• Clint Engel

Bernie & Phyl's seeks young consumer with suggestive ads

NORTON, Mass. — Bernie & Phyl’s is going after young consumers using suggestive faux personal ads with furniture punchlines.

Since early February commuters on Boston’s subway system have been noticing furniture pitches disguised as kinky or lewd personal ads like this one: “I’m Really Into the Group Thing. And I go both ways. All blondes, brunettes and redheads are more than welcome. If you love leather, you’ll love me.”

That come-on is followed by “Sectionals in stock at Bernie & Phyl’s home of fine furniture.”

Bernieandpyhyl classifiedBoston-area Bernie & Phyl's personal furniture ads are drawing mixed reviews from subway riders.
Some of the poster ads are just as lewd (a dining room personal that says it can “satisfy up to 10 people at a time”), while are others are a little tamer, like the “Looking for a One Night Stand?” ad for nightstands that boast, “I’m attractive, short, and full of personality. Take me home and bring me up to your bedroom tonight.”

Then there’s, “Looking for a Big, Strong Man to Spoon With,” pitching the 8-store retailer’s recliners.

The campaign, which runs through March, was created for the Norton, Mass.-based Top 100 company by New York’s DeVito/Verdi. Bernie & Phyl’s hired the firm back in 2014 in an effort to reach younger consumers.

An earlier campaign, for instance, included an “Austin Powers” spy spoof gag, in which a young man shows up at the store in the buff, while furniture, paperwork and other objects are cleverly placed to cover key sensitive areas as he shops and chats with a salesperson. The spots drew some complaints from older consumers but were a hit with young shoppers, which is what the Norton, Mass.-based retailer was hoping for.

The latest ads are made to look like the racy solicitations you might find on back pages of some newspaper classifieds, “but are actually more about furniture than fetishes,” the company said in an email to Furniture Today.

And they’re garnering similar mixed reviews: “Shout out to @bernieandphyls for making my morning commute a bit better,” tweeted Nancy Chen, who liked the One Night Stand; and “Nothing like an offensive ad on the #orangeline to start the day,” from Sarah Beaulieu, who wasn’t into the “Group Thing” ad.

Bernie & Phyl’s is using seven out of about 25 ads that were created by the agency, said President Larry Rubin, noting that some of the creative was killed for being “a little over the top.”

Rubin said he knows some people have been offended, but other find the ads funny, and it’s creating buzz, so “the tradeoff is worth it.” He said one local business reporter who called for a story noted he saw the ads on the subway and that they caught the eye in an advertising space that’s usually ignored.

“At the end of the day, it creates awareness. People remember it,” Rubin said. “Whether they like it or don’t like it, they remember it and when they’re looking for furniture, they’re going to think of us.”

The ads are only one piece of Bernie & Phyl’s marketing strategy, but Rubin said business has been “really good.”


Clint EngelClint Engel | Senior Retail Editor, Furniture Today

Please feel free to email or call me with all of your retail news and tips, including expansion news, successful merchandising and marketing strategies and anything else you would like to see covered by Furniture/Today.  Contact me directly at cengel@furnituretoday.com or 336-605-1129.

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