Do Clownish Ads Work?
What in the hell was Roger Berkowitz thinking when he shelled out $150,000 for ads on the sides of Boston’s trolley system touting his chain of very fine Legal Sea Foods restaurants? Here are big illustrations of fish with cartoon balloons coming out of their mouths and one-line captions that include:
“This conductor has a face like a halibut.”
“This trolley gets around more than your sister.”
“Hey, lady, I’ve seen smaller noses on a swordfish.”
These sassy lines show fish that are saying fresh things.
My brother-in-law lives in Boston, and one of his favorite haunts is Legal Sea Foods. Julia Child, a Cambridge resident, gave the fledgling restaurant a testimonial in its early years. And last month, when Sen. Ted Kennedy was in Massachusetts General Hospital for diagnosis, it was reported that he was watching a Red Sox game on television and dining on Legal Sea Foods takeout.
The first establishment was opened in 1950 by George Berkowitz as a fish market at Inman Square, in Cambridge, next to his father’s grocery store, Legal Cash Market. It was named for the so-called “Legal Stamps” given to customers as purchase rewards—much like Sperry & Hutchinson’s famous S&H Green Stamps that seemed to be everywhere in the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1960, Berkowitz opened his first fish restaurant next to his fish store, where he served fresh broiled and fried fish on paper plates to customers who dined family style on picnic tables.
Today, nine Legal Sea Foods restaurants are in the Boston area with 24 more up and down the East Coast from Florida to Massachusetts. Whenever I’m in Boston, I make it point to hit a Legal Sea Foods at least once for a very special eating experience—oysters or cherrystone clams, chowder, salad, fresh fish beautifully prepared, and cold beer.