Making home appliances, living room sets and dinettes seem exciting can be tough task, but Blayne Lastman says he’s up to the challenge.
“Our business, on the appliance side, a fridge is a fridge is a fridge, it’s a very, very boring thing. What we try to do – we’re in the entertainment business. And if we give the people what they want, like the Field of Dreams, they’re going to come and that’s what’s happening,” the owner of Lastman’s Bad Boy said about his commercials.
Mel and Blayne Lastman are probably the city’s best known father and son team, thanks to local politics and to the series of television ads for their family business that always end with the catch phrase “Nooobody!”
“When I was opening in 1991 my father called me from Florida and said ‘I got it, I got it’ – it was about midnight – and he says ‘Nooobody’ and kept going on and on and it stuck,” Blayne Lastman told CityNews.ca.
Mel was the original Bad Boy and opened the first location on Weston Road in 1955. He went on to open dozens of stores across the country but sold the business in 1975 when he decided to run in a provincial election.
Blayne Lastman said the business laid dormant for the next 15 years until he decided to re-establish Bad Boy and opened the doors again in 1991 at a store on Kennedy Road.
The company’s chairman and CEO started advertising on television the same year he re-launched the business in Scarborough and said while he does work with ad agencies to create the spots, it was his idea to star in the commercials.
“I guess the credibility factor,” he said when asked why he decided to use his face to promote the company. “To let people know that we stand behind their purchases and we are there to service the customer.”
Lastman works out of the Bad Boy headquarters on Fenmar Drive in North York and also keeps an office at the Scarborough location.
Lastman in front of Bad Boy’s distribution centre at 500 Fenmar Dr.
Trevor Schoenfeld, creative director at Toronto’s GJP Advertising and Design, said the decision to have proprietors star in their own ads isn’t always the best choice, but showing an endearing side of a business that doesn’t take itself too seriously can work.
He added that it’s important to follow up on that image when customers walk through the door.
“So if they say one thing in their ads … and they’re genuine, they have people there who care and who’ve worked there a long time, I think that can work,” he told CityNews.ca.
“But the ones who just scream out a price point or want to beat you down on the head with a bargain message, I think those are the ones where you get the bad service and you’re not really treated well as a customer because it’s on to the next sale.”
Lastman said price points are an integral part of his approach to advertising, whether on television or in print.
“When gas became a major issue we were able to offer Bad Boy customers … free gas. That was decided on a Wednesday and Friday, Saturday, it was free gas to all Bad Boy customers,” he said.
The furniture salesman has also been using the animated characters Tag and Smiley in his ads since 1991.
“They’re like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck,” he said.
“They were characters that our animators brought to us, we worked on them and we loved it. Tag is the price tag and Smiley’s always happy and we want our customers always happy.”
He said they could be updated in the near future.
“We’re always looking to improve and do things better,” he said.
Lisa Greenberg, partner and creative director at GJP Advertising, said many companies are breaking away from traditional advertising and introducing viral campaigns, which take full advantage of the Internet and mobile devices to create online word-of-mouth.
“We’ve got a bigger palate now. People, I think, are numb to how we’ve been talking to them for so long … and I think people are looking at new ways to get the message out,” she explained.
Lastman said he’s not interested in venturing deeper into the online world and doesn’t think that approach would work well with his clientele.
“People in our business want to sit on it, feel it, touch it and squeeze it,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Bad Boy’s commercials reached an international audience in 1994 when the company ran ads starring a Bill Clinton impersonator.
“We wanted to prove that at the time that Bad Boy had, not only the best prices in Canada, but in the U.S. and who better to use than the president of the United States, Bill Clinton,” Lastman said.
The White House issued a cease and desist order to which Lastman replied: “the last time we checked, we’re not the 51st state.”
“From there it hit the world news. Every radio station in Canada, I was on Japan radio, English radio, Rush Limbaugh I was on live,” he said. “Who gets advertising like that? And we’re in the furniture business.
“To all those people in the ad agencies that want to continue doing what they’re doing, I say to them: El toro poopoo. Our customers loved it.”
- Montgomery, Ala. furniture salesman Sammy Stephens was mentioned in part one of this series. Watch the video at the top of the page to see Bad Boy’s take on Stephens’ ad for Flea Market Montgomery.