|John Madden ads appear to be part of live sports news reportage.
The two spots will run exclusively on ABC's broadcast of Monday Night Football beginning Sept. 9. The effort is the first work from new agency Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, which won the anticipated $30 million account earlier this year.
Mimic live newscast
The spots, to run amid a commercial pod for other products, begin by showing the camera in a broadcast trailer similar to those seen on the sidelines of Monday Night Football. An actor playing an executive producer counts down "Three, two, one" and the camera pans to Mr. Madden, who spouts football patter about penetrating the defense, the key to the last play, or a description of the offensive line. But during the chatter, he takes out a noisy cordless drill, leaf blower and other tools.
In a second spot,
"Madden shamelessly pushes Ace" in the spots, said David Gray, group account director at Goodby Silverstein and lead creative on the effort. He said executives at ABC expressed some initial concern about too closely mixing commercial messages with the broadcast. As a result, Mr. Madden is seen wearing a shirt but not his familiar Monday Night Football blazer. No Monday Night Football logos appear.
ABC officials: no comment
Executives from Walt Disney Co.'s ABC did not return calls by press time.
At least one watchdog group is concerned. Gary Ruskin, executive director for Commercial Alert, called Ace's tactic "the newest trick in the book." Sports coverage, he said, "is a form of news, a live reportage of a factual event," and he was surprised the network would allow a blurring of the line.
He questioned whether the network would allow Peter Jennings to participate in a similar spot. "What kinds of advertising incursions don't you allow? Where do you draw the line?" he said.
Defended as 'spoof'
Mr. Madden's agent, Sandy Montag, senior vice president at IMG, New York, called the ad a "spoof" and said it was approved by ABC's standards and practices executives.
Ironically, Goodby Silverstein won the pitch for Ace with a presentation that suggested dropping Mr. Madden, who had been the hardware chain's longtime spokesman. In the interim, however, Mr. Madden moved from Fox to host the prestigious ABC's Monday Night Football job, leading the agency to change its mind.