Garfield's AdReview: Four campaigns demonstrate the true meaning of creative

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Well, the holidays are just around the corner. This we know from all the Christmas cards we receive from our dear friends we've never met who annually fire-brigade signatures to reach out with best wishes and incidentally please note the poignant yuletide message on the postage-meter cancellation.

Well, we at AdReview have an offering, too. Herewith: four campaigns we've recently admired, but had no previous opportunity to honor because we were busy dealing with the deep-fried delusions of KFC. Each is proof that advertising can be creative in the way "creatives" imagine it to be, while also cleaving to the correct values of information, persuasion and even-egad!-sales.

Citibank

It's called pre-emption: staking out a claim available to all comers, but which henceforth belongs almost entirely to you. Citibank has done this with its identity-theft campaign, which brilliantly creates awareness for the problem and offers the Citibank solution.

The simple premise: various sleazy characters talking about their big capers with stolen credit cards. The voices of the criminals, though, are seamlessly lip-synched to the faces of the actual cardholders. The crooks, in other words, have literally assumed the identities of the victims. Genius.

Hewlett-Packard Co.

This campaign got off to an awkward start with executions that didn't quite measure up to the potent borrowed-interest strategy. Those problems are gone. A spot about toys reporting to work at Toys `R' Us, and another showing subjects of Dutch master Hendrich ter Brugghen come to life at London's National Gallery are magnificent masterpieces of the advertising art and perfect articulations of HP's applications scope.

Southwest Airlines

You could say these are simple problem/resolution spots. You could also argue that they are simply shaggy-dog vignettes-as in, "Where will this protracted visual set-up lead?" But the payoffs so marvelously illuminate the ingenuity of the setups, and the underlying message is so vivid, that the whole vastly exceeds the sum of the parts.

The message is that online travel planning is endless and tiring. That's why a guy's family has to work like a pit crew to keep him alert, nourished and equipped as he tries to reserve online. He needs the Southwest Shortcut, which automatically displays the days and times when the lowest fares are available.

Campbell Soup

Us, we were unfamiliar with Gordon Elliott, the TV host who does the soup version of the Daz Doorstep Challenge in these spots for Campbell's condensed and several other varieties.

The guy has evidently made a career walking the line between obnoxiousness and charm, countering his essential pushiness-he just barges in-with a devilish savior faire. The deep voice and Aussie accent, in combination with his brazen familiarity, are a combo to make women swoon. Furthermore, he is at least arresting at talking up the actual soup. This is a refreshing departure from the emotional tugs of the past 15 years, which grew ever more mawkish as the condensed line slid ever further into irrelevance.

Citibank 3.5 stars

Fallon, Minneapolis

Hewlett-Packard Co. 4 stars

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco

Southwest Airlines 3.5 stars

GSD&M, Austin Texas

Campbell Soup 3 stars

BBDO Worldwide, New York

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