Garfield's AdReview

By Published on .

Advertising genius comes in two varieties.

First there is the Different Drummer, the master of nonconformity, of unexpected solutions, broken taboos, high-wire risk-taking.

It's the iconoclasm that introduces a revolutionary new computer without mentioning what's revolutionary about it, instead comparing its independent values to the Orwellian tyranny of the competition. It's the genius that flouts conventional marketing wisdom to boast: "We're No. 2. We try harder." It's the genius that snarls at its target audience to get off their fat butts and lace on some sneaks.

Oh, and it's the genius that has grievously corrupted advertising by inspiring the overly ambitious and under-talented to forsake discipline and reason. They imagine themselves alchemists and wizards, but they are merely human carburetors of vanity and contempt. They create combustion, all right, but these fools couldn't care less where the combustion takes the car.

Fortunately, advertising is populated also by another sort of genius, whose creativity is rooted not in self-gratifying pyrotechnics but in summoning the right communications solution for the client's sake.

Their ego does not trump reason. They're unembarrassed to sell things. They rely not on novelty or gratuitous contrarianism, but on the reduction of the brand message to its essence. This process usually yields satisfactory results. Sometimes it yields perfection.

Meet the new Sprint campaign from TBWA/Chiat/Day. Perfection it very nearly is.

We don't know what the brief said, but we can guess: The Sprint-Nextel merger has consolidated two companies with lots of overlap and lots of differences, notably in their services, technology and customer bases. It will take years to find synergies and eradicate redundancies. So please, please find a way to make the whole seem better than the sum of its parts.

Advertising, of course, is all about putting your best foot forward, finding the silver lining, accentuating the positive. For instance, as a tagline "The New Sprint: A Confusing Hodgepodge!" probably wouldn't fly. But what if the dizzying array were glorified as....

Choice!

That's not full disclosure, exactly, but it also isn't a lie, and it surely is an inspired strategic solution from which springs the even more elegant creative solution. In print, outdoor and on TV, this campaign wittily imagines choice applied to things that actually offer very little: bathroom taps, the pedestrian traffic signal, city transit and office-building escalation.

The main commercial is simply wonderful. A guy washes in the morning by twisting the tap marked "tepid." He crosses the street not on the "walk" signal, nor the "hop" or "skip." He waits for the "gallop" signal, and does. Then he passes a waiting taxi, a bus and a camel before commuting to the office via rickshaw. There he considers riding up on the elevator. He passes on that, though, much as he decides not to join those rappelling the walls. He opts against the gigantic spring-loaded catapult and straps on a rocket pack. Up he zooms.

"Get ready to have more choice," the voice-over says, "because Sprint and Nextel have come together to provide phones that have TV, walkie-talkie, gaming, music and more. Sprint. Yes, you can."

All right, the slogan pretty much stinks, because nobody is out there suggesting "No, you can't." And a couple of the other TV spots, while very clever and funny, stray too afar afield of the main theme. In fact, they look like the old Nextel campaign, which was good, too, but needs to be retired if the claims of New Synergy are to be taken seriously.

Never mind. The central images of this campaign are unmistakably about choice. And that choice, unmistakably, was an ingenious one.

Review 3.5 stars

Agency: TBWA/Chiat/Day

Location: New York

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