JennAir's Appliance Ads Are Beautiful, and Also Strangely Defensive

Props for calling out Sub-Zero, though—LOL!

Fun fact: Whirlpool is the No. 1 appliance brand among millennials. Who knew? 

It turns out Whirlpool has a "luxury brand" called JennAir, which isn't nearly so popular. (It's No. 21 on that same YouGov list.) 

JennAir has existed since 1947. It's apparently always had a "break boundaries" reputation in luxury kitchen appliances, but has, in fickle days, fallen out of favor against such upstarts as Sub-Zero and Wolf (No. 14).

Well, now JennAir wants its kitchen space back. It just launched two new films under the banner "Bound by Nothing."

Below is "Mannequin," which draws much from Stepford Wives and possibly also the Camazotz bouncing ball scene from A Wrinkle in Time. 

Mannequin | Column Refrigeration by JennAir

It's unfair to compare ads like this to Apple's "1984," pretty much the Godwin Point of advertising, but it's also hard not to. "Mannequin" is a direct attack on Sub-Zero, whose name is actually printed on the bad fridge in the ad. (Ballsy.) 

But it's also a metaphor for the constricting, literally plastic quality of old luxury, an invitation to break out of dystopia by embracing metal and glass refrigeration. 

We wouldn't have made such a dramatic connection, but maybe that's the point. Maybe, as we upwardly ascended, we should have been thinking of our fridges all along … ? 

"Column refrigeration by JennAir," the voiceover rasps with the kind of testosteroney verve that wouldn't be out of place in a 10-razorblade Gillette ad from its pre-woke era. "Sculpted from solid glass and metal. Because luxury isn't plastic." 

Next is "Duet," aptly named because it features a couple breaking into interpretive dance during a waltz, and because it promotes a pair of commercial ranges called Rise and Noir, "two distinct design expressions born to set you free." 

(How can you unironically say something like that and still respect yourself?)

Duet | RISE™ & NOIR™ Design Expressions by JennAir

The ads were created by Digitas and MSL, acting as "Darkhorse," a team Publicis put together last year specifically to fix JennAir's identity problem. Their first ad, released a month later, was "Anthem," which bombastically proclaimed, "From the ashes comes freedom—freedom from trends, from false influence and empty symbols!" 

"'Bound by Nothing' champions progressive design and challenges our blind allegiance to luxury norms—the brands we slavishly adopt, all the conventional followership," says Digitas North America's chief creative officer, Atit Shah. "In 'Mannequin,' we escape an unsettling world of plastic smiles, plastic rituals, and yes, our competitors' plastic craftsmanship. And in 'Duet,' we coronate two new designs, Rise and Noir, that depart from the kitchen category's stainless-steel sameness." 

Look, the work is beautiful. But something gets lost between their delicate opening productions and throaty, bullish product reveals.

They lack subtlety, feel insistent, defensive. Do you have to explain what luxury is, and is not, if you're showing it? It's also a bit too in-your-face for the inconspicuous consumption generation—a pretty severe psychographic misstep. 

"In all the connected experiences and stories we are creating for JennAir, we are not using an appliance language of rational comparison and incrementalism; we want to position the brand as defiantly different," says Shah. 

Speaking of rational comparison, using two interpretive dancers as a metaphor for kitchen ranges—however freeing their "design expressions"—is the kind of thing you definitely shouldn't do with a straight face, never mind a ransack-the-villages voiceover complete with flaming logo. 

But this is nobody's fault. Well, maybe it's the fault of the people who decided JennAir's equivalent of The Wolf should be "Darkhorse," then proclaimed it to the world at large, thereby setting the tone. 

The Wolf is The Wolf because he does an excellent job (discreetly!), treats people like grownups, and doesn't give long speeches about what wolves are not. 

The spots will go live online, in select theaters, on OTT platforms like Hulu, and via a partnership with Vice. Influencer engagement, programmatic, and out-of-home advertising round out the reinforcements. 

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Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is a founding contributor to Muse. She is also the co-founder of esports agency Hurrah.gg, and co-author of Generation Creation.