February 9, 2024 / Thought Leadership
To Beantown or Not to Beantown
Ben Affleck’s latest spot for Dunkin’ has us wondering if it’s time to lay “the accent” to rest in advertising.
For nearly two decades, there has been one constant above all constants when it comes to Super Bowl advertising. No, it’s not the Budweiser Clydesdales or E-Trade babies. It’s the accent. You know the one we’re talking about. Your cousin from Boston, The Hyundai “Smaht Pahk” crew, and more recently, Ben Affleck’s hotly anticipated “meme come to life” Dunkin’ spots, to name a few.
The perpetual nod to our regional eccentricities made sense during the Brady-Belichick era. Super Bowl ads are usually locked in well before the final teams are determined, so banking on Boston was smart money – until it wasn’t. It all begs the question – is the Boston accent still fair play, or is it played out?
And with one of our global offices in Boston, we just couldn’t help ourselves. So we spoke with CPers far and wide to get their perspective on Ben Affleck’s latest Dunkin’ endorsement…
Justin Kriel, Director, Photography & Production – VRX & CP West:
I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek nature of Ben Affleck wanting to become a pop star. But if I didn’t know he grew up in Boston, I wouldn’t get why the accent was so heavy. As a movie star, I more closely associate him with California. It took me a second to get the ‘fuelled by Dunkin’ idea. The best part was the Flava Flav reference at the end with the oversized donut necklace.
Kelley Bolte, Senior Manager of Talent & Culture – Boston:
When it comes to advertising, I’ve always been a sucker for two things…a good teaser and massive brands that never forget to nod to their roots. So in theory, this spot would be a home run for me. The one thing I hate in advertising? When I’m so distracted by all the elements that the message gets lost. The accent was so over the top that I first missed what could have been a straightforward message delivered with simple (and funny) entertainment. We’ll see if part two changes my mind.
Hayes Hollar, Assistant Operations and Talent Manager – Boston:
As someone who is from the West Coast, and would only recognize the Boston accent from coming here for school, I’m tempted to say that the accent bears no significance to me as a viewer when I’m watching this ad – especially if we’re thinking about how this is intended to amplify Dunkin’s brand. If anything, as someone who identifies as Gen Z, Charli D’Amelio and the association I hold with her and Dunkin’ – since her partnership with them went viral on TikTok – is more impactful in her two-second clip than Ben Affleck is for me.
Susan O’Leary, Account Director – Dublin:
I’m probably not the best to judge the Boston accent, as I’ve lived way too long in Dublin, but I am always a fan of leaning into using an exaggerated accent if it’s done well and adds value. Being from Nashville originally, I love an extreme Southern accent for humorous effect and, living half my life in Dublin, I enjoy ads playing up the Irish accent as well (not the twee diddly dee type though, America I’m looking at you here!). The new ad with Ben Affleck for Dunkin’ is OK, but I think some was lost on me as I didn’t understand the context at the start with the photo. The Sam Adams/Your Cousin from Boston ad and the Hyundai/Smaht Pahk ads really nailed it for me with better use of the Boston accent, harder-hitting humor and more interesting/less complicated setups. The accent just connected better in these, but I am looking forward to seeing part two of the Affleck/ Dunkin’ ad, as it could sway me if it delivers. I love old-school hip hop and that Public Enemy-style donut bling is intriguing…
Laura Lyverse, Director, Design Studio – Boston:
Painful, just painful. Not Julianne Moore on 30-Rock-level bad, but definitely as grating as Sam Adams/Your Cousin… Exaggerated accent must be used in small doses and executed flawlessly or the locals will be up in arms, and non-locals don’t really get it. Also, I couldn’t believe how long this felt. There’s a Part 2?? No thanks.
Hillary Williams, Group Brand Director – Boston:
I give Dunkin’ credit for capitalizing on a social moment (and Ben Affleck for leaning into it in an endearing and self-deprecating way) … but the “Boston” accent angle feels overdone to me at this point and this falls short of previous ads like the Hyundai Smaht Pahk or, of course, his brother’s SNL Dunkin’ skit, if we’re looking at it through that filter. In terms of cleverly owning a viral moment though, I’m a fan! P.S. If the brief said to maximize branding in almost every single frame…they succeeded. 🙂
Barry Frechette, Creative Production – Global:
I usually cringe as soon as I hear the Boston accent in an ad, but if done well? Chef’s kiss. And Ben seems to embody the “Boston” tone. Many of the other holiday Boston types may have roots here, but when you want to connect a “Boston Celeb” to a brand, this is your guy. I mean, if Boston was a picture, here it is.
And with that, the people have spoken. Enjoy the Super Bowl, the ads, the food and the avalanche of agency thought leadership articles that will inevitably follow. Go Pats.