He is Elmer Bruker, the fictional scrub quarterback who has accumulated 26 Super Bowl rings without ever playing a down, centerpiece of an amazing new commercial for Miller Lite. Using the same imaging techniques Wieden & Kennedy employed a year ago for Nike to place a crazed Dennis Hopper in the action with the Dallas Cowboys, the Leap Partnership, Chicago, has proved that it, too, will go to the matte for its clients.
The Elmer Bruker story is a sort of NFL Films meets Zelig. It's Forrest Gump goes to the Bud Bowl. It's the marshaling of sophisticated digital technology to create a spectacular illusion.
The illusion being that advertising is taking place.
"At Super Bowl I," says the John Facenda-esque narrator, over a lingering montage of the pristine, pre-game, 1967 championship gridiron, "a little known quarterback named Elmer Bruker was on the sidelines for the Green Bay Packers. He did not play."
The visual and prose style-solemn just shy of overwrought-is meant to mimic NFL Films and is dead on. The gravitas of the voice, the grainy film stock, the lingering pans and super-close-ups, and especially the moody trumpet fanfare, capture exactly the exaggerated sense of historical significance NFL Films has made its trademark. And there's Elmer, hard by Coach Lombardi.
Narrator: "Nine years later with the Steelers, he was slated to start, but was injured ... during the coin toss. And where was he when they wanted to send him in Super Bowl XXI? Searching for his lost contact lens. Although he's never played, Elmer Bruker was a member of every winning Super Bowl team until he retired last year from the world champion Cowboys."
"I look at it this way," Elmer says, in a realistically truncated interview clip. "I had a great seat for every game ..." Then the narrator resumes.
"To Elmer, and armchair quarterbacks everywhere, Miller Lite says thanks for letting us play a part in the Super Bowl."
Then, departing from the parody we are thrust into the near future, where we find Elmer and his last coach, Jimmy Johnson, in a bar.
"Feels weird not being there," Elmer says.
"Tell me about it!" Johnson chuckles, unconvincingly.
So, if the question is, in this 60-second commercial does the sponsor ever mention its name, the answer is yes. Once.
Can your beer do that?
With this remarkable spot, the ex-Needhamites who formed Leap as a shop dealing exclusively in "creative" make good their promise. The Elmer Bruker saga is exclusively creative-creative exclusive of strategy, exclusive of branding, exclusive of any rational connection between the commercial and commerce.
Although the only glaring technical omission from this spot was the NFL Films obligatory super-slo-mo shot, and although the thing is undeniably amusing, as a marketing instrument it is like Elmer himself: lost in obscurity.
As the great Forrest Gump might have put it, creative is as creative does.
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