That Office Depot Commercial: Dan the Barber Gets the Final Cut
You have to have seen this one; it’s been running since about mid-January. Seems like a rip-off of part of the story line of Barbershop 2, and even the competing businesses have nearly identical names (Nappy Cutz versus Nitro Cutz), but I can go along with it. There is such a thing as homage.
Brother Dan’s been in business for days; he probably inherited the barbershop from an uncle or a father. This is his livelihood; he’s a neighborhood mainstay. And he knows how to cut hair.
Then this chain mofo, Nitro Cutz, blows into town. Opening day, they advertise $6 haircuts in the windows of the mega-barbershop. Six dollar haircuts? How can one stand up–or stay in business–against that kind of offer to customers? The manager and the barbers are salivating running Dan off the main drag.
Dan, though, has a brainstorm. He goes to Office Depot and talks to an associate in their reprographics department (or the Copy and Print Depot) Next thing you know, Dan has put up his own banner…and the rest is history. That is, Nitro Cutz is history.
What I love about Dan the Barber is not just that he’s black. He’s a small businessman, and he’s not surrounded by those markers–a low-income neighborhood, kids loitering, a corner grocery store with an ATM–that make for failure. It’s just between him and Nitro Cutz. This rivalry could have taken place anywhere in the United States. Dan’s resourcefulness is low-tech, accessible and inexpensive. His prices may be higher than Nitro Cutz, but he knows how to cut hair–anybody’s hair–especially hair that someone else has fcked up. Everybody has been in that kind of situation before–and that’s why Dan survives while Nitro Cutz is run out of town.
Ad Week said about this 33-second commercial created by Young and Rubicam that it was stretching reality that one banner could cause such a reversal of fortune. They don’t get it. It was more than just the banner. It was the resourcefulness, the banner, and the skillz. It was about what Office Depot could do for Dan, using his specs. AdWeek also speculated whether the commercial could invite comparisons between Office Depot and the small businesses that it ran out of business when it blew into cities across the country. Whatever. I think that it’s a great David versus Goliath story in these times of undisguised populism. Big doesn’t exactly mean good. And quality always trumps quantity.