Jumping the anti-gay shark

Man, what is with gay people these days? Forming long-lasting relationships, opening small businesses with their partners, raising young children in loving households. Next thing you know they’ll want to get married and grow old together. It’s a good thing the American Family Association is keeping an eye on them and putting a stop to their anti-family agenda.

Do click through and view the Campbell’s soup ad that is getting AFA all lathered up. It’s difficult to imagine how bigoted one must be to be offended by it. It makes no mention of legal rights, marriage, or any political issue. Not that there’s any hope for getting the people at AFA to come around, but when even the Campbell’s brand has become too liberal for them they might consider it time to re-evaluate their priorities.

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Coffee without comfort

Dan Drezner examines the ads for the new “McCafe” coffee counters recently introduced by McDonald’s and finds them wanting. His observations are spot on: while the male ad is predictable and somewhat funny, the female version is insultingly out of touch. Women can’t be knowledgeable about geography? Liking jazz is a pretense? Starbucks still plays anything besides the CDs they’re hawking and the women there don’t sport skirts? It’s as if the marketers who wrote this have never been to a Starbucks or interacted with a woman whose intellect outshines her, um, knees.

The ads really say more about the McDonaldsification of Starbucks than the Starbucksification of McDonald’s. The atmosphere ridiculed in these commercials is part of Starbucks’ aspirational appeal. Starbucks is supposed to be the trendy place to go for great coffee, but consumers are increasingly aware that’s no longer the case. By expanding so rapidly and cutting so many corners in its quest to maximize efficiency, the chain started competing with McDonald’s on the burger joint’s home turf. Now that Mickey D’s is fighting back, Starbucks is in a weak position to respond.

McDonald’s knows that there’s a huge market for decent quality coffee-related beverages (I’m not sure McDonald’s whip cream and sprinkle-laden mochas really count as “espresso drinks”) for people on the go. What McDonald’s can’t duplicate is what it shows in the commercials: the warm and welcoming environment of a coffee shop. Who would want to read a book or hold a leisurely conversation in the sterile confines of a fast food restaurant? You can imagine the advertising agency brainstorming about how to make McDonald’s look inviting, giving up, and deciding to mock the sophistication of its rivals instead. It’s Republican-style advertising brought to the coffee world. Luckily for McDonald’s, Starbucks has already done the hard work of getting people accustomed to paying three bucks for coffee without taking time to enjoy comforting amenities.

Dunkin’ Donuts has shown that a low-brow chain can compete with Starbucks on coffee, so McDonald’s is following suit. Starbucks could potentially respond by refocusing on atmosphere, but investors want bigger in-store sales, not people lazing around in comfy purple chairs. The company is already trying to get back to its roots and focus on quality, but boutique roasters and indie shops have them nailed on that. It’s a bad time to be Howard Schultz.

[Via Kids Prefer Cheese.]

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