Creative Critique: Model Plan

If it’s good enough for Cindy
Cindy Crawford is the consummate supermodel: beautiful, professional, smart.
Because she works so hard and seems so real, we like her. And there’s no doubt her mere appearance in an ad works wonders for any number of brands: Pepsi, Revlon, Omega Watches, Kay Jewelers. (We won’t talk about the Cadillac Catera princess-in-boots thing.)
Just the media hoopla of signing her for an endorsement deal, combined with using her somewhat intelligently in ads (since her dynamic, mole-based presence does the rest), probably accounts for a bump in sales.
So I don’t doubt that this latest promotion for Special K, featuring an approachable, just-one-of-the-girls-in-a-V-neck-sweater-and-jeans Cindy, will be a success for the brand, short term. (The spot is now slated to air from early January until March, during the “resolution time period.”)
It also doesn’t hurt that it’s part of a sweepstakes, “to meet her and win a fabulous makeover from her Team Cindy!” The team is her trainer, Radu, and her makeup artist, hair person, stylist, etc.
But as is the case with a fabulous makeover that requires a “team” (but no plastic surgeon), you look great temporarily; on your own, it’s really hard to keep up. In terms of building a long-standing brand image, Special K will have the same problem.
People on both the ad and marketing side can justify the move by saying how Crawford “embodies what the brand represents.” But I don’t think I was the only one who noticed and applauded Special K’s advertising over the past two years. Not only was it breakout for the category, it was breakout for humanity. The issues surrounding positive body image and female eating disorders are so complicated that no one would have expected a cereal maker to take a crack at them.
It’s hard not to fall into Stuart Smalley-like aphorisms, “You’re thin enough! You look good enough! And people like you!” when covering this territory. But Special K got on it, and stayed on it–and did so in a brilliantly incisive and funny way.
Is there anyone out there who didn’t love the “Bar guy” spot? It featured lines like, “I have my mother’s thighs. I just have to accept that,” and “Do these pants make my butt look big?” coming out of the mouths of average Joes. There was no better way to make the point.
The follow-up ad, showing a beautiful 2-year-old girl in love with herself, making faces in the mirror, still makes me cry.
In an interview with Stuart Elliott of The New York Times, Cindy Crawford said one reason she was popular was that “People relate to me. I’m not super skinny.” Earlier she said, “At shows, I’m the biggest one.” Well, she’s probably one of the oldest, too. But where does that leave the rest of us?
In the spot, Cindy good-naturedly dons exaggerated, dumb-looking costumes from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s to show that “fads in fashion can be as silly as fads in diets.”
But no matter how ridiculous-looking the clothing and accessories are, including one really bad curly-haired Cher impersonator wig, Cindy still looks great in them. These images of evanescent fads flash by so quickly that you really can’t catch what she’s saying. It probably would have been better just to have her sit in the chair, looking spectacular, with a spoon in her mouth. (The picture on the box is so conservative it makes her look like an ’80s first lady or TV anchor.)
The spot isn’t bad, but it’s just another model telling us what we already know: We’ll never look like her. When you’ve already done something so different, identifiable and commendable, why not stick with it? Otherwise, Special K could get its image in a super muddle. K

Kellogg’s Special K, “Fads”
Leo Burnett/Chicago
Creative Directors
Bob Akers
Ned Crowley
Patti Gregoline
Art Director
Jill Fix
Greg Lederer
Stan Schofield/
Schofield Films

Publish date: January 17, 2000 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT