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Ad Review Rating: 1 1/2 stars STRANGERS ON A TRAIN HELP DERAIL BRAUN'S SHAVER AD

By Published on .

Victor Kiam, all is forgiven.

All of the bellowing, all of the fake laughs, all of the marionette-like hand and arm movements, all of the lacquer-reinforced comb-overs. Henceforth, you may cackle "I bought the company!" to your heart's content, for you no longer star in the most obnoxious electric shaver advertising on TV.

You have been supplanted by Braun.

Dissatisfied with previous ads focusing on technology and design, the company sought to bring, in its own words, "an innovative touch of cinema to small appliance advertising with its compelling suspense, rapid-cut editing and sophisticated characters." So instead of supporting a claim that its shaver shaves better (to name but one uncompelling, unsuspenseful approach), Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, has created a 30-second drama turning on a sophisticated and innovative inadvertent briefcase switch.

A briefcase switch! Imagine that! And pioneering further into dramatically uncharted territory, the mix-up brings together two attractive strangers on a train. You could cut the suspense with a sideburn trimmer.

The action begins in a rail station where a gorgeous redheaded businesswoman and a gorgeous browneyed businessman momentarily put their attaches down side by side. Later, on the train, the sultry lady discovers the man's Braun Flex Control shaver in what she thought was her own briefcase and realizes the error.

"You can tell a lot about a man by his shaver," says a voice-over, as shots of the handsome Braun owner shaving are rapidly intercut with shots of the leggy redhead laughing delightedly at this hilarious twist of fate. "The man who uses a Braun Flex Control appreciates good looks, has the flexibility to adjust to any situation and he's not afraid to get close."

That is what Braun calls the "clever double entendre" portion of the commercial, and evidently it reflects the heroine's imagination, because off she goes in search of the shaver's owner and romance. "But the most revealing thing about the man who uses a Braun," concludes the voice-over, "is how easy it is to spot him." Sure enough, the intrigued businesswoman passes row upon row of seats, whose poorly shaved occupants don't realize that fortune has eluded them by a whisker. Then she encounters the dreamy Braun owner and coos, "I believe this is yours."

The subsequent dual-fullbody flex action is implied. Also, ultimately, irrelevent.

OK, let's say viewers are starved enough for romance, or entertainment, that they stay with this hackneyed and insipid story line to the conclusion. After all, the smirking Taster's Choice couple seems to have captured viewers' imaginations on two continents. But what then? We are to believe there is something distinctive about this guy's shave? The notion is ludicrous, ahem, on the face of it.

Thus is Braun's slogan, "The world's most recognized shave," utterly empty. And thus, almost incomprehensibly, does the abrasive and wooden Kiam barking, "Close as a blade or your money back!" suddenly begin to look good. At least he makes a positive statement about his brand. Braun is spending $16 million in eight weeks to achieve little more than name recognition-not the smartest use of resources in the category's most critical period of the year.

Or, put another way: All Braun. No brains.

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