Clever Asian Ad Uses Martial Arts to Demonstrate Product Features

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Client: Chevrolet
Agency: Campbell-Ewald
Star Rating: 3

When Whoopi Goldberg went blue against George Bush, she lost her Slim-Fast spokesgig. The advertiser didn't want itself associated with

Chevy's commercial aimed at the domestic Asian market.
vulgarity. When Martha Stewart redecorated her stock portfolio, the insider-trading scandal decimated her company. Advertisers didn't wish to be associated with white-collar crime. When Pete Rose got caught betting on baseball, he not only lost his endorsements, he became the Official Pariah of Major League Baseball.

$1 billion in TV buys
Kind of makes you wonder about this year's Olympic Games, doesn't it? U.S. advertisers have invested $1 billion for TV time, only to watch one top athlete after another accused of cheating.

"I ran a good race, and I want to thank God. I want to thank my sponsor. I want to thank my coach. But mostly I want to thank my pharmacist."

The risk for advertisers is two-fold. The first issue is whether the cloud of suspicion that hangs over world-class athletes will affect viewership. The more trenchant question, though, is whether the utterly irrational Olympics euphoria that marketers have so long exploited will survive the first positive drug test.

It's a mysterious force that imbues the Official Moist Towelette of the U.S. Equestrian Team, or whatever, with consumer cachet. If that force were to be suddenly neutralized by doping scandals, the economic infrastructure of the event would collapse.

200 Chevrolet Olympic spots
So let's just say Chevrolet is more exposed than most. Chevy will have 200 spots on NBC channels during the course of the Games, and another 170 on Telemundo. Fortunately for them, there is no gigantic creative risk to go along with it. The Chevy Olympic ads are -- with one exception -- straightforward but charming demonstrations of specific product features. Like the rest of Campbell-Ewald's "American Revolution" campaign to date, they're stylish expressions of substance -- as opposed to insubstantial exercises in style.

That exception is a spot by Guy Ritchie, who directed Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, before marrying Madonna and becoming uninteresting. This spot depicts a little boy's Corvette fantasy and attempts to make us ooh and ahh at the special-effects magic as this 10-year-old zooms around. But we don't. This is 2004. Flying cars don't impress us. Neither do snot-nosed little brats.

Actual product features
Much more compelling are the actual product features: Silverado's incredible towing capacity, Malibu's remote-controlled ignition and Malibu Maxx's sliding rear seat. That one is dramatized as a young mom keeps jerking forward as she drives. Turns out her toddler is kicking the back of her seat, so she pulls over and slides the rear seat back.

The best new commercial happens to be from A Partnership, New York, for spot buys aimed at Mandarin and Cantonese speakers. The first reaction is to groan: Ugh, is there no way to reach Chinese Americans without a kung-fu attack? But then you realize the martial-arts angle has purpose; the hero is attacked in his Malibu Maxx, and he uses the car's clever features -- from the remote ignition to the collapsible front passenger seat to the DVD player -- to fend off the villains.

Drugged-up quality
It's also an effects-laden dream sequence, by the way, with a sort of drugged-up quality to it. No problem. Chevy's fantasy ads can afford to be a little drugged-up.

The Olympic challenge is to avoid being drugged down.