BEACHES AND BUD-HEAD; A HARD-AS-NAILS DRIVE

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Reality bites, as Ben Stiller told us in the recent feature he directed, but surreality sure doesn't in "Relax," the funny new Bud Light spot he directed for DDB Needham/Chicago.

A giant composited head, belonging to a new age guru by the name of Brent, the kind of guy who sells overpriced sets of relaxation tapes on late-night TV, is floating along the beach, babbling about the soothing sound of the waves. He comes upon a couple sunning themselves next to a cooler of Bud Light, and he gets a sudden thirst. The couple, hysterical with fear, defend themselves with a beach umbrella before fleeing, but Brent downs the guy with a vicious head butt, and drifts off into the sunset with his new girlfriend, who holds him aloft like a balloon.

The origins of the spot lie in Fox's short-lived "Ben Stiller Show," where Brent was a regular of sorts. CD/writer Dave Merhar, who teamed with CD/AD Mitch Gordon, had never seen the show, but ran across some snippets of Brent on Stiller's reel (he works out of L.A.'s Palomar Productions). "I thought this would make a great commercial, but I never expected Ben would do it," says Merhar. "Well, to our surprise, he wanted to do it, and if he has the time [between features jobs] we may even do another."

Music by Machine Head, editing by 525 Post, both Santa Monica.

The spot opens as a businessman flumps into an airplane seat and asks his friend where he put his notebook computer. "You checked it," his pal responds, nonchalantly. "I checked my notebook?" the first guy says, his voice thin with panic. His flight becomes an extended anxiety attack: he pants fearfully into an oxygen mask and commandeers the PA to announce with horror, "I checked my notebook!" He even barges into the cockpit and orders the pilots to stop the plane. Finally, we see him rescue his beloved computer from the luggage conveyor belt and turn it on. "It's alive!" he wails, kisses the screen and then walks around the terminal boasting about it to strangers.

The comic :60, for Toshiba Canada, focuses on durability, explains Peter McHugh, CD/writer at Chiat/Day/Toronto, because apparently Toshiba notebooks rank highest in that category.

The guy's wild mood swings "are like those five steps people go through with death," McHugh jokes. We wanted to "dial up the madness but keep it believable." Directed by Rob Pritts of Chicago's Backyard Productions, the spot is airing in Canada and represents the first commercial for the client in five years.

Other credits to art director Mitch Gordon and editor Richard Unruh at Third

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