Whether Hooters new “Step into Awesome” campaign will succeed as part of the chain’s ongoing three-to-five year effort to revive its sagging fortunes remains to be seen. But boy, oh boy, have they managed to pack a dissertation’s worth of American psycho-sexual baggage into just two mere 30-second commercials.
Notice I said nothing about the food, because as everyone knows, the food always gets second billing when it comes to Hooters. (Yeah, yeah, you can save your, “They really do have great wings” for someone else.)
“The campaign is a genuine look at what happens when guests walk through the door at Hooters,” says Jeremy Skiver, CEO of Skiver Advertising, the masterminds behind the new campaign, in a news release. “Rather than tell customers, we show them the authentic, awesome experience.”
Based on the two initial commercials, that “authenticity” apparently includes a guarantee that it’s always sunny at Hooters—not just sunny, but honey-golden, a Southern California/beachy/Farrah-Fawcett-pinup kind of halcyon glow.
This is opposed to wherever else you might be (a burrito joint for lunch, say, or a generic sports bar), where the light is forever pallid and grey, kind of like how we used to imagine life behind the Iron Curtain when we were kids.
Really, there’s far too much for one disinterested red-blooded American homosexual male with a decidedly stereotypical ambivalence to sports and breasts (i.e., me) to unpack here. And it thus goes without saying that I’m hardly Hooters target demographic.
But—it’s just so darn fascinating. Take the sad-sack worker drone with his limp burrito (I kid you not) suddenly whisked from the aforementioned gray pallor of his regrettable lunchtime destination into a place where he can respectably dine with his coworkers while basking in the beaming smile of one of the famed Hooter girls.
As befits our supposedly post-racial, post-feminist era, the coworkers are conveniently an African-American guy and (!!) a woman. Our protagonist (who wears a cardigan, by the way) appears beyond thrilled to trade his limp burrito for a…chef’s salad!? His female colleague (herself of—ahem—modest endowment) seems cheerfully oblivious to the ample display of feminine flesh surrounding her as she eagerly chomps into a monster burger.
Almost as an afterthought, we learn that “Wednesday is WINGSday at Hooters.”
The second commercial is basically like the first, except trade the “female coworker” for another white dude and the burrito joint for a divy sports bar, where all the other obnoxious patrons seem to have been recruited from some remote mining town in Alaska.
So what is Hooters actually selling in this campaign? Not food (duh), and not boobs—well, not exactly. Surprisingly, it’s selling itself as someplace tasteful, the antithesis of sleaze, a place where a young guy who shops at Banana Republic and has an insufferable desk job can safely ogle the buxom waitstaff without feeling like a miscreant and where the only thing sticky on the floor might be a wayward drip of hot mustard sauce. And in that sense, by packaging a restaurant famed by scantily dressed waitresses and greasy, fattening food as a destination that’s not only socially acceptable, but perhaps even classy puts these ads in a similar realm to the McDonald’s farmer spots we recently reported on. A Big Mac can’t be bad for you because, hey, these all-American rancher guys raised the cattle; onion rings and female objectification can’t be bad for you (or society), because your female and African-American coworkers are right there with you in the golden glow!
Yet it’s doubtful that’s the sort of “awesome” observation you’re going to find as customers begin to share their own “awesome” Hooters experiences on the “Step into Awesome” website.