Mr. T—or, as his friends know him, Lawrence Tureaud—has appeared in quite a few ads since Rocky III opened 35 years ago.
Why? He can still move product and cause controversy. For example, a 2008 U.K. Snickers campaign imploring viewers to stop being "a disgrace to the man race" ran into opposition in the U.S. over charges of homophobia. That was only one of many spots that made use of the actor's tough guy archetype to sell everything from cereal and iced tea to the infamous Flavorwave "oven."
In his latest commercial appearance, however, the aforementioned T is learning to better manage the rage that made him famous with the help of Fairfield Inn & Suites and its creative agency of record, mcgarrybowen.
In the first spot, Mr. T answers the perennial question "What do you want, fool?" with a demure explanation: He just wants to be a nicer guy and a more efficient representative of the Marriott brand. This campaign is really all about Fairfield's new customer satisfaction guarantee, appropriately promoted by a newly rebranded Tureaud in the anthem spot "Becoming Mr. T."
The full campaign, which launched on Monday, also includes an extended series of teaser spots and extras. In the clip below, for example, our hero sticks to the Gawker principle: He's a full 20 percent nicer!
Here's an example of the 15-second briefs encouraging viewers to check out the full story while revealing that Mr. T has not lost his power to make a big first impression.
Mcgarrybowen Chicago group creative director Lee Remias co-led the campaign with fellow gcd Kevin Thoem. He tells Adweek, "Our idea was to take someone and transform him/her into the embodiment of the Fairfield 100% Guarantee, which is all about making guests the number one priority and making sure they are completely satisfied."
"Mr. T's no-nonsense personality made him the perfect candidate to transform into Mr. Guaran-T, a more caring character," Remias says, adding, "Plus, people love Mr. T. He's iconic. And the pun didn't hurt either. Using Mr. T's transformation from rough and tough to empathetic and caring helped bring the spirit of the Fairfield Guarantee to life."
On that front, this behind-the-scenes clip reveals that Tureaud's bark may be a bit more intense than his bite.
The Mr. T character is undoubtedly part of the pop culture "zeitgeist," even if he hasn't felt particularly relevant for some time. But the act of recycling icons that have outlived their expiration dates still works wonders for other brands—and this campaign packs a slightly stronger punch than many competing chains' ads.
As another ubiquitous '80s icon might have put it, nostalgia is a hell of a drug.
Client: Fairfield Inn & Suites
Agency: mcgarrybowen, Chicago
Chief Creative Officer: Ned Crowley
Group Creative Director: Kevin Thoem
Group Creative Director: Lee Remias
Associate Creative Director: Rob Neveau
Associate Creative Director: Ryan Carter
Producer: Mike Dahl
Director of Content Production: Steve Ross
Director of Broadcast Business Affairs: Joann Baker
Senior Business Manager: Kiki Powell
Talent Supervisor: Rachel Franker-Groth
Group Managing Director: Lisa Groot
Account Director: Elizabeth Sandoval
Assistant Account Executive: Madeline Gorman
Music Producer: Brandy Ricker