SPARTANBURG, SCIn a clear case of retail irony, on Monday, Furniture World owner/pitchman Mort Neely appeared in his latest television commercial dressed as a clown–despite the fact that he is in no way "clowning around" or otherwise treating the subject of low furniture prices with irreverence.
The commercial, which aired on NBC affiliate WWBT-12 during an 11:30 p.m. Cheers rerun, features Neely standing in front of his store in a rented clown costume. Addressing the viewer, he states, "My fellow residents of the greater Spartanburg area, it is I, Mort Neely, dressed as a clown. Before I say anything else, though, I wish to stress one thing: This outlandish mode of dress in which you see me is wholly inappropriate in light of my commitment to low prices on home furnishings."
Several Furniture World sale items are then displayed, after which Neely ends the commercial by urging viewers to visit the store immediately and not to wait for the circus to come to town.
Neely, who said he donned the clown costume purely as a means of attracting viewers' attention, acknowledged having serious concerns that the commercial would send the wrong message.
"I knew there was a chance people would see me dressed in the clown suit and think, 'A clown is trying to sell me furniture. I would not do business with a clown. A clown would treat the very serious matter of savings flippantly, as if savings were a joke.' I needed to assure them that my reasons for dressing as a clown in no way reflected a casual attitude on my part toward the serious business of offering rock-bottom prices on popular brands of furniture."
Previous advertisements for the popular Spartanburg furniture outlet featured Neely dressed as a cowboy, an astronaut, and Elvis Presley.
"These personae were far less risky than my latest one," Neely said. "They projected an image of me as a sober-minded man who is deeply dedicated to his profession, which I am. Furthermore, the Presley ad enabled me to identify myself as the 'King Of Furniture,' and state that viewers would be 'all shook up' by the bargains I was offering, a prediction that proved largely accurate."
According to Neely, future commercials for Furniture World will feature him dressed as Sherlock Holmes, a caped superhero, and a space alien with comical springy antennae.
"I still have some reservations about the alien concept," Neely said. "I would hate for viewers to come away with the notion that, aside from the out-of-this-world bargains, my store is in some way otherworldly or inhuman. That is simply not the case."