Those irrepressible, totally irreverent — and altogether savvy — Walter E. Smithe furniture boys are at it again. Hands down, they run one of the most aggressively-marketed, locally-based businesses of any sort.
And they have had fun earning that distinction for many years.
Several furniture chains across the country — and we’re talking some big ones — have shuttered in recent years due to the massive downturn in the housing market and the public’s unwillingness to invest in all things domestic, especially furniture.
But through it all, the Smithe brothers — Walter, Mark and Tim — have persevered. Tim Smithe, in particular, has insisted on making sure the furniture chain has maintained a distinct, high-profile marketing presence.
One of the things they have been smartest about is trying — whenever possible — to tie their television advertising to a particular event or group or person or something that is timely and in the news.
New spots tied to “A Christmas Story” musical
Their latest campaign honors that marketing philosophy big time. Three new spots are tied to the upcoming Chicago debut of the stage musical version of “A Christmas Story,” a popular cult Christmas-themed movie dating from 1983. The film starred Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin and Peter Billingsley.
The musical adaptation of the film, which features a score by Benj Pasek and Jus
tin Paul, will play the Chicago Theatre from Dec. 14 through 30.
The ”Christmas Story” film admittedly was unfamiliar to us until just a few days ago, but reliable sources tell us it has become a favorite of many movie buffs over the years. It has at its center the story of a young boy named Ralphie, who lives in small-town Indiana and wants in the worst way to get a Red Ryder air rifle for Christmas.
We’re really giving nothing away when we say the boy gets his gift, but all the strange madness that ensues around that development is what provides the plot for “A Christmas Story.” There is even a subplot regarding a most unusual lamp that has a shapely lady’s leg as its base. More on that iconic prop from the film in a moment.
Spots based on memorable film moments
But back to the Smithe boys and their marketing tie-in with “A Christmas Story: the Musical!” All three TV spots play off memorable and key moments in the film, including one when a boy’s tongue is stuck for an extended period of time to a freezing cold pole in the school play yard. Another recalls the moment when that aforementioned leg lamp makes its first appearance in the movie.
Yet a third spot involves a grumpy Sant
a Claus who isn’t pleased to hear the film’s young protagonist (who isn’t quite so young in the Smithe commercial because Tim Smithe plays the bespectacled youth) wants an air rifle for Christmas.
As has been the case with previous commercials from the Smithe boys, these “Christmas Story” spoof executions are done with the utmost respect for the source material. But most importantly, the Smithes use the commercials both to entertain people and to help viewers bond with the Walter E. Smithe furniture brand.
Perhaps this trio of spots are especially well produced because the source material is near and dear to the Smithe brothers. “‘A Christmas Story’ was one of my brothers’ and my favorite holiday movies, so it was great fun to reenact some of the film’s most memorable scenes,” said marketing maven Tim Smithe.
And, of course, the producers of “A Christmas Story: The Musical!” will get a huge boost from the Smithe brothers’ enduring love for the movie and their generous marketing push on the stage musical’s behalf.
Themed merchandising tie-ins with the musical
The tie-in with the Walter E. Smithe furniture chain, however, is but the most visible example of what looks to be an expansive marketing effort to introduce the holiday stage musical to the Chicago market.
“A Christmas Story: The Musical!” is only slated to run two-and-a-half weeks at the Chicago Theatre, but it will play a handful of cities prior to reaching the Windy City. In fact, the musical’s world premiere is tonight in Hershey, Pa.
A sure sign this show is being presented by a marketing-focused group of producers is the wide array of themed merchandise theatergoers will be able to purchase.
Among the items expected to be available, we’re told, will be replicas — in two sizes no less — of the leg lamp that is such a visible presence in t
he movie. And for fans of the show with a sweet tooth, the wife of one of the musical’s producers is overseeing a fudge product that will be on sale.
Fudge, you may wonder? Well, if you know the film, you already know the connection. For those not in the know yet, let’s just say fudge has to do with the way the utterance of a naughty word is avoided in the movie.
So now all that’s left, really, is for viewers to enjoy the Walter E. Smithe advertising tribute to “A Christmas Story” and for everyone to discover for themselves if the stage musical adaptation on its way Chicago does full, fun justice to the original movie.
See you at the theater.
Contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com