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White shirts can't jump (off the shelves). They can't hop either.

A lot of people seem to be puzzled by the latest Gap spot "Two White Shirts" directed by the Coen brothers, starring Christina Ricci and Dennis Hopper in plain white shirts, sitting poolside somewhere above the smog in what looks like Simi Valley. The ad is a 30-second static take in which nothing happens, an arid black and white tableau out of a Jim Jarmusch art-house flick. Is Hopper supposed to be a creepy Aristotle Onassis twin killing time with his chippy? Do these pretenders really know how to play chess? Anecdotal evidence indicates the ad isn't creating a rush on plain shirts at empty Gap shops, but it does appear to be stirring a need for old Dennis Hopper movies. (A case of incidental marketing?) One colleague in the office here told Adages after seeing the ad she rushed out to rent Wim Wender's "The American Friend," which features Hopper's richest performance as Ripley, the con-man cowboy who fences forged paintings.

One thing is clear; the old spangled and over-the-top version of Hopper is quite different from this austere, basic Bauhaus Hopper, a distinction that addresses the heart of Gap's current marketing problems. Adages was on the phone with Ellis Verdi of DeVito/Verdi, who artfully wrestled with the Gap dilemma. He is on the board of directors of the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, and his shop has worked on Daffy's, Circuit City, Linens `N Things, among others.

"It used to be that basics were fashionable. I think basics are basically just plain basics now," says Ellis. "A number of years ago, Gap said they can't just be basics, we've got to be more fashionable. So they took the fashion thing a little too far, while consumers were getting older and couldn't go out and buy the stretch stuff. So the Gap says, well, okay let's pull back. And now they are going back to basics. A nice idea. A simple idea. But it's a challenge. I mean, how much stuff do you have in your closet that's Gap? I have too much of it already. I can't fill my drawers with any more Gap stuff."

And what about the ad campaign, Ellis?

"Look at all the expensive top drawer talent you have in this campaign. Joel and Ethan Coen, Cameron Crowe, Roman Coppola, Hopper. You couldn't find a better way to spend more money and get less. It makes for images, but just having images does not mean you have an image. And a lot of images with no ideas will just be a lot of money wasted."

Adages police blotter

The police in sleepy Norwalk, Conn., were recently called upon to shut the doors on a late-night party. Expecting a rowdy crowd of blissed out teens, the cops burst through the doors at Ocean Drive and found themselves face to face with a roomful of Reader's Digest employees. The barkeeps were as surprised as the cops. "We thought, oh, Reader's Digest, this is gonna be dull," one said. According to an Adages source at the scene, one giddy sales rep mumbled disparaging remarks about Cosmo. "Our readers already know how to have multiple orgasms," he said, before spinning 360 degrees on his bar stool.

Curtains for Daisey

Mike Daisey wants to ring Nasdaq's bell. And just who is he? A former customer service rep and "biz dev" executive for Nasdaq-listed Mike quit his job, then wrote and now stars in a scathing new one-man play about his hellish employment there. "21 Dog Years: Doing Time at" opened at the Cherry Lane Theater in Manhattan last week, and it skewers everything from marketing mumbo jumbo to pointless power-point presentations. The producers invited Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to opening night, but at press time he hadn't responded. "We'll always have a seat for him," said a spokeswoman for the show. "He is our Elijah." Nasdaq, the exchange that invited Jacko (Michael Jackson) to open the market, has so far refused to allow Mike to do the same.

contributing: carol krol

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