Olive Garden: When You’re Here, You’re Phony

May 11th, 2010 by admin Leave a reply »

Ever since I started this blog, I’ve periodically considered doing a post about the Olive Garden‘s incredibly sappy  TV commercials.   I’ve always resisted, however, simply because they were such easy pickings.   But for some reason, the commercial I just saw pushed my resistance past the tipping point, and I decided I need to get this rant of my chest.

When you’re creating advertising, especially about something fun like eating out, it seems to me you owe it to your audience–and to your stockholders–to at least make an attempt to be clever.  After all, you’re asking people for 30 seconds of their precious time, and it’s only fair that you provide some entertainment value in return.  Unfortunately, the Olive Garden makes no such attempt.  All of their ads feature insufferably sunny Stepford wives, husbands and friends making and laughing at really lame jokes about how much they love this restaurant chain’s food.

Despite this, however, Olive Garden’s sales are growing, and it may well be that the advertising is actually working.  How can that possibly be?  The fact is that Olive Garden does a lot of things right.  Their ads–annoying as they are–have a very consistent look and feel that make it very clear which brand is being advertised.  The restaurant decor is always quite pleasant.  Some ads tell how their recipes are created in an Olive Garden Culinary Institute of Tuscany in a restored 11th century village; while this might be a marketing gimmick, I think it’s a pretty good one that, if anything, should get more emphasis in the company’s marketing.  And I have to admit that the ads make their food look pretty tasty.

So why am I ranting?  Because I believe their ads would be even more effective if they replaced the saccharine with some Italian spice.  Dump the lame jokes and the lamer laughs and add a dash or three of sophisticated humor.  The food and ambience will still be as appealing, but more viewers will pay attention if they know it will make them smile or laugh instead of frown or retch.

What’s more, it will reduce the risk that viewers will avoid the restaurant for fear that they’ll be seated near a table of dorky people with really bad senses of humor.


  1. tracy wilton says:

    i have to wonder how much of their business depends on the all you can eat soup, salad & breadsticks deal. everywhere i go on business, this seems to be people’s favorite spot for lunch. maybe it has something to do with the bad economy and people feeling like they’re getting their money’s worth with the all you can eat special?

  2. admin says:

    Thanks for the comment, Tracy. I suspect that the factors you cite are much more responsible for Olive Garden’s success than is their advertising.

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