October's Guest Review

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Andy Hirsch, Partner/Executive Creative Director, Merkley Newman Harty Partners, N.Y.

Brent Ladd, Senior VP/Group Creative Director, GSD&M, Austin

1. Nike Latin America "Futbol"

Latin-flavored "Freestyle." Scenes of soccer studs kicking out cool moves intercut with percussionists throwing down sexy, tribal rhythms.

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy/Portland CDs: Hal Curtis, Kevin Byrne CW: Alberto Ponte AD: Bill Karow Agency Producers: Ben Grylewicz, Andrew Loevenguth Director: Spike Jonze/MJZ Editor: Eric Zumbrunnen, Spotwelders Music: Eric Bobo Sound Design: Ren Klyce, Mit Out Sound

AH: Hey, it works with basketball, it works with soccer. Hell, it would probably work with badminton, too. This Nike spot once again places a fun rhythmic beat against film of graceful athletic movements. Sport and music video. These juxtapositions of sport to music allow the viewer to see the nuances and style of the game that is often missed in the real game. No hidden tricks here - just some dynamic film, a great music track and some superb editing. In the end, it's just fun to watch. 3 stars

BL: A spot without an idea. Simply intercutting soccer plays and a band doesn't cut it. I do give it points for being well-art-directed, shot and edited, but where's the big idea that makes me wish I had thought of it? I was expecting soccer greatness like the "Meat" or "Airport" spots. Those past Nike spots were shot and choreographed well, while highlighting the athletes' incredible talent. But they were much more engaging and memorable than this spot. The bar has been set pretty high for Nike, and they fell short this time. 2 stars

2. Axe "Bicycle Built for Two"

A man and a woman riding a tandem take a reverse trip into the testosterone-fueled dimension of Axe.

Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty/N.Y. ECD: Kevin McKeon GCD: William Gelner CW: Matthew Ian AD: Gerald Lewis Agency Producer: Melissa Bemis Director: Jeffrey Fleisig/Biscuit Filmworks

AH: Last year I saw some Axe ads that I really loved. They were irreverent, edgy and had a silly sexiness about them. The humor appealed to both men and women. In fact, I can confess, the name Axe stuck, and one day I spotted a can in my local pharmacy and sprayed some onto my wrist just to see what all the hoopla was about. (That night, my wrist got lucky.) In this spot, I like the premise of men having a dual personality. I'm a big fan of the old rewind gag and the inner demon voice is usually good for a laugh. So why no true love? Perhaps it's that in this spot the woman is literally "the butt" of the joke. The spot feels a little mean spirited and misogynistic. Again, I know many will like it. For me, the guy comes across as a leech. I guess the tagline says it all. "Axe: Part good, part bad." 2 stars

BL: Very, very funny. Few clients would approve a spot like this. Be prepared to get some irate letters. But it's targeting guys with a fashion product that sells sex, and it probably runs on The Man Show and other Maxim-type programming. Did I mention that this is very funny? It's a pretty strong idea "Part good. Part bad. That's the true essence of man." A good, simple idea with lots of legs. I'm sure this spot will be e-mailed to me by some of my buddies who aren't in advertising asking me if I've seen this hilarious commercial. I watched it forward and backward several times. I need to get me some of this stuff. 4 stars

3. Virgin Mobile "Embryo"

Virgin Mobile helps a curiously overdeveloped embryo find his way outside the womb.

Agency: Fallon/N.Y. CD: Ellen Steinberg CW: Scott Cooney AD: Eric Cosper Agency Producer: Tammy Auel Director: Happy/Smuggler

AH: An embryo floating in space. Placenta spewed across a lecture hall. Umbilical cords falling from the sky. Oh, yeah, of course, another phone ad. I guess the brief was simple enough - cut through the clutter and get college kids to choose Virgin Mobile. Unfortunately, the spot tries to say too many things in such an odd way, and therefore ends up saying not much of anything. The line "Cut the cord" is a little oblique, even though I know it's all tongue-in-cheek. In the end, I'm afraid this quirky documentary film style mixed with embryonic fluid leaves me with a cheap feeling about the new Virgin brand. Maybe the college kids will love it, but I would have pushed a little harder and given birth to another idea. 1 star

BL: This proves how hard the wireless category is: A creatively-driven ad agency trying desperately to stand out in the wireless world. I have to applaud them for trying to do something other than the "Can you hear me now?" guy. I'm not naturally violent, but I want to shoot that guy. The production values are good. It's the idea that makes my stomach queasy. Seeing a slimy guy come out of an embryonic sac with his umbilical cord hanging out (Get it? "It's time to cut the cord.") to sell wireless is a bit extreme. Maybe this spot will connect with the college crowd better than it does with me. If that's the case, at least make it funnier. 2 stars

4. McDonald's "I'm Lovin' It"

The launch spot of McDonald's global campaign. Naturalistic, guerrilla-style scenes of people at work and play are accompanied by Justin Timberlake's hip-hop groove and a brand new tagline.

Agency: Heye & Partner, Munich Director: James Brown, Stink/Smuggler Music: Justin Timberlake

AH: I do love McDonald's. I still remember my first visit: 1968, family road trip, Reading, Pa. It all seemed so new and clean, with space-age stainless steel. But McDonald's obviously can't rest on nostalgia; it must be relevant to a new generation. So they bring out Justin Timberlake and resort to the time-honored anthemic music vignette spot, and that's all fine. But then they shoot everything in a more "real" manner. My problem here is perhaps it's too real. These McDonald's are the ones along the run-down highways or the old strip malls where tax dollars were left behind in the '70s. The burgers are in glove compartments and the fries look cold. I can see the pitch - "Kids today can smell the advertising b.s. Let's shoot it like it really is." Perhaps the problem may be kids do know how it really is - that's why they stopped going. 2 stars

BL: I read McDonald's was introducing a new theme, and it sounded like a good idea. So after months of waiting, the idea that's going to bring people back to McDonald's (drum roll, please): "I'm lovin' it." Yeah, right. When I first heard it, I thought it sounded like something Regis Philbin would scream out: "I'm LOOOOVIN' IT!!" I couldn't imagine where an agency was going to go with it - humorous, sarcastic, emotional, serious? I'm disappointed. Just showing a lot of edgy vignettes with a cool soundtrack doesn't cut it. This spot won't get me to take my kids to Mickey D's (maybe a clean restaurant would, though). Sorry, I'm not lovin' it. 1 star

The Street Review: Mark Simon

Axe "Bicycle Built for Two" This ad is amusing in a non-PC, slightly offensive manner. It catches your attention a bit slowly but reels you in. I guess if you're trying to sell cheap cologne you aren't targeting the most sophisticated market, so this commercial would be appropriate. If I had a mullet and was looking for an aerosol cologne I might pick up a case of Axe next time I was in the spray-on scent store. 2 stars

Mr. Simon is a photojournalist and a recreational dog walker.

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