning
Executive Producer: Peter Ostella
Vice President, Account Director: Daniel Mize
Production Company: Dummy
Director: Harold Einstein
Director of Photography: Sam Chase
Executive Producer, Line Producer: Eric Liney
Editing Company: Mackenzie Cutler
Editor: Dave Anderson
Assistant Editor: Pamela Petruski
Post Executive Producer: Sasha Hirschfeld
Post Producer: Evan Meeker
Visual Effects, Graphics Company: Wolf & Crow
Designers: Chad Howitt, Kevin Stein
Executive Producer: Eric McCasline
Visual Effects Producer: Matt Olson
Audio Post: Heard City
Mixers: Phil Loeb, Dan Flosdorf
Executive Producer: Gloria Pitagorsky
Producers: Sasha Awn, Katie Flynn
Music: "Pickles for Preggo"
Composer: Marmoset Music
Music Supervision: Wool & Tusk