A harmless pillow fight between two kids – seems innocent enough, right? Apparently not when you add a towering 6 foot 5 inch 240 pound man to the mix.
For this week’s Flashback Friday, we look back at Frank Thomas’ “controversial” pillow fight commercial.
Every year the Blue Jays release a series of television commercials, and wanting to promote their new slugger Frank Thomas, a marketing team developed the spot below.
The Television Bureau of Canada took issue with the commercial and thought it somehow promoted violence towards children.
The commercial is fairly tame by today’s standards; Frank Thomas hits a young boy with a pillow, but he promptly gets up and says “wow”, marvelling at the power of the Hall of Famer.
It’s not as if Thomas actually put the “Big Hurt” on him (don’t worry, I’ll show myself out).
The ad ran during the 2007 season but was shelved early in April due to complaints. The Blue Jays were forced to edit the commercial by changing the pillow scene and were required to add the disclaimer “Dramatization: do not attempt this at home”.
The vice president of marketing for the Blue Jays Laurel Lindsay was dumbfounded why it was an issue in the first place:
“Clearly we have taken ourselves entirely too seriously if we have given a pillow fight this much attention. The reaction we’re getting from the fans is that people can’t even believe this is an issue.
Everybody is entitled to their opinion, and the bureau’s role is they feel that somehow a child is being put in harm’s way and they need to step in and make sure it’s clarified. That’s their prerogative.”
The fact that the Blue Jays had to pull the commercial drew a great deal of attention to the ad campaign. I vaguely recall unedited versions popping up on YouTube, and it convinced many people to watch the commercial who wouldn’t have otherwise.
Some were concerned this commercial somehow endorsed hitting children with pillows, but to me, the greatest concern should be the stability of that railing. See how it wobbles back and worth when Thomas comes up the stairs? There’s no way that was up to code.
Paul Godfrey was the Blue Jays president at the time, and was surprised about all the undue attention the campaign received, while also zinging the Toronto sports media:
“It took a kid getting hit by a pillow to knock the Leafs off the front page.”
When all was said and done, later that year the Blue Jays had a Frank Thomas kids pillow giveaway for the first 5,000 kids through the gate at the Rogers Centre. As ridiculous as the whole situation was, the Blue Jays got the last laugh.