Don’t sleep on these witty mattress ads

Most mattress advertising is god-awful, says Craig Redmond, but Droga5’s new “Junk Sleep” ads for Mattress Firm are a somnambulist’s dream —

My old boss, mentor, and cherished friend Jack Neary had a saying: “Fear is our alarm clock,” he would proclaim with a chuckle.

It’s a saying I have shamelessly hijacked as my own over the years, with only the occasional tribute to its author. Sorry Jack.

But I think it’s become a universal feeling for all of us—the debilitating result of our industry’s unbalanced work-life equation.

That moment, just before light breaks, when we wake up in a panic, sucking for air like a sunfish on the dock.

Our blessed slumber, smashed by the oncoming locomotive of a looming media deadline, an unfinished strategic deck, a slightly undercooked bit of copy needing more love, the lingering anxiety resulting from an end-of-day client email, or those digital ads needing to be re-sized a thousand ways to Sunday, this coming Monday.


We’re awake. And unlike most bedside buzzer beaters, there is no snooze button on the fear alarm clock. So, we stare at the ceiling, steeling ourselves to start another hopelessly sleep-starved day.

But if all our usual, nagging nocturnal neurosis wasn’t enough, then along comes another little accentuating factor called a global pandemic. Only this time, the plague isn’t interrupting our sleep, it’s infiltrating it. This fat bastard of a marauding fear factor is barging into our dreams, filching our sleep before we even wake up.

A Scientific American article published in the early days of the Covid calamity discovered the significant impact the contagion was having on our dreams. People described dreaming more, having more nightmares, and being able to remember those dreams more lucidly.

The study attributed the craze to more than just the acute anxiety gripping society. It pointed to an increased amount of REM sleep time afforded us—or burdened us—because of our new work-from-home reality, and spending a few more minutes in bed instead of standing next to the great unwashed on a commuter train.

My own friends, family, and colleagues corroborated the phenomenon with familiar tales of being chased off cliffs or re-living events of the day, and agreed that those sleep adventures were happening with more regularity and greater intensity.

But I was experiencing an entirely new kind of reverie.

My dreams were taking on an epically cinematic significance. Almost every night, I was watching a different movie with its own ensemble cast delivering Academy Award-worthy performances. The colours were vivid. The sets elaborate. And the art direction would make Wes Anderson envious.

So absolute were these REM sleep productions, I began to wonder if I was experiencing some kind of Hitchcockian/Kubrickian prescient visitation. So, every morning, I would recount and recite every minute detail to my creative team, who politely listened while probably thinking that Craig had finally succumbed to the Covid crazy.

But alas, my fantastical dreamscapes eventually ceased, along with my delusions of creating the next Citizen Kane. And it was back to taking out the basic psychological trash each night as usual.

With all that said, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the savants at Droga5 perked up in the middle of the night during this pandemic dystopia, and decided to totally unmake one of the most hackneyed marketing categories in advertising history—and turn the bed on its head once and for all.

After nearly a century of god-awful mattress advertising that has consistently insulted our intelligence, violated our senses, and belittled our most precious emotional commodity of sweet dreams, the Droga disciples delivered the genius of “Junk Sleep.”

We saw its inception with Liev Schreiber piloting a queen sized bed down the middle of main street America, diagnosing the other health crisis plaguing his country—sleep deprivation.

Junk Sleep ‘We’ve Got a Problem America Original: Live Schreiber

More spots followed, but now, two years later and without Schreiber as its talking-in-his-sleep spokesperson, the campaign returns with an even more insipid form of junk sleep, and investigates one crime we in advertising commit habitually—self-imposed sleep of junk.

The relaunch spot reintroduces the Covid inspired concept and its latest variant. 

Don’t Sleep on Sleep

And is quickly complemented by targeted examples of its symptoms and victims that verify the strength and longevity of the campaign idea by proof of concept. As a business that suffers from junk sleep more than most, nobody can substantiate its unassailable truth better than us ad peeps.

Which of course brings forth yet another insomnia-inducing question. Should this be made compulsory viewing for all agencies and each of our clients? And perhaps, thusly inspire a snooze button on Jack’s alarm clock of fear?

Methinks perhaps yay.

Baseball player


Neck Crick

Craig Redmond