Mr. T and Old Navy Best-Tees are Besties, Fool

God, I miss the 80s.

The fashion. The music. The neon. So much hairspray. So many laser-beam school portrait backgrounds.

Ah, the Punky Brewster-ness of it all.

Now that you’re aware of my unabashed love for the most tubular decade ever, you can imagine my delight at seeing Mr. T as the new spokesperson for Old Navy—wait for it—tees!

Yes, everyone’s favorite mohawked gold-chain enthusiast is here to save us all from sporting uncomfortable, boxy T-shirts. In the words of B.A. Baracus himself: “I sympathize with the fool who wears a scratchy tee.”

The spot getting the most buzz features an infomercial spoof with Anna Faris, who admits that she was a “real dillweed” before Old Navy’s reinvented Best-Tees changed her life:

http://youtu.be/fTWTl-6qSSE

Mr. T and Ms. Faris are perfect fits (OK, at first the pun was totally unintentional, but then I decided to leave it in) for Old Navy’s signature quirky ad style and the brand’s current “Funnovations Inc.” campaign. More importantly, these ads seem to address very directly—and effectively—the issues that Old Navy was called to task for in 2011 after a disappointing first half.

Last August, Glenn Murphy, chairman and CEO of Gap Inc. (which comprises the Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Piperlime, and Athleta brands), noted in the company’s second quarter earnings call that while he was pleased with Old Navy’s latest, improved product offerings, recent marketing efforts—namely the “Old Navy Records” campaign—hadn’t been as effective as everyone had hoped.

“The message, while people thought it was good and they remembered it, it wasn’t anywhere near the call to action needed to get somebody into the car and make a trip to Old Navy,” Murphy observed. “I’m disappointed in the leadership that we’ve been unable to get enough people and the customers we target to come in and see what [our chief creative officer] has actually put into the store.”

Nancy Reagan and Mr. T. For real.

With all that in mind, I found myself becoming an even bigger fan of the Mr. T spots as I watched them on YouTube. Using humor, these ads focus heavily on the attributes of Old Navy’s latest product and handily convey that these tees are a revamped version of a clothing classic, worthy of a second look. (Don’t you want to take a jaunt over to Old Navy today and feel a softness greater than baby chicks, kittens, and puppies on your skin?) Plus, these T-shirts are not only comfy, but they will flatter you in ways no ordinary, boxy tee ever could (thanks to the sculpting power of Mr. T’s trillion-and-a-half-dollar Best-Tee Machine). After all, just look at how they manage to complement the figures of everyone from models and actresses to fake doctors and big ol’ Mr. T himself! It’s fun for the whole family!!

At two minutes in length, the infomercial spot in particular is quite effective at driving these points home (over and over again) by disguising the whole thing as one giant parody. And, of course, Mr. T’s floating head gruffly instructing viewers to “Go to an Old Navy store, right now!” serves as a final—and awesomely appropriate—push for the call to action.

Frankly, I am PUMPED about going to Old Navy to check out a T-shirt. I mean, it’s just a T-shirt—the most basic item of clothing on the planet—but the visuals, jokes, and originality of the ads succeed in making me believe (or at least “strongly hope” enough to venture into a store) that this latest version of an Old Navy tee is actually different than the status quo and truly stands a chance of resolving the very real tragedy of ill-fitting T-shirts. (Seriously, folks, this problem has turned me into a dillweed on occasion—when you bring 20 items into the dressing room and only two fit, tempers flare.)

Sounds like this is exactly the kind of reaction Glenn Murphy is looking for, no?

Just for the Taste of It: Remembering Whitney Houston

I miss Whitney.

Like so many fellow children of the 1980s, I raced to YouTube after learning of Whitney Houston’s passing on Saturday to relive the moments from her glory days. That soaring voice. That giant hair. The colors. The clothes. The pop.

The fun.

I miss when Whitney was on top of the world—a powerhouse with raw talent untarnished by years of drug abuse and erratic public behavior.

I miss the Whitney that came before Being Bobby Brown and “crack is whack.”

You know those chills you get when you watch someone perform in their element—when you know they are exactly where they’re supposed to be? Call it destiny, if you like. Fate. The aligning of the planets. A divine plan.

Whatever it was, Whitney had it. So it’s no surprise that Diet Coke tapped the songstress to promote its brand back in 1986. The soft drink, which debuted in 1982, was still relatively young, as was Whitney’s superstar career. Her unparalleled vocals and fresh—and safe—image were a perfect match for Coca-Cola’s hit product. Here was a woman with confidence, beauty, and fame singing about and drinking a beverage that would help her keep her celebrity figure (No sugar! Less than one calorie!)—but that didn’t even matter, because she was drinking it just for the TASTE of it! It was that cool! Just like her.

Whitney appeared in a few Diet Coke ads over the next few years, as well as spots for AT&T and Sanyo, but she hadn’t appeared in endorsements in well over a decade. While there are certainly any number of reasons for this absence, it’s unlikely her increasingly troubled persona would have been considered anything but a liability to brands. (Given her public struggles with drugs, a Whitney Houston “Coke” endorsement in her later years would have been inappropriate, to say the least.)

And so, as we reflect on the untimely passing of another entertainment icon, I choose to remember the Whitney of Diet Coke. The Whitney of MTV’s up-and-coming years. The Whitney with a giant bow in her hair, gleefully asking a funhouse full of questionable dancers, “How will I know?” (Love can be deceiving, Whitney.)

Thanks for the memories, Ms. Houston. Rest in peace.