Maple Leaf wears out welcome with ‘sandwich defense’

Ever wonder what consumers really think of your commercials? Reality Check tests advertising creative against a random sample of 300 consumers to determine, among other things, whether they liked the commercial, whether they could identify the sponsor, whether they understood the...

Ever wonder what consumers really think of your commercials? Reality Check tests advertising creative against a random sample of 300 consumers to determine, among other things, whether they liked the commercial, whether they could identify the sponsor, whether they understood the message and whether, after seeing the spot, they’d be more likely to buy the brand advertised. The survey is carried out by Impact Research on a spot of Strategy’s choice. Kathleen Deslauriers, Impact’s general manager in Toronto, provides the analysis.

Advertiser: Maple Leaf Meats

Product: Lean ‘n’ Lite

Commercial: ‘Sandwich Defense’

Description: The commercial opens in a gymnasium where a male instructor is in the midst of performing a martial arts move. As he extends his right arm and steps forward, he yells, ‘Back off, get your own sandwich.’ We notice that he’s holding a sandwich in his left hand.

The commercial then cuts to a group of students facing the instructor. As they step forward and mimic the instructor’s move, they yell, ‘Back off, get your own sandwich.’ The students are also holding sandwiches in their hands.

In the next shot, the instructor stands beside a chalkboard, and the students are sitting down, listening to him. He describes the sandwich he’s holding, and he states that it ‘must be protected.’

We then cut to a series of shots of the instructor teaching his class. In the first shot, he yells at a boy to ‘Think fast.’ The boy responds by squirting him in the chest with mustard. Throughout the next series of shots, we see the students continue to perform martial arts moves, while still yelling, ‘Back off, get your own sandwich.’ They also meditate in yoga positions, and jog around the instructor while he shouts, ‘Hold those sandwiches high.’

We see the words ‘Protect Your Sandwich’ come onto the screen. The announcer goes on to describe the product being advertised, and we finally cut back to the instructor standing beside his chalkboard. The students are sitting in front of him again, and he asks one of them, ‘Are you taking this seriously, sir?’ The commercial closes with the logo of the sponsor.

Scoring Context:

With the distinctive and forceful tone of the commercial and the frequent shouting of ‘Back off, get your own sandwich,’ it’s no wonder that ‘Sandwich Defense’ breaks through the clutter with a reach score of 65%. If the spot was supported by 1,500 GRPs at the time of the survey, it would easily beat the 45% norm at that media weight in Toronto.

The ‘astute’ comprehension scores add up to 42%, which compares rather favourably to our 45-50% rule of thumb. These ‘astute’ responses relate to the quality and flavour of the product. As is the case with the media plan, the reader must keep in mind that the advertiser has not shared with us specific communications objectives.

When we consider unaided advertising awareness, we note that there is very little perceived (and probably actual) activity in the category: only 21% of the sample claims to have seen any television commercials for sliced meats and packaged cold cuts in the past few weeks. Among those recalling such communications, the combined score of Maple Leaf (43%) and Maple Leaf Lean n’ Lite (3%) is far beyond the 15% attained by Schneiders. Although the heritage of the Maple Leaf name likely played a role, ‘Sandwich Defense’ brought the brand to the forefront. Indeed, top-of-mind brand awareness scores indicate that Schneiders (29%) is in a very tight race for first place when compared to the combined scores of Maple Leaf (26%) and Maple Leaf Lean n’ Lite (4%).

In terms of sponsor identification among those ‘reached’ by Sandwich Defense, 21% of respondents said Maple Leaf, 3% said Maple Leaf Lean n’ Lite and 1% said Lean n’ Lite. With this combined score of 25%, correct brand linkage is below the 40% norm. It should be noted that 62% of respondents said they could not identify the sponsor.

Even though the commercial is definitely intrusive, the action-packed scenario might have distracted viewers and impeded the execution’s ability to communicate the sponsor’s name. Also, given the frequent broadcasts of the commercial, viewers could have started tuning out. In addition, branding comes fairly late into the commercial and the Lean n’ Lite name is not incorporated into the story.

Although the commercial’s assertive style and frequent airplay contributed to the strong reach scores, it most likely worked against appreciation. Indeed, only 55% liked ‘Sandwich Defense’ either very much or somewhat, which is 19 points below our standard for likeability. This low appreciation score is not surprising in light of the fact that 40% of those ‘reached’ by the commercial felt that it had been aired too often. Our threshold for wear-out is 25%. Moreover, the commercial was considered somewhat boring (4.7 points versus the average of 3.3 on a maximum of 10 points), which is probably a further indication of viewer fatigue. Therefore, it appears that the Lean n’ Lite commercial has gone past its ‘best before’ date.

At 3%, the top-box score for purchase intent is very low in comparison to our 15-20% rule of thumb.


From Sept. 15-24, 2000, Impact Research interviewed 301 Toronto residents over the telephone about ‘Sandwich Defense.’ There was an even split according to sex and, within each gender group, equal representation of two age brackets: 18-34 years and 35-64 years. The maximum margin of error is plus or minus 5.6% at a 95% level of confidence.

After measuring unaided brand and advertising awareness, we prompted recall by describing the visuals in detail.

If the consumer recalled seeing the commercial as described, we considered him or her ‘reached’ and we continued the interview to assess other variables such as sponsor identification, message comprehension, appreciation, and purchase intent.

To accurately gauge brand linkage, we did not include the name of the sponsor or the product in the commercial’s description. As well, we did not reveal any cues or the tagline. This allowed us to assess message comprehension after exposure to the execution in ‘real life.’