Agency: Lowe, Lintas & Partners
The best b-to-b TV ad of the year is not some dot-com branding extravaganza. It's a hard-working, funny ad by a brick-and-mortar company founded in 1907, whose corporate colors are plain old brown and slightly darker brown: United Parcel Service of America Inc.
The spot, called "Consultants," begins with a scene familiar to most executives, who are the target market. It's a confab in an office, where two consultants in dark suits sit facing a third man, dressed in white shirtsleeves sitting behind a desk.
"The whole campaign that we've done for them hasn't been done with broad humor, but with humor taken very close to reality, slightly dialed up a little bit," said Gary Goldsmith, chairman-chief creative officer of Lowe, Lintas & Partners, which
created the ads. The understated consultants in the ad are saying all the right things. "We think you need to integrate your global supply chain," says the first. "Move assembly overseas," says the second. "And accelerate inventory velocity," the first chimes in. In a nice piece of acting, the man behind the desk considers the suggestions, almost appearing to agonize over them. Then he says, "Great." A wave of relief seems to come over him as he adds, "Do it."
Until this point, the spot looks like just another one of those dot-com ads, where a company you've never heard of promises to solve problems your company has struggled with for years. And here's where the brilliant punch line strikes.
The consultants shoot nervous looks at each other. "Sir," says the first guy, "we don't actually do what we propose." The second adds, "We just propose it."
Then a voice-over joins in to drive home the marketing message: "UPS can help redesign your supply chain. And make it work. From managing your logistics to financing your inventory. We deliver more than just packages."
Beyond being exceptionally amusing and on-target, this spot introduces a relatively new service-UPS Logistics-in an era that demands supply chain efficiency. The ad also merges with the overall UPS brand of "Moving at the speed of business," underscoring the company's permanence. This is no fly-by-night dot-com, and it's more than a team of consultants who can say the right things. UPS can also do them.
Runner-up: Federal Express Corp.
The second-best b-to-b TV ad of the year is by UPS' chief competitor, Federal Express Corp. The company has a strong pedigree of delivering wonderful b-to-b advertising, dating back to its famed "fast talker" ads of the 1980s. This ad, "Fierce snake," lives up to the heritage of using humor and memorable characters to get the message across, which in this case reinforces FedEx's reliability-even if the package destination is overseas.
These messages are illustrated indelibly using Steve Irwin, otherwise known as "The Crocodile Hunter", from the Discovery Channel show of the same name. In the ad, which was created by BBDO, Irwin, as he often does in his show, is handling a ridiculously dangerous animal, in this case "the most venomous snake in the world."
"One bite from him and it's all over," Irwin shouts, only to be bitten immediately. "No worries, mate. Luckily, we've had the antivenom sent from America via FedEx. In my line of work, if you're not absolutely sure, you're absolutely dead." Then the payoff arrives. "Aw, crikey! It appears we've used a different carrier who hasn't arrived yet," he says just before keeling over, presumably moments from death.
Don Schneider, senior creative director at BBDO, said Irwin won't be appearing in any further FedEx ads. "The snake guy is dead," he cracked.
It's too bad, because Irwin's excitable delivery actually helps this lovely ad get its message across. Where it does fall short of the top prize, in the minds of the Chasers, is by using borrowed interest and not a business situation in the same manner as the UPS ad does. In the end, that means the FedEx ad doesn't speak as directly to the corporate market, a key target.
Honorable Mention: One more b-to-b TV ad the Chasers want to recognize is the "Cat herders" spot created by Fallon, Minneapolis. It's a brilliant piece of work that comically compares IT consulting to herding cats and IT consultants to, well, "catpokes." But ultimately, this ad is a gorgeous failure, primarily because it could be from just about any outfit that performs IT consulting. Who is this ad for anyway? Oh yeah: Electronic Data Systems Corp. The Chasers bet you needed to be reminded, too.