Jul 30, 2012

Who is gonna rub that belly? Secrets to TV spot magic.

Tony Treadway

Television commercials are 30% technical execution and 70% magic. Nothing more exemplifies the magic in a TV spot than one produced by Creative Energy for Pal’s Sudden Service.

The 30-second spot was developed several years ago by art director, Jason Headrick, and our creative director at the time, Earl Keister. The spot marked the first time the client, a 23-unit fast food chain in Tennessee and Virginia, had opted for a limited time offer (LTO). These LTOs are frequently used by other chains to offer a unique menu item that will be offered only for a limited time to boost traffic and lure new customers to their restaurant. McDonald’s McRib sandwich is probably the most notable of the LTOs.

For Pal’s the LTO would be Tennessee-style BBQ on a hot dog bun with optional cole slaw. The chain had planned to offer the Bar-B-Dog as part of its 2010 marketing plan, then pulled the plan after we had produced the commercial. When the LTO resurfaced in 2012, we were delighted that our “Whose Gonna Rub That Belly” commercial would finally be pulled from the shelf and see air time.

The original concept, born by Jason and Earl, was to go to the heart of an LTO. That the menu item is so good, that some people would go to any means to preserve the item after it was no longer available. The thought of an elderly couple crafted in the art of canning vegetables loading pre-wrapped Bar-B-Dogs into Mason jars was too brilliant to resist. When we shared the storyboard with the client, approval was easily gained.

It was the instinct of our team to change the storyboard after casting the commercial that truly made it special. The original storyboard called for the pay off to the commercial was to have the grandmotherly female to exclaim that her husband was eating Bar-B-Dogs “faster than she can can them”. Jason and Earl picked up on the quality of the two actors for pulling off a snippy exchange like those we’ve witnessed between married couples who have spent decades of sniping, bitching and picking at each other. When the lazy grandpa replies to granny who asks, “Who is gonna rub that belly,” after eating too many Bar-B-Dogs, he simply points to her. She finishes with brilliance.

Pal’s launched the Bar-B-Dog LTO with only drive-thru signage to alert customers to the special offer (we call it a soft launch). Then, we began airing the TV spot and added billboards and radio commercials to the mix. Within the first week of the campaign the client experienced a 36% increase in sales of the product.

It is proof that magic can happen in producing a TV spot and that traditional media still has its place in advertising and marketing. For Creative Energy, our “Granny Spot” makes us proud that we found some magic for a client that has made the cash register ring. Congrats to Jason and Earl on a great spot.

Tony Treadway


President & CEO

Regarded in the advertising and PR industry as a top strategist, Tony is considered one of the most respected marketing minds in the business, especially in the $600 billion foodservice industry. As president, he leads Creative Energy in serving a variety of regional and national accounts in the textile, hardware, building materials, electronics, nuclear power and health care markets.