Barbara Lippert’s Critique

Look! Streaking across our sets! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Superwoman Martha Stewart! And she’s nearly nekkid! I’m not kidding. Recently, you may have noticed the ever-devoted Martha fleshing out her persona while pushing her Kmart pima cottons. The spot, which promotes the Martha Stewart Everyday white sale, ran for a week in March and will appear again in June.

In it, Martha is shown in the bath, wearing only a come-hither look, a turban and soap suds. (To be honest, the pink lighting and the sweet, mellow Buddy Holly music give it a sort of a 1950s Bye Bye Birdie version of sex. Then we see her emerging from the tub, wrapped in one of her unskimpy pink Martha Stewart Everyday towels.

In the next cut, we see her bare legs and feet, walking. (Way to go with the gams, girl.) Finally, she’s shown nestled in between her eponymous sheets, from the top of her bare chest up. What a clavicle.

Let’s face it—sex and Kmart are not a natural combo. There is nothing less sexy than shopping at Kmart. And as attractive as she is, Martha Stewart is pushing 60; nothing in her history of perfectionistic empire-building (her company name, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, says it all) and world dominance in the areas of cooking, baking, home decorating, gardening, Thanksgiving turkey-making, Christmas-celebrating, baby care and weddings would bear the tiniest suggestion of a penchant for public nudity.

Is this Martha unplugged?

What I’ve liked about her previous commercials, going way back to when she was in an American Express ad, making a mosaic of cut-up credit cards on the bottom of an empty pool, was her ability to make fun of her relentless taskmaster self.

One of her earliest Kmart spots continued this omnipotent self-reliance theme: She’s at home wearing standard-issue white cotton jimmy-jammies, hopping out of bed, having overslept. But she gets out the door and makes it into the driver’s seat of her mammoth 18-wheeler. After taking off, she backs the enormous rig back down the block because she forgot to make her bed.

This Everyday White Sale spot isn’t exactly funny. It’s weird to see Martha, the legendary headmistress of female discipline and control, in this kittenish way. Moreover, those who study Martha Stewart the way Kremlinologists studied Kruschev’s head colds point out that in the bed scene, she appears to be wearing nothing. But seconds later, during the same scene, she pops up, turns on the light and sports the flesh-colored straps of a nightie.

To get to the bottom of the no-straps controversy, I ran this by Gael Towey, the creative director who oversees Living Omnimedia. She says Martha is never naked; she’s wearing a flesh-colored body suit in the tub, although those are her legs. Towey says former model Martha has “great legs and feet—we know all her body parts.”

As for the strap mystery, Towey explains that Martha was wearing a nightgown while shooting the bed scene, but at the moment of her close-up, the strap slid down. In the interest of honesty, purity and reality, they decided not to retouch it.

I must say the spot is memorable. It’s so stripped-down and repetitive in its language that this is the first time I got the name of the Kmart line: Everyday. Maybe seeing Martha on TV has become such a, well, everyday event that baring all shakes us up, makes us take a second look.

And by the way, she’s got some set of towels.