Clarke Goward Debuts ‘Tom’ for Bob’s Stores

The new face of Bob’s Stores is a guy named Tom.

“Tom Donahue,” a character identified in ads as a “senior buyer” for the chain, makes his debut this week in Clarke Goward’s first image campaign for Bob’s. The Boston agency was hired in February for the clothier’s $5 million account, following a review of New England shops.

TV spots consist mainly of lighthearted vignettes designed to educate the adult male target about the Meriden, Conn.-based chain’s value pricing and brand-name merchandise.

One commercial opens in Tom’s cluttered office, where brand-name apparel and footwear are strewn about. A salesman comes in to pitch a new idea to Tom—capri pants for men. Tom envisions a man walking around a hardware store. As the man bends over to examine something on a lower shelf, a young clerk walks up behind him and says, “Can I help you find something, ma’am?”

Tom snaps out of his daydream and tells the sales guy, “Capris aren’t going to work.”

In another spot, a preppy-looking salesman suggests that Bob’s carry “tennis whites” for teens. Tom imagines a group of teenagers choosing teammates for a pickup game. The teen wearing ill-fitting tennis whites is the last to be picked—even though a kid with crutches is in the group. Tom doesn’t go with the tennis whites.

A third spot shows a woman pushing a pair of high platform shoes toward Tom. He leans back in his chair and envisions a scenario involving the shoes and one of his customers. Cut to a couple in their 20s on a blind date, which is going well. They walk into a sushi restaurant and take their shoes off, with the guy dropping about six inches below his date. Just as before, Tom comes out of his dream and says no to platforms.

“What we wanted to do is … define what Bob’s stands for,” said Jim Amadeo, svp, creative director.

“New customers have high recognition of the brand name, but they don’t understand what [Bob’s is] all about,” said Chris Lawson, agency president.

The spots are tagged, “We know our customers and the brands they live in.” That replaces “Get real,” used by Bob’s for the past few years.

TV will air in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island markets; radio ads are also in the mix.

The shop’s approach makes sense, said Tobe Berkowitz, professor of communications at Boston University. “For regular guys [who] have to go clothes shopping, they don’t see it as much of an adventure,” he said. “Shopping is one step better than going to the dentist for the average Bob’s customer. So to use tongue-in-cheek humor … and to go against the high-fashion male model could work.”

Bob’s last TV work by an agency was in 2001 from Velocity Advertising in Boston. Those spots featured a mannequinlike character known as “The Formal Guy.”

Bob’s advertising was done in-house for much of last year. The chain has 36 stores across New England, New York and New Jersey.