Redefining ‘Lux’ Living

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When my mother got married, something like 50 years ago, her family put together the equivalent of a down payment, which set her and my dad up with … a fancy new Electrolux vacuum cleaner. (Were you expecting a house or an apartment? Priorities!)

We had no pets, so dragging the long canister vac around the house was the closest thing I knew to walking a dachshund, and it made just the right swirls and patterns on the wall-to-wall carpeting in the living room, which we weren’t allowed to walk on.

But the vacuum still works and, even stranger, I have really positive associations with the brand. Still, for an Electrolux redux, to introduce super-sleek, Euro-style kitchen appliances to North America (who knew that it’s Europe’s top brand?), I can understand that the company would need to sidestep the 1950s ranch house nostalgia. It’s like being the original Maytag Repairman at a Goth wedding.

Image-wise, it makes sense that the job went to uber-contemporary spokesmommy Kelly Ripa. For better or worse, she embodies all the anomalies of the have-it-all, do-it-all, thirtysomething woman who might have a lavish fantasy-in-stainless-steel kitchen. To try to keep up, DDB has thrown in everything, starting with the kitchen sink, and including an online video game to search for “Kelly’s bag” (clever for those who want a Kelly bag) and a contest to win a free kitchen “suite” and even a tie-in to raise money for an Ovarian Cancer Research Project.

Promotional shots taken at an evening to benefit Ovarian Cancer Research show a tiny, muscular Ripa in a flirty little dress, platform shoes and ankle tattoo, opening a wall oven and smiling provocatively. How’s that for some good housekeeping?

(The blogs can be brutal. Here’s one commenter: “What has empowered women more than the vacuum cleaner? What do women enjoy as much as not having cancer? Housework, of course! Housework and daytime television!” The post went on to talk about removing your ovaries with a vacuum nozzle.)

Despite its everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach, the Web site, with the tour of the “virtual kitchen” is great and the TV spots are memorable and show off the goods beautifully. (I myself would love a “one-button turkey cooker and Induction Hybrid cooktop that boils water in 90 seconds.”)

But the desperate “I’m multitasking as fast as I can!” tone becomes annoying.

It’s all a joke, so as not to seem too high-falutin’, but at the same time, it’s not a joke. “Packed House,” the first spot to break on TV, follows a hyper Ripa from TV studio to convection oven at her perfect loft home, where she makes a roast for the grownups and mac ‘n’ cheese for the kids, simmers the chocolate sauce, serves the cold apple juice and even has time to look for monsters under the bed. The Bewitched music in the background is a nice touch, down to the nose twitching sounds to underscore some speedy mom magic.

A second spot continues the overachieving theme, this time with hipper music. The third, which is properly relegated to “Web-only” status brings in the only remaining cliches of modern female life not referenced already — Sex and the City and Grey’s Anatomy. Here Ripa starts out as Carrie lite, sitting in a living room, typing on her laptop and reading her existential thoughts aloud: “Just because a woman is single,” she says, “doesn’t mean she doesn’t understand the right appliances can help you find your McHottie.” (I thought she was going to say that just because a woman is single doesn’t mean she can’t buy her own appliances!) Then it gets even worse, as she talks about her single friend who is the “cupcake queen.” She lives in a great apartment, and hunk after hunk comes to the door to pick up a cupcake. One of them is even shirtless, carrying some sort of drill, which reminded me of the Lucky Vanous construction worker Diet Coke spot of the ’90s. It ends with a cheesy, innuendo-laden joke about “cupcakes” and the “right appliances.”