Guest Review

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A lengthy TV parody called America's Most On-Time Buses segues to CG zooming-among-the-data graphics on behalf of a new "open" electronic stock exchange, with the line, "What kind of TV shows would we have if there was no competition among networks?"

Agency: Fallon/Minneapolis CD: Bob Moore AD: Bobby Appleby CW: Xenia Rutherford Agency Producer: Jenny Gadd Director: Scott Vincent Production Co: Hungry Man

Kramer: In this spot, we see the first on-time bus in America - a very universal message. (Here in the Netherlands, we have some trouble with our trains.) Suddenly, it becomes an ad for a new high-tech financial corporation. When I first saw it, I thought it was two commercials (I am not drinking, it's just a bit late). The first segment is fun. The second bit is a corporate rant with flash graphics stuck tenuously on the end. When I watched it again, I realized it was one commercial based on a very generic strategy. Archipelago is not giving me any reason at all to be interested in their services. 2

Hoffman: "A long walk for a short scratch", as they say. Parody a cheesy TV genre that's already farcical, wow, how'd they think of that? It isn't so much that in an attempt to be hip and off-hand they end up slick and overproduced; the real bummer is that in so doing they've reduced what could be a hugely significant financial mechanism to the world's most bloated "such as, so to" execution. No, the real bummer is that in an era of ever-dwindling ad spending and increasingly myopic marketing managers, they blew a great opportunity on easy, store-bought attitude, instead of the truly fresh insightful stuff these guys usually serve up. 1


When the women, seen in docu-style action shots featuring stars like Jennifer Azzi, leave the floor during a basketball game, an all-male cheerleading squad takes to the court and hams it up just like the girls, as the players look on approvingly.

Agency: Berlin Cameron & Partners CD: Jason Peterson AD: Matt Murphy CW: Michelle Novella Sass Producers: Dane Johnson/Jill Andresevic Director: Tony Kaye Production Co: Tony Kaye

Kramer: This is the best of the commercials I was asked to review. It's really empowering, nicely shot and with a very simple structure. It shows women "ruling" the game of basketball, all shot to the track, "It's a Man's World." I am not so sure if you need the end title "It's a woman's world." It would be nicer to leave that for the audience to conclude. 3

Hoffman: OK, it's really late Sunday night after Thanksgiving and I'm in my office drinking bilge water from the vending machine, doing these damned reviews, cursing whatever vague allegiance to the craft kept me from blowing off this deal entirely, when this nugget pops up. All of a sudden I'm energized - I remember why, in the realm of things one could do for a paycheck, this thing of ours still stacks up, dammit! You've heard the expression "All hat, no cattle"? This spot is "All cattle, no hat." Pure, unadorned, nothing there but a fabulous, simple idea. (It's what Nike started out as, and hasn't really been since, perhaps, Tony Kaye shot the U.K. soccer fan spot for them a while back). Leo said "Advertising is an unasked-for interruption into peoples' lives. The least we can do is reward them for the time spent." Thanks a lot. Rewarding, indeed. 4

Oxford Health Plans

A father and son go fishing, seen in a very unusual three-way horizontal split screen, accompanied by a voiceover, which explains how Oxford helped Dad through his bad back, and no sooner was he better than he stood in cold water and exerted himself. But the VO reassuringly adds, "We'll be thinking about you. What do you expect? We're your health plan." Tag: "There is another way."

Agency: Vogt/Wein CDs: Jeff Vogt/Mitch Wein ADs: Jeff Vogt/Kate Altmann CWs: Mitch Wein/Tom Demetriou Agency Producer: Alice Chevalier Director: Nick Brandt Production Co: Palomar Pictures

Kramer: I like the experiment of combining three images on one screen, but that's the most original thing in the spot. We follow the story of a fisherman with a bad back who stands in cold water. It's a bit dull and the tagline adds confusion. It seems like it's commenting on the voiceover. Maybe it would be better for the poor fisherman if Oxford gives him a health plan with a free propeller for his head, so he can fly above the cold water (I am not drinking, it's just a bit late.) 2

Hoffman: I like the idea here, and the casual understated tone. The triple split-screen undoes the simplicity for me, though. Why have me concentrate on a self-conscious video technique when I'm trying to bliss out on the health benefits of fly fishing? That said, I'm really grateful not to have seen the orthopedist, the massage therapist or a hospital, for that matter. In this category, that would be considered a victory (for consumers, as well as the agency). I'm not sure what the tagline means, but to the extent that I ever notice them (controlled situations don't count), I'm rarely sure what they mean. The Curtis Mayfield-y announcer is a pleasant, unexpected touch. 2

Microsoft Xbox

The awesome femme-fatale fighting action in Dead or Alive 3 alternates with two typical videogame losers offering lame excuses about why this game blows their minds, till one admits, "She kicks high."

Agency: McCann-Erickson/N.Y. GCD: Craig Markus CD/Writer: Shalom Auslander ADs: Mahmud Hussain/David Waraksa/Danny Rodriguez/Kevin Amter CWs: Marc Sachs/Sharon Ehrlich/Josh Miller Exec Producer/Director: Jonathan Shipman Production Co: In-house/Method Studios

Kramer: This is my least favorite of the spots for review. After two seconds, you feel the joke coming. As two nerds talk about a videogame, it's clear they both fancy the animated girl. The acting is not really convincing. I'm leaving the Church now (sorry, we work in a church). It's late and it's time to start drinking. 1

Hoffman: I should probably tread lightly here, since I work on a competitive product and payback is a bitch and all. But these guys seem to be crashing headlong into the puerile Beavis & Butt-head early '90s. I fear (or hope) they have woefully underestimated the category and its audience. It's a good product, though, with a terrific slate of games. Maybe it'll sell itself. 1

Johan Kramer

Principal, KesselsKramer, Amsterdam

Jonathan Hoffman, Executive Creative Director, Leo Burnett/Chicago

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