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« Around the Kitchen Interwebs | Main | Beautiful Kitchens »

Armstrong Flooring Ad

I hate to be negative, but that's part of life too, of course. My general goal is to try to be negative for as short a period of time as possible and then move on, leaving negativity in the dust. So, allow me this negative-centric post please.

I picked up my copy of House Beautiful, turned back the cover and what shouts out at me in a double page ad but a picture of Gilda Radner with a big smile on her face (on the right side of the ad.) Quite honestly, I wasn't sure if it was an old image of her or a look-alike.  I haven't given Gilda Radner a thought in I don't know how long, although she was one of my favorites.

Basically, Armstrong Flooring used Gilda Radner (look alike or real) to compare real wood floors to laminate (fake) wood flooring. I think comparing a beloved (by many) well known deceased person to a fake wood flooring material is misguided at best.

Here are some of the things I object to in this campaign:

  • This woman died at a young age
  • She truly suffered (intense physical and emotional pain) in her fight to live
  • It's not all that long ago that she died, an important factor
  • It's a huge corporate ad campaign
  • No mention, having used her celebrity persona as the center of this campaign, of donating money to ovarian cancer causes for the privilege of using her perpetual celebrity influence
  • Gilda Radner touched countless millions of people in her professional life and private struggle, earning immense good will, and this "capital" is being used for purposes of commerce
  • Does Armstrong understand, as this campaign is widely viewed, how hurt a large number of people will be, as they suffer through ovarian cancer or remember the suffering their loved ones endured?

That's really all I need to know. For me, it was an immediate, strong, negative reaction upon seeing the ad. There WAS only one Gilda Radner, as Armstrong notes.  

End of negativity for today! All comments, no matter what they are, are welcome.

One more note. Armstrong, I would ask that you put out a  press release with your intention to donate money to Ovarian Cancer causes in recognition of Gilda Radner being the center of this campaign. I'll report on that with pleasure.



Here is what I received  on October 12 from Armstrong's PR agency: 

"Armstrong Flooring is partnering with retailers Abbey Carpet & Floor and Floors To Go for a national consumer sales event Sept. 15 to Nov. 15, 2009 to benefit Gilda’s Club Worldwide, a non-profit cancer support organization founded in memory of beloved comedian Gilda Radner. Armstrong will contribute $.10 to Gilda’s Club for every square foot of material a consumer purchases through Abbey or Floors To Go Sept. 15 through Nov. 15. So, if a consumer purchases 1,000 square feet of Armstrong's laminate flooring, Armstrong will donate $100 to Gilda’s Club. Armstrong has guaranteed Gilda’s Club a minimum $30,000 donation."

I'm very pleased to see this development. Thank you Armstrong for stepping up! 


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Reader Comments (48)

I haven't seen this ad yet (HB still sitting unopened on my table!). But, it's the latest in a line of similar ads - featuring Lucille Ball, James Dean, Dean Martin and Marlon Brando. I did a post here: http://chameleon-interiors.blogspot.com/2008/06/branding-famous-and-deceased-armstrong.html

I think what's notable, and potentially objectionable, about the Gilda Radner campaign is how relatively recently she died. But, are the others any less objectionable because they are "in the past"?

It's a fair question. Of course, it's a personal reaction, but, yes, I think the timing has something to do with it, plus, she had a fairly public struggle with her illness, so a connection was made, I'm sure, for many. Thanks for pointing out your post!

April 13, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Yeah, my first reaction was just a sort of odd feeling that didn't sit right with me. For some reason the ads with Lucille Ball, James Dean or others didn't generate the same feelings.

Maybe you are right and that the reason is because the others are farther in the past...

Tricia - Avolli

April 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTricia

I think that it is good to look back at the past once in a while and some of the commercials that have cropped up are pleasantly nostalgic.With Gilda Radner it is a bit different in that she died at the age of 42, in 1989 of cancer; a disease "in everyone's back yard" now. Do you know that there is an organization started in her honor in 1995, by her husband Gene Wilder called Gilda's Club? NYC has the premier flagship club house, but there are over 31 club houses around the county in operation and many more in developement.Gilda's Club supports people, (men, women and children) with all types and stages of cancer as well as their friends and family.It was her dream to have such a place and it is a reality. In Pa.there is one www.glidasclubdelval.org. The site for the world wide organization is www.gildasclub.org. A natural place to donate for those who loved and still love Gilda!!She would be proud that after so many years she could be remembered in such a positive way. Her birthday is in June, help Gilda's Club celebrate by sending in a donation. Thanks!!!

April 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Reif

Maybe it's my age, maybe because I/we can remember these people alive. I don't know. I haven't really resonated with the celebrity ads. Maybe Gilda's family donated the money to Gilda's Club (so it's going to good use). My copy of HB just arrived, each time it arrives I am reminded of all the magazines that no longer grace our shelves- Domino, Home Companion, Cottage Living (much like seeing dead celebrities pitching a product), it makes me sad.

April 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

Tricia, thanks for your comment. It's just interesting to hear what people think. I was looking for something on your site the other day. Yes, dining tables and chairs!

Hi Karen! Yes, I did know there was some sort of organization that was well established (or so I thought) for her. Thank you very much for adding such great information on these clubs. She really is beloved. There was a purity about her, I think, that shone through her comedy.

Michele, I don't know if any money needed to change hands. Her name is not mentioned, although the likeness is indisputable. I don't know the legalities of that. It sure is sad, no doubt, to see such great magazines going through these tough times. Thanks for stopping by. :)

April 13, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

My first thought when I, too, opened my House Beautiful, "What would Gilda think?"

April 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHolley, Idea Design

yikes Armstrong blew it. The campaign was just forgettable with the other celebrities, but this one is just wrong. Thanks for posting the pr email.

April 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChloe C.

I love how my readers say things in logical, clear, succinct thoughts that I take paragraphs to say...always happens!

Thanks for the comments Holley and Chloe. Appreciate any and all feedback on this.

April 14, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Susan, great to hear you visited my site. Hope you found what you were looking for. Be sure to call or email me because I can send you high resolution detail photos of any piece you are considering so that you can really get to know the piece. Would love to work with you!

April 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTricia

If the year the person died is such an important factor (1989 for Gilda Radner), then you should be more offended by the use of Marlon Brando (died in 2004) and Dean Martin (1995). Or don't they matter because they were OLD? The ads don't bother me at all - I think it's nice to be reminded of her. And what would she think? She might just laugh.

April 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersuz

Suz, relax.

It makes sense for me to feel this way because I have more of a connection to Gilda than to Marlon Brando or Dean Martin. And, as we know, elderly people do pass on, so that is always expected/easier to process.

April 14, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Telling Suz to relax is a little rough...I mean, she is entitled to her opinion and no, an elderly person passing on is not always expected or easier to process.

It may make sense for you to feel that way, but you're generalizing how everyone else should feel as well.

April 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermarissa

Well, sure, you're right in that I matched a bit of hostility with hostility, which I should not have done. I was wrong.

But no, I generalized it for me, as I specifically noted those were thoughts pertaining to me.

Thanks for your comment.

April 14, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Hi Susan,

I have one thing to say here - Very Poor Taste! I am very surprised that a company like Armstrong would produce such an ad. I like to think that a company like that devotes time to researching such things as their advertising, but there must be a part of the population large enough that disagrees with me.


April 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterOnlinehandyman

Onlinehandyman, love your blog! I'm very open to seeing who agrees/disagrees with this ad. This was my reaction, but I'm open to all views. Thanks for stopping by.

April 14, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

First, it really is an image of Gilda Radner (and a good graphic artist job). Second, her likeness had to be licensed by her estate. If they did not want her likeness used in such a way, all they had to do was say no. Third, Gilda died 20 years ago. Not exactly a recent news story.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTHenson

I enjoy the Armstrong ads. Like the flooring, it's show biz: an illusion created for our entertainment, gritty real-life details conveniently deleted. Thank God the Marlon ads don't give profits to Overeater's Anonymous, Lucille's ads don't benefit battered wives, etc. Give me the grace and proud carriage that carrying on without carrying on about it brings over ceaseless moaning and groaning and blaming and complaining. These people were defined by their lives, not their deaths or their problems, celebrated by Armstrong.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynn

Thanks for your comments. I still don't like it. But, that's just me, I recognize that.

April 16, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Newest ad revolves around Louis Armstrong. Will we continue with the dead celebrity thread, or move to using the last name inappropriately?

April 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTHenson

Aren't you clever! ;)

April 16, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Wow, such strong comments, I can't believe it! Read Gilda's biography, and you'll know that she most likely would love this homage. Gene Wilder (as it states at the bottom of the ad) approved the campaign, did anyone ask or care if Marlon Brando's or any of the other star's estates had anything to say? Great viral promotion for Armstrong, by the way! Personally, love the colors and I think the ad is terrific!

April 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermgt

Do you really think that anyone who has lost a loved one needs a picture to remind them of the tragedy of their loss? I've lost people that I love, and it would thrill me to see them 'immortalized' like that for all the world to remember. Shame on Armstrong? Shame on you for making such a ridiculously big mountain out of nothing. It would have been tasteless if they had made her look bad or do something bad. But she is laughing and looks happy, She was a funny lady and I smiled when I saw the ad.

April 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJames C.

Susan, your kitchen blog is amazing, inspirational, and revelatory. Armstrong ads hit me the same way- the shock of recognition, a familiar face from long ago captured at their peak, reminding me in the best way of days gone by. The Gilda ads in particular hearken back to my own youth, class of '76! Our innocence was short-lived, taken too soon by reality. The ads are done so well, the illusion is so flawless, it's disconcerting, revisiting a past that we thought we'd forgotten. Art is best when it makes us cry and sob and yearn for loss. A little ad, big impact, A+ for effort.

April 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynn

My mother died of ovarian cancer 6 months before Gilda, at a needlessly young age.

I wanted to gauge the forthcoming reactions as a barometer to my own, to hear different points of view, since I suspected this could be a hot button issue for me.

The ad shocked me into quickly reliving the ravages of the disease (while I was minding my own business on a Saturday morning when I opened the magazine) as well as feeling an instant endearment and sympathy for Gilda who I subsequently felt was being used. Those were my initial feelings/reactions. I felt protective.

Who, most importantly, who was around at that time, wasn't touched by her struggle? She made her struggle very public, another piece to my reaction. I witnessed her struggle, after having seen and enjoyed her work on a regular basis for some years. The struggle she, herself, made public was also a significant part of who she was, but isn't so lovely to remember, especially for corporate America, even to put a website address in small print somewhere in the ad. So, for me, first I mourn when I see this ad, very much so, as I'm sure many of her contemporaries do.

That said, while none of us can predict what her reaction would be and if she would have wanted some sort of public service acknowledgement therein or not, particularly to take advantage of this huge audience, she also may have wanted to say to her estate "TAKE THE MONEY, I'LL SHUT UP AND SMILE!!" IF money changed hands. A whole other issue, money. Who knows what she would have wanted? None of us know. I certainly don't know. We just have our own reactions...as are addressed to me, personally: in agreement, in respectful disagreement, and with hostility.

To those of you who agreed, thanks for that support, and most impressively, those who respectfully disagreed...to you, you're awesome.

Gilda's Club

April 22, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

So, if we agree we are awesome.If we don't agree, 'thanks'? Some might say, mind your own business and 'thanks', but no thanks.

April 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

Susan, I'm so very sorry for your loss. I thought your reaction was personal and primal, not really political or economical, but politics and money and principles are something we can debate and control and argue with, unlike death. My dad has been gone 11 years and it can still hit me like a bullet when something triggers a memory. I apologize if I added to your pain in any way. I wish you healing and peace.

April 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLynn

Oh Lynn, thanks very much for your kind words. I think to me, I see more than the smiling face in the ad, for better or worse. :)

April 23, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

My wife and I were instantly offended by this ad. The estate approved it? Great. Can't agree.
This ad sucks, period.
Deal with it.

Wrong is wrong. Right is right. No gray area.

If you see gray...you're colorblind. I'm so sorry for you.

April 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Hall

My mom died too young from ovarian cancer.I am not offended. I just shrug and turn the page. I don't think its a good ad either. When you see a picture of a deceased celebrity, why is what disease they died from immediately come to mind? When I see her photo I think Rosanne Rosanadana, and sitting with my mom watching SNL and laughing at her. She was such a claasic and so funny! AND LADIES PLEASE GET YOUR CHECKUPS AND KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS THATS THE MAIN THING!!!

April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Here's an email I received (no names revealed):

Your Name:
Your Email:
Subject: Yr observation about G.R. look-alike- SPOT ON!!!
Message: Thank you for posting your comment on the Arstrong ad. My reaction was the same and I tend not to subscribe or buy where I feel I've been "slapped in the face". Much appreciated!

April 30, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I saw this ad in another magazine and it struck me as a bit off right away. I think it is because of the tagline "it only looks like the original," like with floors it might not matter, but it looks like they are implying that it doesn't matter if it is the real Gilda or not in the world, and if you liked her, your reaction might not be positive to that message. I think that's why it seems offensive.

Anyhow, it def turns me off from their flooring, which I actually had never even thought about before, so I'm not sure that is a win for the ad.

May 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkatinka

hi, i dont usually check out your blog, but my friend Kendra sent me the link because she knows how i feel about Gilda.

the ad kind of turns my stomach.
i *CAN* imagine that the creative director had the *BEST* intentions, but it just comes across as disrespectful, cheap & cruel.

i hope that ARMSTRONG FLOORING are making a generous donation to GILDA'S CLUB....if so, they should have included their logo & URL in the ad.
if we had seen that, people's hearts would have swelled with good feeling for both Gilda & ARMSTRONG...

people may have felt that by supporting ARMSTRONG, they were helping people with cancer.

but instead, it comes of as a crass manipulation, playing *ONLY* on our nostalgia & recognition.

& i think most Gilda fans are smarter than that!

May 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commentern69n

Thank you for your feedback katinka and n69n.

It is interesting to get so many different points of view. Feel free to keep commenting.

May 3, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I didn't object to the photo, I thought it was Gilda. What I objected to was the glib slogan in small print below, "It only looks like the real thing." When I read that, it was no longer a happy looking ad, it was about Gilda being dead but we can make a great imitation of her, eh, fooled ya didn't we, ho ho ho. Making light of any death is in bad taste. Is the "real" floor dead, too? The campaign is not only nasty, it's not even clever.

And there was no Gene Wilder "okay" on the version in MS magazine (June edition) either.

May 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRobin Koontz

Here is what another friend suggested:
"It would be better if they used look-alikes for LIVE celebrities - then it would be humorous. But it's especially wrong to use Gilda - she's too recent and died from too terrible a cause."

May 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRobin Koontz

Copy of my letter to Armstrong

Dear Ms. Zelman,

I hate to be negative but...the ad showing a Gilda Radner lookalike in Oprah is uniquely offensive. I cannot imagine who dreamed this up, which table of copywriters and marketing folks agreed it was a good idea and even the various magazines that agreed to run it. ESPECIALLY as the ad is likely targeted to boomer women like me, possibly redecorating our homes at midlife and therefore, remember the real Gilda - who died young, left a grieving husband (Gene Wilder, I believe) was about her own talents (not hawking flooring) and such a joy - and inspiration - Indeed the Gilda Foundation is where the ad money should have gone.

I too, am a writer and in publishing - an author/journalist in fact - If you need a great floor ad to replacea this one - please call on me.

But this is simply (to me) bad taste - In a word: it's hurtful. Like schlepping out a corpse of someone once real, soul-infused and loving - to sell flooring.
Actually it's worse - someone real and living is be made to be the image of someone now ...gone.

I Googled to find if anyone else agreed with me - and that is how I found your contact at

with best wishes,
marcy goldman

May 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy Goldman

I agree whole heartedly. Although I was still too young to know who she was, and her pain, I knew of her comedy from watching late night television with my mother, and loved her. Now sitting here at 22 and seeing this bothers me too much. I see this negative in so many ways and only hope that the proceeds are used to help people who are suffering from ovarian cancer, not only because it's upsetting to many, but because it IS the right thing to do.

May 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Robin, good points. I agree too re the slogan, absolutely.

Marcy, your transparency impresses me. Thank you for your contribution and time.

Susan, this does interest me that, at 22, you are also touched by the aura and history of Gilda. Thanks very much for your input.

May 14, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

This is a great ad series. It is smart, beautifully photographed, perfect look-a-likes, and it was well delivered. Better than most flooring ads that just show the product. They found a unique way to say their flooring is a deceiving imitation. Everyone that looks at these ads does a double take.

I find this sad it's offending so many people. After reading all the previous posts it was probably a mistake of the advertising agency, BBDO in New York (which is one of the top agencies in the country), for choosing someone so relevant. Everyday people imitate famous "deceased" people like Elvis without offending anyone, because they're more iconic.

Case in point: If Armstrong's next ad in this series had a photo of a Heath Ledger look-a-like, people would get upset, too relevant. But, if it were a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like on their hardwood floor, there would be no objections.

All of the imitations were of these "Icons" when they were in their prime. I see these ads as more of a celebration of their lives than being offensive.

Best flooring ads ever made, guarantee you cant find a more engaging set.

May 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris

I find it curious that so many people are not leaving their information as to who they (really) are. Just an observation. You're all entitled to that, but I do find it curious.

Chris, you are 100% right about the older/iconic reference. Although Gilda is an icon, her situation is a bit more complex. And, yes, it is a fair comparison to the reaction there would probably be were Heath Ledger's likeness be put into this same situation. But Gilda...she reached out to all of us at the time in a very personal way.

There are those who know that and feel that and mourn her still and feel protective, and those who don't think about the layers of who she was, only the interest they get from the ad, end of story.

I, for one, think this particular ad is sad.

People can feel how they want about it. I'm simply expressing how *I* took this ad. There is no right or wrong. Each opinion expressed is just that, an opinion, nothing more or less.

May 15, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I could not agree more. I was shocked and still am every time i see that ad. Kudos to you for suggesting Armstrong donates to Gilda's cause. This is advertising at its most offensive. Get rid of all the ads and issue an APOLOGY.

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commentera taylor

I love the ad. I like the entire series Armstrong did with the different look-alikes. I wasn't familiar with Gilda Radner's struggle with cancer, as I was 8 years old when she died. But I kept the magazine because I liked the colors and the furniture used in the ad. Finally, I recognized Radner from SNL. I ended up Googling her, watching skits online and learning about her struggle with cancer. In the ad., she her look-alike conveys the image of her being young and spunky. I think it's awesome. Now I am interested in reading her memoir "It's Always Something". Amazing. I learned something so profound after keeping a magazine just because I liked the ad. And even after reading all the previous comment, I still love the ad. Maybe even more now.

May 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

I agree with you - I had the same reaction. For me it rests primarily on the fact that she died early in life and it is well documented that she suffered greatly, especially since the lab reports mistakenly led her to believe she was in remission/healing at one point. I think those factors make the selection of Gilda Radner in poor taste.

July 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMy Notting Hill

My first reaction to this ad was "I wonder if Gene Wilder approved this ad." I have not seen the other ads referred to (Lucille Ball, James Dean) so I don't know how I would have reacted to it had it been one of those other icons, but I did not receive this ad well at all. To be honest, I don't know WHY I don't like it. I just don't.

July 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine -- NY

Yeah, Armstrong really screwed the pooch on this one. I mean really, did anyone outside of their in-house ad department take a look at this first?

September 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMenashe - NYC

Take a look at the update at the end of the post...Armstrong is contributing to Gilda's Club, great news!

October 13, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

The floornig looks so nice!

August 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlaminate flooring

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