BOB GARFIELD'S AD REVIEW: CELEBS DON'T CONNECT FOR SAMSUNG PHONES

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The new year is here, and the millennium edges ever closer. So while there's still time, someone ought to take the new spots for Samsung cellular phones and stick them in a time capsule.

Future generations will unearth these commercials and discover in them the perfect marriage of the zeitgeist product with the prevailing spiritual condition of the late 20th century: portable phones and the cult of celebrity.

And what a deliciously unhappy 1998 marriage it is.

Where, even in advertising, can you find so many fabulously irrelevant second- and third-tier personalities in one amateurishly produced campaign?

In this magnificent artifact of medium-tech shallowness, Arnell Group Brand Consulting, New York, has brought together Joan and Melissa Rivers, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, hoops not-quite star Jerry Stackhouse, MTV host Daisy Fuentes and-perhaps because Charles Nelson Reilly was not available-the late Dom De Luise.

Joan "Can We Talk?" Rivers is the only one among them with any apparent relevance to the product. Her daughter and E! Entertainment Television co-host Melissa has all of Mom's obnoxious Long Island mannerisms with little-i.e., none-of her talent, making her among the most unappealing TV "personalities" since Morton Downy Jr.

Stackhouse will probably fare better in Detroit than he did in Philadelphia, but the third-year NBA player ain't no Michael Jordan. In terms of Q rating, he ain't no Vernon Jordan. Dr. Ruth should have retired with Dr. J, but persists in the public eye like a recurring sty.

As for De Luise, well, this is what happens when summer stock is over and "The Match Game" is off the air.

The sole bona fide star in the campaign is country phenom LeAnn Rimes, who has successfully crossed over in her recording career but here, in the endorsement world, is dangerously darting from between parked cars. Because the ads themselves are an advertising hit-and-run.

Jerry Stackhouse, for instance, is depicted in his limo barking advice to his coach (!) in the middle of a game he is somehow tardy for and yet able to follow by phone from the car. Huh?

De Luise is set up behind a deli counter, where, among other hilarious bits of business, he pulls a cell phone from a salami. Later he sings into a turkey leg. "Samsunnng . . . we're on a rolllllll!"

Wrong.

In yet another bewildering spot, Daisy Fuentes is walking down the street, turning briefly backwards when a camcorder-wielding fan recognizes her. That's when-are you ready for this?-she backs into a telephone booth! Ha! Such irony! And suddenly we're seeing her through the camcorder! And it looks like it was shot by your high-school A/V squad!

The most frustrating aspect of this pitiful campaign is that, fundamentally, it makes some sense. Each of the celebs talks at least briefly about product features, which is more than most advertising bothers to do. And there are worse strategies than finding a suitably familiar personality for a half-dozen target demographics.

But that requires better writing, and much better casting, than is found here. It requires, above all, a clear connection between personality and product. Bob Newhart, for instance. Dr. Laura Schlesinger. Hell, even the Jerky Boys. These are people we think of as using a telephone.

The Rivers women we think of as using a plastic surgeon.

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