WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?

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How do you brand a product no consumer normally ever sees? Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/EuroRSCG, New York, took the Pentium Challenge.

Ron Berger, partner and creative director at MVBMS, points out that advertising a microprocessor is mighty difficult because of the invisibility of the thing: "It's an ingredient in another product. You have to make a connection." So instead of just saying that the Pentium II processor is faster and offers better graphics with better sound, the agency illustrated these product advantages in a way everyone understands. "What we've tried to do is to identify a more human idea that people would find relevant in their lives," Berger says. "What if things didn't happen as fast as they should? What would be the consequences?"

In "Soccer," an exciting match turns weird and terrifying when team members notice that their goalie is "still processing." We see head- and torso-less legs running back and forth as the opposing team and ball bear down on the goal.

In "Baseball," a high-action game comes to a standstill when the pitch hovers in the air with a "processing fastball" progress bar next to it. The fans' anticipation soon turns to boredom.

And computer brain power becomes a matter of life and death in "Parachute," in which a skydiver finds his chute is "processing" as he hurtles toward the ground.

The machismo of the campaign is entirely accidental, Berger says. "We figured sports was a common denominator, crossing sex and country boundaries."

Regardless, we like it -- all the more because the success of the creative has a lot to do with the adaptability of the idea: the concept easily lends itself to myriad ideas and executions.

In addition to Berger, agency credits include: CDs Michael Lef and Paul Wolf; art director Walt Connelly; writer Larry Silberfein; and producers Tom Meloth & Noel Tirsch. The campaign was directed by Gore Verbinski of Propaganda, with special effects at Digital Domain and POP. Editing by Glenn Martin at Nomad;

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