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A still frame from Hour 6 of a 13-hour Arby's commercial, showing beef brisket being smoked in a Texas smokehouse, that is set to air only in Duluth on Saturday. The commercial will set a record for world's longest TV ad. (Image courtesy of Arby's)

Arby’s aiming for record with 13-hour commercial, airing only in Duluth

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Duluth News Tribune
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A world premiere will be showing in Duluth beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday.

And it won’t end until 2 a.m. on Sunday.

The place: Your living room.

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The event is a 13-hour commercial for Arby’s smokehouse brisket sandwich. Later next week, it will be available online for anyone with Internet access. But on Saturday, it will be seen on My9 (channel 9 on cable, digital channel 6.2), and nowhere else.

Why here?

“As you’d expect, the idea around airing a commercial for 13 hours required that we cast a pretty wide net,” said Jeff Baker, whose title for the Atlanta-based fast-food restaurants is senior director for brand experience. “There were very few folks who could do this the right way, and we had the most confidence in working with My9 and … their ability to be quite flexible with what I’m certain was a very challenging request.”

Managers at the Northland’s NewsCenter, which operates My9, could not be reached for a comment Friday, and Baker declined to say how much 13 hours of airtime on the station will cost his company. But he did define the 13-hour commercial as “unprecedented.”

Indeed. When the commercial passes the one-hour mark, it will have exceeded the Guinness World Record for longest TV commercial, currently held by Nivea.

At 13 hours, the commercial will be longer than pregame coverage of the Super Bowl (6½ hours), and not much shorter than Richard Wagner’s operatic “Ring” cycle (14½ hours).

In addition to the obvious buzz of producing and airing such a long commercial — the stunt already has earned coverage in the New York Times — Arby’s has a particular reason behind its 13-hour production. That’s the amount of time the company says its beef brisket is smoked with hickory wood in a Texas smokehouse before being deemed ready for the sandwich.

“The focus of this was really around the authenticity of the sandwich,” Baker said.

The commercial may be mouth-watering if not scintillating. The door of a smoker will open, the brisket will be placed inside, smoke will flow in, and for just short of 13 hours, the viewer will watch it smoke through a window. A small logo in the corner of the screen identifies Arby’s.

Just before 2 a.m., viewers will see the door open, the brisket come out and Arby’s executive chef Neville Craw prepare the sandwich. Craw’s face won’t be seen so the focus will remain on the sandwich, Baker said.

The smokehouse brisket, offered for the first time last year, is in Arby’s restaurants — including three in the Twin Ports and one in Cloquet — again for an undetermined amount of time, he said. It was the most successful new product in the company’s 50-year history, spokesman Jason Rollins said.

Arby’s could have just aired the commercial online, Baker said, but when they realized there was a record to be broken, the company decided to go for it on TV.

The result, he said: “The most dramatic television commercial of all time.”

And then he added, laughing: “ ‘The most dramatic’ is subjective, but the longest will be factual after tomorrow.”

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John Lundy
(218) 720-4103
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