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A not-so-sheepish Serta pokes Tempur-Pedic bear

David Perry Executive editorDavid Perry Executive editor
It was the bedding banner that launched countless conversations.
     That Sealy ad was something, wasn't it? Oops, I meant those Simmons ads. No, I really meant the King Koil banner. Actually, I was thinking of the Vivon banner.
     While mattress buyers in Las Vegas were greeted by plenty of mattress banners, the banner that stirred the mattress community in Las Vegas belonged, of course, to Serta. Counting Sheep No. 1 offered this short, pointed message: "Scary Bears. Really?"
     While not everyone immediately caught the reference, that was a knock on the Tempur-Pedic brand commercial that pictures a family living with a bear - a Mom who hasn't been sleeping well. Luckily for the kids, a Tempur-Pedic mattress banishes the bear and Mom returns in the morning.
     Tempur-Pedic brand officials could "bearly" contain their unhappiness with the Serta ad. They decried "intentionally destructive messages" that don't elevate the stature of the industry. Rather than respond with a banner of their own, one that could picture a bear eating a sheep, they suggested, Tempur-Pedic would make a donation to pancreatic cancer research on behalf of the entire industry.
     When Rick Anderson, president of Tempur-Pedic North America, delivered that message at Tempur-Pedic's well attended market party, it was greeted with applause. That was a smart, classy move by Tempur-Pedic.
     But Serta officials also scored some points with their comeback to Tempur-Pedic. They noted that Counting Sheep No. 1 sometimes says what's on his mind and reminded everyone that the Serta Counting Sheep helped the City of Hope raise almost $500,000 last year, an impressive achievement.
     In my market visits, I heard strong criticism of the Serta ad, which many deemed to be in poor taste. Not that I am defending the Tempur-Pedic bear ad, which, like some other Tempur-Pedic ads this year, misses the mark, in my view.
     The Serta-Tempur-Pedic exchange highlights the hyper-competitive battle between those two brands, one that Serta has been winning for some time. Given all that, I don't understand why Serta felt the need to bait the Tempur-Pedic bear.
     It was good to see so many bedding banners in Las Vegas. Sealy showed its strongest banner yet, I thought, while Simmons had two good offerings. King Koil had a super-sized picture of its super-sizing Flare mattress design, while Vivon had a catchy tag line: Live On. Laugh On. Dream On.
     Bedding dominates the market scene in Las Vegas, as those banners illustrated. And the controversy sparked by the Serta ad highlights an important date on the calendar: Jan. 26, 2014. That's when we will see Serta's next Las Vegas banner - and the banners of its competitors. Is there something else on Counting Sheep No. 1's mind? Will Tempur-Pedic have a bearish retort? Or will another producer aim to grab the mattress spotlight away from Serta? Stay tuned.

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