It’s television’s most talked about new broadcast. It has inspired Internet worships sites, YouTube videos and a raging debate. What is it, you ask? Why, it’s the commercial for the Snuggie.
If somehow you’ve avoided spotting this thing on the late-night airwaves, the Snuggie is a blanket ... with sleeves! Otherwise known as a robe! Whether you’re a fan of the product or simply baffled by it, there’s no avoiding the cultural impact of the Snuggie--a phenomenon not seen since the halcyon days of the HeadOn pain reliever commercial. (Don’t make me repeat that brain-burrowing slogan.) Thanks to the combination of a ubiquitous direct-response ad and a rock-bottom price (two of ’em for $19.95, plus a free book light--act now!), Allstar Products Group has moved more than 4 million of the Chinese-made warming products since their debut in October. According to an article in Advertising Age magazine, Facebook has more than 250 Snuggie groups (both pro and anti) while YouTube boasts more than 300 parody videos.
Type the word “Snuggie” into Google and you’ll get 878,000 hits. Infomercial-hell.com calls it “another candidate for the Stupid Hall of Fame.” MetaFilter.com hosts a spirited debate: Snuggie vs. Slanket (a more colorful but pricier blanket with sleeves). SnuggieSightings.com allows people to post photographs of random folks sporting the distinctive burgundy (now in royal blue or sage green!) garment.
But how to explain the sudden fanatical attention to this particular late-night product (as opposed to, say, that cheap hearing aid masquerading as a fake Bluetooth headset or the inimitable Tiddy Bear)? Some chalk it up to the economy, stupid. People are cutting expenses by lowering their thermostats and huddling on the couch watching free TV. How better to exploit that situation than a product that allows you to keep warm and have your hands free to work a remote? Others simply chalk it up to a mad, group-think zeitgeist, not unlike the Popeil Pocket Fisherman craze of 1968.
Only time will tell who is right in this, our country’s newest cultural war. In 10 years’ time, will we all be dressed like the Emperor’s Royal Guard in Return of the Jedi, or will Snuggies be the stereotypical garage sale item, spotted everywhere for a quarter, right alongside Herb Alpert’s “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” album, copies of Alvin Toffler’s nonprophetic nonfiction book Future Shock and unopened boxes of Ronco’s Inside-The-Shell Egg Scrambler?