Staples, Martin/Williams, Minneapolis
Well, it's Staples, so it's funny. A soccer mom is too busy to get to the game, so Dad has a life-size cutout of her on the sidelines. There's lots of little business that makes the gag amusing, including the cutout being whacked with an errant ball. "It's OK. OK," Coach Dad says, setting the cutout upright. "She'll walk it off." She's OK; the commercial isn't, because the reason the real mom is absent is that's she's running around to buy school supplies. Had she only shopped at "well-organized and easy-to-shop" Staples, she could have seen the game in the flesh.
Yeah, sure. First of all, it's a stretch, in narrative terms, to get from a soccer game to an office-supplies store. This exercise has all the inklings of a joke that had been peddled to other clients unsuccessfully before, rising here from the ashes. Secondly: not far from the ashes. What a silly and terrible positioning. Easy shopping? Vs. Walgreen's, Wal-mart, Target, the supermarket? Come on.
Staples should just run Cliff Freeman's old "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" commercial, the most wonderful back-to-school ad ever.
Meijer, Devito/Verdi, New York
The positioning here is simply price, but what an ingenious and funny way to get there. Two of three spots show kids abusing their school supplies. One wads up loose-leaf paper and bombards classmates. Another sticks a pencil in each nostril to impress/gross out a girl in the next row. The voiceover: "Trust us. You don't want to pay a lot for school supplies." Brilliant, and real. How much Meijer stores indeed deserve "high marks for low prices," who knows, but they have a unique and memorable price claim. The third spot shows perfectly unreal kids celebrating their school supplies and expressing extravagant gratitude to Mom. As if. Opposite tack, same message: Save your money on the little brats.
Kmart Joe Boxer, TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York
An oddball dance number in a locker bay. Fabulous. If anybody had said a year ago that Kmart advertising would out-Gap the Gap, we'd have suggested electroshock. But, lo and behold, Joe Boxer has created a hot franchise within a stone-cold franchise, mainly on the strength of actor/model Vaughn Lowery and his goofy dance. Yes, because he's black and because he so giddily surrenders his dignity, there are minstrel-show echoes here ... but only echoes. This is a character who just happens to be black having some self-deprecating fun, not a caricature of blackness dancing for the condescending amusement of whites. His incandescent charm brightens even this dim and dated Kmart brand.
Staples, Martin/Williams, Minneapolis 1 star
Meijer, Devito/Verdi, New York 3.5 stars
Kmart, TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York 3 stars