Agency: Deutsch, New York
Star Rating: 3
U.S. Code, Title 47, Chapter 8, Subchapter 1, Sec. 906. Advertising and other forms of marketing communications transmitted, published or otherwise disseminated
Beer and hurdling
Yes, as we know, under federal law punishable by fine, imprisonment and -- now, under the Patriot Act -- death, Olympics advertising can't be aired if it doesn't have Olympians in it. Thus, for the next six weeks, we're going to be awash in commercials for beer and mutual funds featuring hurdling and volleyball.
The main effect is that either:
Viewers will directly transfer their Olympics euphoria to whatever advertiser happens to be showing pictures of uneven parallel bars, or,
Nobody will register the difference between the advertising and the programming, and about $1 billion ad dollars will be pissed away like so much illegal growth hormone and masking agent.
The smart money is on b).
That's why we applaud the few advertisers who get past the compulsories while avoiding triteness and displaying some genuine ingenuity. The most creative advertising, as we've so often said, is that which finds clever and surprising solutions to the relevant communications problems.
All washed up
And what can be more surprising, in the midst of the quadrennial deification of American athletes, than to focus your commercial on a gold-medalist who's soon to be all washed up. Meet Lenny Krayzelburg, only the fourth man ever to win both the 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke events. Along about mid-September, the Professional Aging Backstroker League never having quite coalesced, Lenny's going to be looking for work.
A new spot shows the lanky James Woods lookalike, clad in business casual, sitting awkwardly in a small office chair. There, in a series of strung-together excerpts, he streams his consciousness about encroaching unemployment.
"I won three gold medals at the Olympic Games in Sydney. ... Swimming is only temporary. ... I'm looking to get into, uh, the financial field. I got a degree in finance. ... I know it's going to be hard starting from scratch again. ... You gotta start somewhere. ... You can find me on Monster."
Awkward, but charming
Now Lenny is a little awkward; he can't quite seem to manage those long legs of his, and let's just say he isn't exactly intellectually intimidating. But he's also guileless and charming and obviously a dogged competitor -- which is to say, for any organization looking for winners, quite a find. And where else to find him but Monster.com?
Is this ad itself going to win medals? No. It's not funny enough, and a bit disconcertingly jumpy. But credit Deutsch, New York, for eschewing the language of sports competition -- "Go for the gold!" and the like -- which infects Olympics advertising like a locker-room fungus. And credit them for not showing Lenny Krayzelburg heroically backstroking to victory.
Indeed, it is seeing Lenny out of context that makes him even remotely interesting as a character. He's not an anti-hero, exactly, but sort of an anti-Mary Lou Retton. You can find her on Wecreatedamonster.com.