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Ad of the Day: Panera


Tired of Rube Goldberg machines in advertising yet? Sorry, here's another. But after you finish your long sigh, you might actually enjoy this one.

A month from now, it will be 10 years since Wieden + Kennedy released its "Cog" spot for Honda. But the Rube Goldberg idea can still be compelling now and again, particularly when the advertiser can lay some kind of metaphorical claim to mirroring how such machines work—i.e., not very efficiently but with a higher purpose in mind.

In Panera's case, this means taking the longer road to making its food, and indulging in detours along the way. For example, it uses harder-to-find ingredients like antibiotic-free chicken; it bakes fresh bread from fresh dough in every one of its bakery cafés; and it donates leftover food to charity. These could be seen as inefficiencies—a Rube Goldberg way of doing business—but the result is a better-quality product, and as it turns out, a more delightful commercial.

Panera's agency, Cramer-Krasselt, hired 1stAveMachine to build the Rube Goldberg device—a wise choice, given that production company's extensive experience in making quirky devices for commercials (many of them for Google). 1stAveMachine built this device in a circle, which is itself a metaphor for Panera's daily routine—it ends, and then begins anew the next morning.

"What we're trying to do here is illustrate the cyclical nature of a day in the life of Panera," 1stAveMachine co-director Bob Partington says in the revealing behind-the-scenes video (also posted below). "A Rube Goldberg device is a cause and effect, like a chain-reaction device. And the idea is, all these little things in this circle represent all the difficult decisions and the hard road that Panera takes in creating this really great product."

There is also, of course, the more obvious connection between a Rube Goldberg machine and Panera's product—both are handmade, or "artisanal," if you like. "We thought that by doing it with artisans and embracing their craftsmanship, we were somehow also embracing the style of the brand," says co-director Antonio Balseiro.

Even if you think that's overly conceptualized, there's also the plain fact that Rube Goldberg machines are just fun to watch—whatever you're selling. If nothing else, that's why we'll surely see plenty more of them in the future.

Client: Panera
Agency: Cramer-Krasselt
Production Company: 1stAveMachine

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