Perhaps it was to satisfy an atavistic desire, connecting across the eons with our hunter/gatherer forebears by gazing in awe as a slab of animal meat cooks slowly, the fat rendering, collagen melting. Or perhaps we’ve reached another stage in the mind’s evolution, with some next-level humans able to divine meaning and narrative out of watching a brisket cook through the lens of a single fixed TV camera. Please let there be some sane, acceptable explanation why hundreds of thousands of people would tune in to watch an Arby’s marketing stunt, and why they would give it more attention than they would the average TV show.
We told you back in May how Arby’s was planning to take over the airwaves of a Duluth, MN, TV station for 13 hours on Memorial Day Weekend, airing recorded footage — that’s right, it wasn’t even live — of an Arby’s brisket cooking in an oven.
It wasn’t even a special camera placed inside the oven. Just an unblinking, record-setting look through the window in the oven’s door.
We don’t know what the local ratings were like in Duluth, but the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that 400,000 people went online to watch the stunt. Even more astounding — though confounding is probably more accurate — is the fact that the average online viewer ogled the brisket for 38 minutes.
We’re not talking about streaming a new episode of Orange Is the New Black. We’re not talking about watching livestreams of political or social unrest around the world. We’re not talking about people reading a thoroughly researched investigative piece on government corruption.
We’re talking about a brisket. An Arby’s brisket. People who make their own brisket don’t give their meat that much attention — that’s the whole point of cooking a brisket.
The Star-Tribune tries to justify this time wasted watching a brisket.
“It also helped that visitors had a chance to win one of $20,000 in prizes that included a 10-gallon hat, lasso and beef-scented candles,” writes the paper.
No, no it doesn’t. In no world are beef-scented candles worth the 38 minutes of brisket-watching you will never get back.
“Thirty-eight minutes is longer than a lot of TV shows,” Arby’s senior brand experience director explains, while also trying to live with the fact that he is Arby’s senior brand experience director.