Garfield's AdReview

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We have bowled in the White House. We were present Nov. 7, 1968 when Red Berenson scored six goals in one game. We have visited a freeze-dried pets business in Florida and a home cryonics enterprise in a Colorado backyard. We have attended a bullfight with Herve Villechaize and Charlie Sheen. We've eaten dog in Korea and a nice deep-fried brain sandwich in Indiana. We have even eyeballed the unthinkable spectacle of a Philadelphia Phillies World Series championship.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have seen it all.

And in the category of TV-commercial special effects, we have really seen it all: airdropped rental-car customers, exploding Big Brothers, incendiary fireflies, flying Manhattans, celebrity reincarnation, 3-D Coke machines, spontaneously forming human mountains, you name it.

Which is to say, we're not easily impressed with 30-second movie magic. But now that we've seen real-estate brokers fly like bees, we don't think we need ever to see anything more.

The ad from TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, is part of a campaign to highlight Nextel mobile phones' unique combination of features for business groups: the coast-to-coast walkie-talkie function, credit-card swiper and so on. Our particular favorite-to highlight the inventory-management, GPS and the walkie-talkie features-shows two lumpy middle-managers in their little office enjoying a weird, impromptu dance party because, thanks to Nextel, they have everything else under control.

But the spot called "The Deal" isn't content to settle for a goofy gag; it insists on an extravagant visual metaphor for group activity-namely, the swarming of bee people around a crucial real-estate transaction. This required layering hundreds of elements, from dangling actors shot in super fast-motion against a blue screen (for wing blur) to computer-generated animation, and the result is stunning.

It even impressed our 3-year-old, who takes TV at face value and believes, to the core of her being, in Clifford the Big Red Dog.

"Daddy," she said, matter-of-factly upon seeing swarms of business people buzzing around the city, "I didn't know people can fly."

"No, sweetheart. People can't fly. It's just a trick."

The child scowled in the direction of the TV. "Good trick."

Yep, good trick, seamlessly rendered, somewhat-but not especially-to the benefit of the selling message. As it turns out, this campaign has been hit-and-miss in its efforts to illuminate the Nextel advantage.

In the case of "The Deal," the busy bees/real-estate closing analogy is just confusing and the action-stylistically much in debt to "The Hudsucker Proxy"-quite difficult to follow. Yes, the bees use the walkie-talkies. Yes, they use their GPS locators to help find the venue, but. ... tell us again, why bees? More confusing still is that the bee people look much more like hummingbird people.

On the other hand, they look and fly like actual hummingbird people, which commands your attention because there's no such thing as hummingbird people.

We have long railed about deploying special effects for their own sake, but that's not exactly what's happening here. This is a reasonable use of an astonishing effect. It's the everything else-like brain sandwiches and freeze-dried pets-that's just a little bit wrong.


TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York

Ad Review Rating: 2.5 stars

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