Maxwell House: Not In My House

I live in the Pacific Northwest, where coffee is culture, and for some it is more like religion. So, I don’t mind a SNL-like skit where coffee snobs like myself are taken to task. In fact, when it is well done, it can be pretty funny. Portlandia-funny, even.

Do these spots for Maxwell House (made by the Chicago and New York offices of mcgarrybowen) stand up to the Portlandia test? Not quite, but thanks to the well-honed copy, acting and production, the spots are good from a craft standpoint. What I don’t like is the strategic insight, if one can call it that.

Instead of finding a product attribute to work with, we’re “treated” to class coffee warfare, sponsored by a Kraft Foods brand. I’m surprised the characters in the restaurant spot aren’t checking their iPhones and/or having their Prius (complete with an Obama sticker) fetched by the valet.

For sure, I’m not in the target demographic here, but I do wonder if the “everyman” Maxwell House is seeking will drink more cheap coffee in response to these ads.

For comparison, here’s a different attack on pretentiousness, care of Hill Holiday in 2006. And to see how far Maxwell House has, or has not, come in 50 plus years, here’s a spot from the archive:



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.