Friend and marketer Ty Sullivan questioned the relevancy of this Capital One ad. He suggested there was marketing disconnect. I, on the other hand, think the ad is, if not the work of an advertising genius, pretty clever.

Capital One Bank advertising featured two slices of cherry pie.

There’s quite a bit to address here in terms of semiotics. This isn’t just an ordinary slice of pie – it’s an ordinary slice of pie. Actually, two of them, stacked. With whipped cream on top.

Did you play that game as a child: “pretty please,” and then “pretty please with whipped cream on top?” And everyone “deserves a slice of the pie,” which speaks to a sense of entitlement and enfranchisement. Free. Like “America the land of the free,” because you shouldn’t have to pay for ATMs, and aren’t you feeling indignant?

Here, mama has a slice of pie for you: the bank as mother. And get MORE! Life is a bowl of cherries.

American Pie – the archetypal adolescent movie, where the hero was caught masturbating with a pie, because he was told that getting to third base felt like that. Cherries, as the symbol of virginity, while three of the fruits lined up signify great winnings at the casino. It’s not a coincidence that the myth goes that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree.

In the flash of a second that a passerby takes in the image, does the ad enhance their life, or does it require too much of an emotional investment? Does it add aesthetic value to the landscape, or is it an unwelcome intrusion that disrupts the thinking of the day. Clearly, for the marketer, if the audience associates all of the warm, wonderful emotions with the brand, it could be a win. On the other hand, more and more people have learned to avert their glances from pastries and candy; they are simply trying to be healthier.


photo courtesy of Ty Sullivan