Agency: Young & Rubicam/New York
Oberlander: The Taco Bell Chihuahua is back from the dead. What can I say? I've never been a fan of animal-vertising - frogs, lizards, ducks, dogs, the whole barnyard full of 'em. This dog is borrowed interest that has very little relevance to great color copying.
Stone: This campaign for Xerox's new color inkjet printer sucks, plain and simple. A blue dog sitting in front of a chalkboard. "A smarter breed of inkjet." Get it? Breed? Other gems include "Always faithful to its owner," and "Twice as fast as the rest of the pack." Excuse me while I hurl. The bad puns are matched by a 1970s-style layout with a washed-out product shot. At least the doggy paintings are appropriately colorful. But even if they were painted by Matisse, they couldn't save this dog of a campaign.
Agency: Publicis & Hal Riney/San Francisco Director: Patrick & Motts, Traktor
Oblerander: More animal-vertising! OK, technically mosquitoes and meteorites are not animals, but this campaign leaves me feeling like I want to watch Animal Planet or Sesame Street. The Discovery Channel is so rich with fascinating content and yet it is portrayed in this contrived campaign with grammar school-like performances of actors in lion, mosquito, meteor and fish costumes. I want to like it, but I just don't get it.
Stone: It's so stupid, it's funny. The spot opens with a safari dude swatting his arm. Then we cut to two middle-aged guys in mosquito suits whose props and acting are reminiscent of an elementary school pageant. They deliver deadpan lines about Discovery.com's travel news and local health reports (hey, a tie-in!) while sucking blood through their proboscises. The lines get somewhat lost behind the humor, but the brand name is memorable and the spot gets more absurd with every viewing.
Sprite, "What Are You Thinkin"'
Agency: Burrell Communications Group/Chicago Director: Rupert Wainwright, Windmill Lane Productions
Oberlander: This five-spot campaign for Sprite picks up where Mayor Giuliani's police force left off. A couple of black guys walk into a stodgy jewelry store and all the white folk get completely paranoid and surround the place with stormtrooping cops. And somewhere in the middle of this is time to refresh with Sprite. This is humor?
Stone: Each spot is a rap video in which Sprite-wielding gangsta types are routinely mistaken for criminals. And then we see the "Obey Your Thirst" slogan. Oh, please. It's all shot extremely well, mind you, with killer music. Unfortunately, both whites and blacks are so stereotyped, Sprite comes off as the very thing it's trying not to be: hype city. Trying to leap from the racial ills of our society to the choice between dark and light soft drinks left me bleeding on the pavement.
Agency: BBDO/New York Director: Rob Pritts, Backyard Productions
Oberlander: Talking candy with a bad attitude. This campaign seems to have run out of Baldwin brothers, so instead we hear from people with inferiority complexes and their new politically correct job descriptions. The last one is a cheerleader who calls himself an athletic supporter. Hmm ... very appetizing.
Stone: Brilliant PSA spoof, right down to the cliche camera moves. It opens with a pasty-faced young man earnestly explaining that he is not a secretary but an administrative assistant, and ends with an effeminate male cheerleader claiming to be an "athletic supporter." In the middle is a wonderfully downplayed M&M in the candy factory. The spot is so authentic and so subtle, the funny stuff hits you full on in the gut. When the sad clown flinched as a balloon popped in his workshop, I almost peed.
The Truth.com, "Jennifer," "Joseph," "Michael"
Agency: Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami
Oberlander: I believe this work is very good for a category that has been doing "anti" ads for decades. My favorite is the headline, "Menthol cigarettes leave over 33,000 minty fresh African-American corpses." It has just the right biting wit to it. The challenge for this campaign is that today's kids are so cynical they don't trust any kind of advertising, even if it's trying to save their lives.
Stone: How do you keep the anti-tobacco thing from getting stale? Let people know the problem is getting worse every second. Each ad shows a teen holding one of those electronic message boards with a statistic that's part of the headline. Each photo suggests that the sign holder took a second from their busy lives to make this important statement. The surfer on the beach will go back to surfing. And tobacco will continue to kill. The campaign creates awareness and attacks public apathy at the same time. I'm impressed.
Bill Oberlander is managing partner/executive creative director at Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York.
Duncan Stone is an associate creative director at Austin Kelley Advertising, Atlanta.