Ol' Lonely, or "the lonely repairman", is a character in Maytag advertisements, created for Maytag by the Leo Burnett advertising agency.
Ol' Lonely is representative of the professed dependability of Maytag products. Maytag advertisements stated “Ol' Lonely’s predicament is testimony to the durability and reliability of Maytag appliances. Now if only he had something to do with his days.”
The "Maytag repairman" has become a commonly-used metaphor for a professional whose services are rarely needed, such as "Most people in town now have their own cars, making the local bus driver like the Maytag repairman."
The lonely Maytag Repairman is a strong character with a well-defined conflict. He stood as the symbol of dependability for over 25 years, helping to identify Maytag as "the dependability people."
If dependability had remained the most compelling reason to buy an appliance, he probably could have continued unchanged indefinitely. Unfortunately, the value of dependability in selling Maytag appliances was minimized by the generally good level of dependability delivered by all of the major brands.
So now the Maytag commercials have returned but I find them a bit confusing. For if you don't know the history of the Maytag repairman, who is supposed to look bored and basically obsolete because Maytag stuff is so damn reliable, then you'd have no idea why the Maytag guy is helping so-and-so with his television and why the wife is inquiring about the washing machine.
Its sort of like defining a word with the word itself; I think it gives way too much credit to the viewer. The only ones who'll "get" these commercials and find them clever are those "of a certain age", otherwise there is way too much left to be assumed for it to be a poignant commercial. I don't think they should reprise something that not everyone will recall.
This particular commercial tells me the Maytag man doesn't know how to fix a doll making machine. It doesn't make me think Maytag's washing machines are so reliable.
Verdict: Bad ad campaign. Too much to be assumed.