As we inch ever closer to Christmas Day, it seemed for a moment that the snow may have settled on this year’s seasonal advertising dust-up. However, Robert Dyas’ new festive spot just dropped, proving that it’s never too late to be the centre of attention. Though not necessarily for the right reasons.
Roundly ridiculed on Facebook and Twitter, the spot ‘We’re Robert Dyas and we’re gay. And straight. And bi…’ initially appears like the kind of all-embracing message social media might welcome.
The ad finds seemingly real employees and customers of the high street chain, of all sexual identities mentioned above, discussing their favourite products directly to camera. While the brand’s intention seems to have been to proudly show their liberal credentials, the resulting spot is a frankly bizarre video that looks like something that would not look out of place on an Alan Partridge sketch.
Barely more than a minute long, ‘We’re Robert Dyas’ gets off to a compelling start with an elevator music rendition of ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ while the camera does a slow pan across the storefront. Inside we’re introduced to Marcus, who “works at Robert Dyas and is gay”, and says so as if he’s reading his lines off the camera operator’s forehead. He then explains how he likes to show both gay and straight customers the shop’s “funky range of Christmas gifts”. This is quickly followed by a lingering, almost haunting, close-up of an inflatable minions doll. It only gets stranger from here.
Next we meet James – straight, works at Robert Dyas and holding a saucepan as if it’s a tiny Grecian shield – who similarly revels in showing both gay and straight customers around the chain’s kitchen range. This pattern continues with a series of customers and employees declaring their own sexual preferences, before clarifying that Robert Dyas is accepting of all shoppers. It all culminates beautifully with James wielding an electric drill and explaining that the tool “would work a treat in straight person’s home…or a gay person’s!”.
There’s certainly a lot to discuss about this spot, not to mention the reaction it’s received. The primary response to the ad seems to be simply confusion. While advertising doesn’t necessarily have a responsibility to make sense (for example, I can’t remember the last time I understood a perfume advert), Robert Dyas’ motive in producing the ad seems to be the biggest mystery of all. What were they thinking?
Looking at the response online, several theories abound. Some conspiracy-prone viewers have speculated that the ad might be intentionally bad, with Robert Dyas drumming up business by latching onto an existing internet meme. Back in 2009, an American furniture company called Red House made a local advert with similarities to this Robert Dyas advert focusing on race rather than sexuality. In it, one Red House staff member lies on a sofa and says: “Look at this sofa. It’s perfect for a black person. Or a white person.”
Others have said the spot is rather ham-fistedly courting the ‘pink pound’, in line with increasing corporate interest in LGBT people and spaces. Whatever the real answer, it’s the fact that the ad seems to have been conceived, written, shot and edited in about 12 minutes that makes the whole experience so brilliantly, cringe-inducingly funny.
While Robert Dyas may not have succeeded in knocking its festive competitors off the top spot, there’s no denying that its ad has got people talking. In an advertising season packed to the rafters with searingly sentimental, occasionally self-important campaigns, we ought to thank Robert Dyas for putting out something so willfully silly that it’s put a smile on everyone’s face (whether they meant to or not). All we have to do now is sit and back and wait for the inevitable parodies.