Too Edgy for TV? Arby’s Kills Stuff And Gets Weird In New Ads

In a world of golden arches, burger royalty, live mas, and eat fresh, what’s an underdog fast food brand got to do to get some attention around here? In the case of Arby’s, it’s been to cultivate a fun and funny personality, perfectly suited for social media.

You might remember a particularly well-timed hat joke from 2014, but Arby’s also scored an unexpected hit by turning decades of Jon Stewart insults into advertising gold. It takes a pretty good sense of humor to use someone who calls your product “shock and awe for your bowels” into a positive. And the brand has taken that same approach–along with the velvet basslines of a Ving Rhames voiceover–to a collection of new ads from agency Fallon Worldwide that Arby’s says were a bit too edgy for TV.

It’s no secret that you need to kill a fish, a cow, or a turkey to make meat sandwiches, so the jokes aren’t exactly edgy, but it’s unique among marketers to not only actually address that fact, but to have a laugh about it.

Arby’s Brand President and Chief Marketing Officer​ Rob Lynch says it’s crucial for a brand like Arby’s to have a distinct tone and personality. “If you don’t stand for something, and passionately emphasize that something day in and day out, you are just another product, competing on price,” says Lynch. “In our specific situation, we are the underdog. We can’t outspend, so we have to be better at making unique, memorable, and inspiring connections. It’s hard to inspire anyone without upsetting someone. That’s why we are okay taking risks.”