Now, on to "SportsCenter," and the commercial for ESPN's thrice-daily show judged the Ad Age Best of Show.
PART OF A GREAT CAMPAIGN
The spot, from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., didn't win because it was deemed necessarily head-and-shoulders better than the other finalists; that it was not. It won because it was one element of a wonderful campaign that did tower above other contenders, and because the winning spot was itself a synecdoche, a part that stands for the whole.
Purporting to give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the production of "SportsCenter," the campaign is a hilarious send-up of behind-the-scenes looks.
Here's anchor Dan Patrick, walking dejectedly through the studio lobby, and being cheered up by Detroit Piston Grant Hill, in uniform, at a grand piano. Here's anchor Keith Olberman insulting his colleague Patrick, off mike, as the credits roll.
And, in the winning spot, here's actor Michael McKean-reprising his role as English guitarist David St. Hubbins from the Rob Reiner "mock-umentary" titled "This is Spinal Tap"-explaining how he composed ESPN's 10-note audio signature.
"I was just sitting there, watching `SportsCenter' and I went [playing theme on guitar] `da da da da da...da da da da da da...da...da...da.' And I liked it, but the "da...da...da' bit sounded wimpy, and then I thought [playing very fast] `da-da-da,' which was much better than `da...da...da,' which, obviously, sucks."
Copywriter Hank Perlman and art director Rick McQuiston were unsure about casting a fictional character among the real-life ESPN talent and sports figures populating their campaign, but the decision turned out to be inspired: employing a character from cinema's definitive pseudo-documentary to perpetrate advertising's version of the same. Synedoche.
According to Allan Broce, ESPN ad director, the consequence has been continuous ratings growth, unprecedented brand recall and-as important as anything-he says, a positive buzz among sports' elite.
A CALL FROM RODMAN
"Even Dennis Rodman called Dan Patrick with two suggestions for spots," Mr. Broce says.
AD AGE: Um, did any of those suggestions involve full frontal nudity?
"As a matter of fact, one of those suggestions did involve full frontal nudity."
They're not shooting it, however, because unlike the residents of Shirley Jackson's fictional small town, ESPN and Wieden have not let the sheer power of their effort overcome the message.