Luis Guzmán's bizarre Cabot cheese ad.

Advertising deconstructed.
Jan. 14 2008 7:36 AM

Cheese Puff

What is Luis Guzmán doing selling Vermont cheddar?

The Spot:A title card identifies three casually dressed men as Cabot Creamery's "Naturally Aged Cheddar Hunks." Cut to a shot of the men sitting around a small table, drinking beer, and eating cheese. Two of the men are unfamiliar, but the third inspires a double-take: It's Luis Guzmán, the Hispanic character actor. One of the men asks Guzmán if he has any exciting new roles. Guzmán replies that he likes this one—"guy eating Cabot cheese." The other man asks Guzmán how he would feel about playing a guy eating some other kind of cheese. "Not Cabot?" Guzmán asks. "What am I, some kind of maniac?"

John Swansburg John Swansburg

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

(Click here to watch other ads in the "Cheddar Hunks" campaign.)

Advertisement

With the notable exception of a certain PSA from the 1980s that I will go to my grave knowing by heart, cheese ads have never been groundbreaking. Your typical cheese spot looks a lot like this one, also from Cabot: black-and-white stills of salt-of-the-earth farmers, a color tracking shot of a mountainous cheddar slab, and a voiceover describing the craftsmanship that goes into each and every wedge. It was thus with some surprise that I first encountered Cabot's "Cheddar Hunks" ads. Was that Luis Guzmán selling Vermont Extra Sharp?

Even people who don't know Guzmán by name probably recognize his face. His television and film credits are prodigious. In the '80s and early '90s, he showed up on all of the big cop shows, usually playing some variation on the Latino tough. Eventually, he earned the attention of a couple of independent-minded directors who began giving him better, if not much bigger, roles. Paul Thomas Anderson cast him in Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch-Drunk Love. Steven Soderbergh, recognizing Guzmán's comedic gift, used him to great effect in Out of Sight, Traffic, and The Limey, in which he played opposite Terrance Stamp's cockney ex-con. Here, the two men order a drink:

Guzmán's ability to do so much with so little has earned him a following of sorts, though he's hardly a household name. It's not as if Cabot had recruited an A-list hunk like Jake Gyllenhaal (a repeat customer at L.A. cheese purveyor Joan's on Third), or, for that matter, a B-list star somehow associated with Vermont—Bob Newhart, say. Why would Cabot turn to Guzmán?

My initial thought was that perhaps Cabot was trying to break into a new market. Vermont may be about as diverse as the '86 Celtics, but that doesn't mean Cabot couldn't try selling its wares to America's growing Hispanic population. Maybe their research showed that Latinos cook with as much cheese as the Chipotle menu suggests they do. Was Guzmán meant to be Cabot's ambassador to Hispanic America?

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Science

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

We Could Fix Climate Change for Free. What Exactly Is Holding Us Back?

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 6:09 PM Here's Who Voted to Fund Syrian Rebels and Get This ISIS Conflict Really Cooking
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM Should Men Still Open Doors for Women? Or is it ungentlemanly to do so at all?  
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 5:56 PM Watch Louis C.K., Dave Chappelle, Bill Hicks, Mitch Hedberg, and More on New YouTube Channel
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 5:26 PM If Fixing Global Warming Is Free, What’s the Holdup?
  Health & Science
Jurisprudence
Sept. 17 2014 4:49 PM Schooling the Supreme Court on Rap Music Is it art or a true threat of violence?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?