Slice-of-life spots are not the same stuff. Their everyday situations tend to trivialize the product messages. Enough mothers and daughters in the laundry rooms and fathers and sons fishing have rendered such pairings an ad cliche especially unsuitable for products that have "news."
As opposed to the monologue of a talking head, voice-over or full-bodied frontman (all of which are considered "insulting to intelligence" and "talking down" by viewers), last year three product innovations were launched with "dialogue" between celebrities. They also managed to find a place in America's top 15 campaigns of 1995. They served as traditional star vehicles-that is, written with their stars expressly in mind-only for much shorter rides.
Most winning was the recoupling of Donald and Ivana Trump for Pizza Hut. New Stuffed Crust Pizza was positioned to be eaten backwards, accommodating right vs. wrong spoofs. The Donald fretted about "doing the right thing," which set his ex-wife up with a line, as much at home in her fiction as it is in his hotels: "It feels so right, let's just do it." The result of the work from New York agency BBDO Worldwide: Pizza Hut's No. 6 standing was its first top 15 appearance in five years.
Frito-Lay's Doritos succeeded with Mario Cuomo and Ann Richards. This spot, also from BBDO, got the two newly unseated governors to concede that change can be good. For the brand, at least, it was: The overall campaign secured the No. 12 ranking, and the product it relaunched achieved double-digit growth.
The third dialogue-driven campaign was for Taco Bell, via Bozell/Salvati Montgomery Sakoda, Costa Mesa, Calif. The agency used Shaquille O'Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon to launch a Double Decker taco.
Because of such dialogue, celebrities are no longer overpriced hucksters, but co-stars in self-satirizing sketches uniquely their own.
Mr. Vadehra is president of Video Storyboard Tests, and he welcomes feedback. Write him at 107 E. 31st St., New York 10016, or fax him at (212) 689-0210. Campaign Clout reports on consumer response to current advertising.