How Effective is Next’s Latest Ad?


Have you seen the latest sci-fi thriller about the chefs with tattoos on their hands who cook freeze-dried foam and use Apple computers? My favorite scene was probably where tense, Hans Zimmer-esque music swells and the camera zooms out to reveal a tragic panorama of limes that sit woefully unzested. Spoiler alert: There's also an appearance by the most hated of villains, the shrimp cocktail.

This movie wasn't in theaters -- it's the latest ad from Next, Grant Achatz's second restaurant. I've written about Achatz before, but it wasn't really the best context to first be introduced to him: His other restaurant, the amazingly inventive Alinea, had a health-code violation that's pretty common in restaurants that it also quickly addressed.

But what is the best context to be exposed to Next? I'd argue this ad isn't it -- it's the video equivalent of preaching to the proverbial YouTube-channel flipping choir. Here, watch this and imagine you know nothing of Achatz, Next, Alinea, or El Bulli.

See, the video suggests many things about the restaurant that you basically already have to know beforehand. Next pays tribute to restaurants from other parts of the world from other points in history. It's done Paris in 1906, Sicily in 1949, and this ad is getting across that Next's, er, next conquest is emulating El Bulli. But if you aren't the foodiest of foodies -- which, fair enough, is Achatz's audience -- you'll have no idea what's going on here. El Bulli closed in July 2011, and had been hailed as one of the most imaginative restaurants in the world, if not the best one.

Recently the Siskel had a handful of screenings of El Bulli: Cooking In Progress, a documentary about the restaurant, and this ad pays heavy tribute to that movie's editing, music, and general pomposity. I say pomposity in the nicest way possible, because I went to a screening with my friend Maura, and we both felt a little out of place. ("[It was] kind of like watching an Enya cooking show," as she says.) But I think this ad has that same effect. If you're not already in the know, you're not going to know what's going on. And if you already know what the restaurant is doing, why do you need to see an ad about it? Particularly one that's nearly four minutes long? And about food?

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host. 

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