Spot of the Year

Goodby and Saturn lead the way with "Sheet Metal"

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Goodby, Silverstein and unofficial Director of the Year Noam Murro, came together in the summer to deliver the anthem commercial for Goodby's $300 million new Saturn account, won from Hal Riney, the agency that had made Saturn famous. And, it was not to feature any cars!

The key to the spot's success is in its simplicity. It doesn't try to do too much, but communicate the one simple idea: when Saturn designs cars, they don't see sheet metal, they see the people who may one day drive them. Murro pays tribute to the bravery of the Saturn client in signing off on the idea and then leaving well enough alone, and Goodby's achievement in making Saturn feel it could do so. "They were nervous, but they were brave," he says. "I knew it was special the moment I read the script."

Murro was not given strict guidelines by the agency, but both parties agreed they would not go for humor. Although there is something inherently comic about what the actors do, the actors remain disciplined within the conceit of behaving as if they are cars. Given that their arms are all static in the manner of Michael Flatley's Riverdance troupe, this restraint is doubly important.

Once these decisions were taken, Murro explained them in detail to 500 extras at one go. Then it was over to the Los Angeles Film Commission and Police Department to close great swaths of downtown in order to facilitate the shoot. Murro pays tribute in particular to his assistant director, Gary File, and the rest of his crew for making the lengthy, intricate setups happen. "Except for two shots, nearly everything we planned made it into the commercial," says the director.

The lightness of touch to the direction is helped by the clever marriage to a sparse piano track from Stefan Czapsky. The whole effect, Murro says, was to somehow move people without showing any closeups or faces: "It's about how the bodies fill the space." This is an idea that perfectly suited the repositioning of Saturn as a consumer-led car company. The place to really see it is not an advertising awards show or on (go look anyway!) but on television in a break, where it is like nothing else on screen and totally commands the viewer's attention. Isn't that what advertising is supposed to be about?


Nike Presto "Angry Chicken"
This was the surreal gem of the year, from Wieden + Kennedy and Traktor. It's tough to know who is out there further: the Swedish directors' collective or the French acrobatic troupe, Le Parkour, that jump and climb and throw themselves around all over the Presto campaign. The sheer lunacy of this spot forces us to sit up and take note. Why is the voiceover in French? How did the Presto wearer come to be chased by a chicken? Why is the chicken angry? We never really find out why. And, of course it doesn't matter at all. What does matter is the rollicking romp around a dreary housing estate into and out of a startled family's apartment, and the way the guy's Prestos help with his athletic stunts up to and including his final hiding place up on the wall.

Nike "Move"
This spot got a little overlooked by the awards shows, which rightly credited the brilliance of the Frank Budgen-directed "Tag," but this is the more serious side of Nike, when sports becomes poetry in motion. However the Jake Scott-directed commercial did win an Emmy and was the hit of the Winter Olympics. It's no surprise. "Move" marks a return to the absolute purity of the "Just Do It" philosophy. Athletes are depicted running, jumping, leaping, stretching -- in fact, in all forms of striving to succeed. It is the most beautifully edited spot of the year, too, featuring a superlative job from Rock Paper Scissors' Adam Pertofsky, as athletes performing in one sport seamlessly become another athlete continuing the act in a different sport. Wonderful soundtrack, too, by Jonathan Elias, with sound design by Jeff Elmassian of Endless Noise. It is one of those rare commercials that has the power to stop conversation and force you to watch it, and even more rare, it can actually raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

Mini "This is America"
So, it's an internet commercial. This one "spot" captures perfectly the quirky and fun personality of the supposedly British import that is actually brought to you by BMW. Baker Smith's spot is well nigh perfect: the casting of the bearded, hairy dude driving along the highway; the feckless British bobby pulling over the Mini driver to inform him he is driving on the wrong side of the road; the way the former informs the latter that "This is America, man." A gem.

Nike "Before"
No apologies for choosing a third Nike spot in the top commercials of 2002. The sneaker giant and Wieden + Kennedy really did witness a return to the very best standard of their illustrious body of work. "Before" is an understated gem of a spot that is as powerful in its own way as "Move," despite being about the preparations for action rather than the action itself. Once again, Adam Pertofsky performs an outstanding job editing together director Lance Acord's images of athletes tensing, flexing, getting into position, focusing and concentrating in preparation to begin whatever their sport is, from shot-putting to swimming, the 100-meter sprint to Randy Johnson readying himself to pitch. It is a captivating commercial, one that almost leaves the viewer mimicking the action on the screen.

Ikea "Lamp"
This is the spot that polarized opinion more than any other this year. Crispin Porter + Bogusky's introductory commercial for Ikea's "Unböring" campaign launched the Swedish furniture retailer into uncharted territory in American advertising. Asking us to find credible the lonely rainswept night a discarded table lamp endures once it has been thrown out by its former owner for a new lamp is one thing. Having an eccentric Swede appear at the ad's conclusion to berate us as "crazy" for feeling sorry for the lamp introduces the notion that you can actually insult or dare to question your potential consumers' taste, and still have them want to buy your product. It's very European, down to the extremely restrained direction from Spike Jonze. The Swede and his "You are crazy" catchphrase could become advertising icons if Ikea chooses to develop them.
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