East Hills Mall’s “Cheesy” Back-To-School Commercial and Brand Impact

We have all seen those commercials that are so bad that you cannot help but laugh. You pass them along on social media to everyone you know and soon, even the local news and radio stations are reporting on them as well.  

Last month, the East Hills Mall in St. Joseph, Missouri released a commercial that has now gone viral for being “cheesy” and  “terrible” according to comments on YouTube. The commercial features various stores in the mall singing a “back-to-school” themed song. It mentions some items that may be on your shopping list in the hopes that you will purchase them from the East Hills Mall. Lines from the commercial have also gone viral and people can’t stop singing along with “Boots and pants! Boots and pants!”

Producer, director, and editor of the commercial, Chris Fleck, is not upset about the attention his commercial has gained but instead says that he accomplished his goal. He told FOX 26 KNPN that when the idea was pitched they hoped it would go viral. He stated, “If you can entertain and get your message in, you’ve accomplished your goal. I just love that it’s getting this much response. That’s what commercials do, they get response.” Fleck and the East Hills Mall definitely got the attention they wanted and their commercial was even featured on CBS and The Soup. The YouTube video, “Terrible Mall Commercial“, shown above now has over two million views. 

In the media today you always hear everyone say that there is no such thing as bad press and that as long as you are being talked about it is to your benefit. But is this type of communication doing anything to build or perpetuate relationships with consumers? Since a goal of IMC is to cultivate a relationship with the consumer, the prior question is one that should be asked. It seems that making a commercial for the sole purpose of getting attention could be detrimental to the brand since it does not aim to build brand loyalty. Although Fleck, the director/producer/editor, is happy with the attention the video has received, what does it say about the East Hills Mall’s brand?

-Danielle Walters, Morgan McCleaf, Kelli Hall, Stephanie Jordan, and Shawn Rause

10 thoughts on “East Hills Mall’s “Cheesy” Back-To-School Commercial and Brand Impact

  1. The commercial is bad and you certainly hit on the double edged sword of going viral for being bad. On the one hand, two million views. On the other, most thought it was terrible. What is the overall brand narrative of the Mall is a great question. Is it known for being stupid and quirky like Old Navy or is it passé and struggling like so many other malls in the U.S.? All of this factors in. Another factor that your post made me think of is the “ironic” nature of post modern culture. Part of what seems to make this work (if it works at all) is that this seems to set out to be a bad commercial. Thus it is referencing bad commercial awareness in its audience and perhaps saying “we know you think bad commercials are funny, we do to.” That can only happen within a culture deeply imbedded in media and aware of the intertextual joke that’s being played out. Not sure if the director was that self aware but if the commercial is a success at all beyond mere hits, that ironic frame may help explain it.

  2. Dr. Olsen,
    Thank you for commenting! You make a great point in mentioning that it appears as if it is aiming to be a bad commercial knowing that a lot of people enjoy laughing at them. He said their main goal was to go viral and when I think of ads that have gone viral, they are usually terrible or incredibly creative! I think it is safe to say his message could have been, “we know you think bad commercials are funny, we do too.”

  3. Commercials like this one have started to really bother me. There is one specifically that comes to mind and if you live in the Chapel Hill Durham area you’ll know exactly what I am talking about. It’s a car dealership called “Sport’s Durst”, and they come out with an absolutely horrible commercial every week or two. It’s the same small man with a high pitched voice trying to make me buy one of their cars. I have vowed to never buy a car from them specifically due to these commercials. The problem is I know who they are off the top of my head. I can’t name one other car dealership quicker than theirs. So do they win? Have they successfully branded themselves to me? If I talk bad about them on this post will someone go and watch their horrible videos and get them more publicity? To me this is just seems like the equivalent of begging, or selling out as a company. You can’t think of a better way to brand yourself, so you make a bad commercial in order to get any publicity at all. To me if your brand image is bad then I am automatically going to assume your product and customer service will match. I am not sure about the phenomena behind all these planned or unplanned “bad” commercials, but it’s hard to tell if they really know what they are doing, and if it really works. Overall I think it’s a bad look, and a desperate plea for attention.

  4. This commercial is definitely cheesy and you cannot deny the attention it is getting because of that. You’re right, that in this case, you have to wonder, is all publicity beneficial? Or, is this commercial even gaining brand loyalty for the mall or is it simply “going viral”? In this case, the brand being advertised is only local to St. Joseph, Missouri. The fact that this commercial is gaining national attention is somewhat irrelevant because the only consumers who can shop at East Hills mall are the ones who live near it.

    If this were a commercial for a larger brand or product I would call it successful. By going viral the commercial would draw attention to the brand and undoubtedly win it some customers, but in the case of a mall, the commercial is only aimed at an audience who lives close to it, and therefore, “going viral” does not affect its success. Sure lots of people in St. Joseph, Missouri probably saw this video and laughed, and I’m sure they even enjoyed seeing their town on the news; but in the end, they probably already knew where their local mall was, and I do not believe one cheesy commercial is what motivates them to shop there.

  5. This commercial may have gotten a lot of attention from the media by going viral, but I do not agree that any publicity is good publicity. Something so poorly directed looks as if it took about ten minutes to create. This does not appeal to me as a buyer, because I do not take it seriously and therefore will not take their message seriously. It instead turns me away from ever wanting to go to this mall because I associate the poor quality of the video with the assumption that the mall is poor quality as well! As a brand, this shopping center should be instead focusing on which aspects of the mall would please the visitors. The video does not showcase the mall in a proud manner and as such visitors may be more likely to avoid going here because of the video. I know that when I go shopping I look for places with the latest trends and the most desirable products. I decide which products are “desirable” based on how they are marketed to me. That is why this YouTube video is so unsuccessful. Nothing in the video came off as desirable. They may have gained a lot of publicity for this stunt but it will just hurt them in the long run.

  6. Going right to your comment about no press being bad press, is this really true? A lot of malls are struggling for business right now, and back-to-school shopping can generate a lot of traffic, but I don’t know if I would take those employees seriously, let alone let them cut my hair. I wonder how the bigger companies like American Eagle and Rue 21 feel about their store being portrayed in a cheap and tacky video.

  7. The idea that making something “so crazy, it just might work” is very popular in today’s society. We see it from celebrities with what they wear and how far they will go for a publicity stunt. However, I find that after the rush of attention from these stunts, I tend to place less value their opinions and overall image. This commercial is a key example of the attention becoming a negative marketing attempt for the mall and losing value from customers. I may want to go see the mall where this was filmed because it is a now famous location, however, I would not purchase anything because of its cheap appearance. I understand the producer’s thought process of “any publicity is good publicity”, but disagree with the statement. People thoroughly enjoy having a good laugh, but won’t take the product seriously in the end if not carefully executed.

  8. This isn’t the first time I see a horrible low-budget commercial go viral. In fact, there is an entire section of youtube dedicated to the cause, if you can call it that. One case in particular was the “2 Brothers Scrap Metal” commercials. It went something along the lines of “Daaad, what should Jan do with all her scrap metal?” as if all of us just have extra aluminum and copper loitering in our backyards. Most Long Islanders will tell you how profoundly bad the family-owned company’s commercials were but everyone knows just who they are. Of course these companies will enjoy some short-term benefits of being noticed but the truth is eventually their fifteen minutes (or in this case, 30 seconds) will be up and the consumer won’t care. They’ll have moved on to more serious and professional providers of these services. Money will be made but is it worth the risk of losing your credibility?

  9. Cringe. This was horrible to watch because of the damage that it is doing to East Hills’ brand image and encouraging consumers to not shop at East Hills’ Mall as the video reflects the quality of products; cheap & tacky. Besides, with the video going ‘viral’ generating 2.3 million views on YouTube, this certainly would have damaged the mall. It’s not all bad new, I can appreciate where the director, Chris Flick, was going with this commercial but it was obviously in the wrong hands. Maybe the commercial was intentionally bad? The director explains how he is happy with the attention explaining: “If you can entertain and get your message in, you’ve accomplished your goal”. The message was in no doubt there, but the content of the video embarrasses the spectator rather than entertain them, therefore not cultivating a relationship with the consumer.

  10. I think you can definitely tell that a commercial has been made in order to achieve a lot of talk at social media. “Bad” commercials are a kind of new way to do advertising, because of the power of WOM social media can achieve. It is like a new flow of Querrilla Marketing, I think. By doing so, you need to understand the possible effects to your brand. At the end of the day, it is actually comparing plusses and minuses; whether to go with branding or visibility/placement.

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