Ad Review rating: H*H*H STEEL WOOL DINO ROARS A POWERFUL MESSAGE

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hat is the difference between a Nike running shoe and Reebok? Fundamentally, nothing. What is the difference between Coke and Pepsi? Essentially nothing. What intrinsic difference is there between Marlboro and Silk Cut? None whatsoever.

In so many categories these days, advertising is called upon not merely to highlight the brand's value but to be the brand's value. In the imagery of the Marlboro man, in the attitude of Pepsi commercials, in the ethic of "Just Do It" resides not just brand information and brand personality but also brand meaning. The advertising is, in fact, part and parcel of the brand. It is itself a brand benefit.

So important has this sort of advertising-as-benefit become, in fact, that one sometimes forgets there is another kind of advertising altogether: the advertising of information, advertising at its most basic, and most powerful.

In other words: Build a better mousetrap, advertise the news and then don't sweat your damn brand personality. The world will still beat a path to your door.

Consider, then, Scotch-Brite Never Rust, the alleged better mousetrap of soap pads from 3M. If the claims are true-and soon enough consumers will evaluate for themselves-a moribund category will be revived, Brillo will become a dinosaur and a brand will soar without benefit of image, personality, meaning or anything else besides the goods themselves.

"Steel wool," intones a voice-over, in a 30-second spot from Grey Advertising, New York, "a creature from a prehistoric age .*.*." On-screen we see a steel wool pad metamorphose-not digitally but via standard pixilation-into a tyrannosaurus rex.

".*.*. terrorizing us with splinters [the t-rex shakes itself, and thousands of steel fragments fly off like shrapnel], dripping with rust [the stalking dinosaur leaves a disgusting trail of rusty, sooty water].

"Enter a superior species," the voice-over continues, "the new Scotch-Brite Never Rust soap pad. [Here we see the product in action, scouring grimy pots and pans]. It's made from an innovative fiber that never rusts or splinters, and no steel wool pad cleans better. The old dinosaur is history. [Now the t-rex melts like the Wicked Witch of the West in a ruddy puddle and is wiped away with a Scotch-Brite pad].

"Welcome to the Scotch-Brite age. New Never Rust soap pads, scour power from Scotch-Brite, another 3M innovation."

All right, so "1984" it isn't.

But it is nonetheless fine advertising, communicating the copy-point particulars, establishing the concept of new technology vs. extinct technology and doing it all in an engaging animation that-unlike most ad animation-actually has a point to it. You can pave the road to Jurassic Park with computer-animated advertising dinosaurs, but you won't find many spots wherein every frame illustrates the benefits of the product.

Naturally, if it turns out this 3M miracle fiber is no better than the nylon scrubbies previously available, the grass in front of 3M's door will remain green and pristine. But if the thing actually cleans better than steel wool soap pads, and the price is reasonable, a path will be worn in no time. With no Michael Jordan required.

For that matter, if Nike made you run faster and jump higher, no endorsements would be necessary. Nor gritty textures, nor excruciating hipness nor studied irreverence.

In short, you don't have to Just Do It if you just have it.

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