In dueling UPMC/Highmark diner ads, Highmark gets hometown advantage | Blogh

Friday, August 2, 2013

In dueling UPMC/Highmark diner ads, Highmark gets hometown advantage

Posted By on Fri, Aug 2, 2013 at 9:02 AM

Judging from the dueling ads that UPMC and Highmark have been airing, it seems like Pittsburghers have nothing better to do than sit around in diners and bitch about healthcare. Both healthcare titans have aired ads in which diner customers complain about how terrible the other healthcare titan is.

It remains to be seen which enterprise wins the hearts and minds of Pittsburghers. But UPMC may be off to a bad start: Its ad appears to have been filmed at a diner in Columbus, Ohio.

Here's the opening shot of UPMC's ad:


As you can see, there's a bunch of bric-a-brac on the walls, the most easily identified element of which is a poster of James Dean walking the streets of Paris (sort of like this image here). To the right of that are some framed photos and then a painting of what appears to be, I don't know, people in another diner, who appear to be having some sort of visionary experience. Maybe they saw Jeff Romoff's face in a Belgian waffle or something.

Now in the lower left-hand corner of that opening shot, you can also see one of those little stand-up cardboard things they put on diner counters. To me, this one seems to read "Tommy's Diner," though it's tough to be entirely sure.

I got curious: Where the hell was Tommy's Diner? Remember: They pay me to ask the tough questions. And they also pay me to Google stuff. It took about 10 seconds to find a "Tommy's Diner" in Columbus, Ohio. Could it be the same place? Well, compare the image above to the one I found thanks to this image search....

... or this one.

A phone call to a somewhat harried Tommy's staffer this morning confirms an ad was shot there.

Tommy's seems like a pretty nice place, and it's got lots of good feedback on Yelp. But the alarming thing here is that upon closer inspection, many of those other artworks on the wall tout ... Ohio State University sports teams. Which is maybe a little disappointing for a medical empire affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh.

But there's an even more pressing question here: Did UPMC at least make sure to stock the counter with Heinz ketchup? The answer is I don't know, because I couldn't see a single bottle of the condiment anywhere in the ad. These guys don't seem to have any ...


And neither does the rest of the counter.

So how did the Highmark ad do? Well, for starters, at least these cranky healthcare consumers got some ketchup, though as you can see, the label has been turned away from the camera.


And Highmark doesn't stop there. Check out the menu board on the back wall. It features a "Pittsburgh steak omelette" — so you just know it's legit!

(Bonus points: At the 54-second mark, you can also see the word "kielbasa" scrawled on the sign.) And pay attention to the decals on the fridge. I count a Pittsburgh flag sticker and a Steelers logo, though the latter is mostly obscured with an "I love bacon" bumper sticker.

Of course, I can't be sure that Highmark's ad wasn't filmed on a Hollywood set. The interior isn't familiar to me, and despite the obvious visual "Pittsburgh" cues, I could spot nothing that identifies it specifically. (UPDATE: With help from Twitter-er Pat Lucas, I have confirmed that the Highmark spot was shot at the Strip District location of Kelly O's.) But at least Highmark tried to convince us of its hometown cred. In round one of this battle, Highmark claims the high ground — and the home turf.