Waldman: First, here's what I appreciate about this print campaign. The ads look interesting. There's a bold strategy, and it seems like a lot of energy and effort went into crafting the headlines and design. But this campaign misses a huge target. I haven't researched this, but my gut tells me that the majority of wine drinkers, besides liking the taste, drink wine because they feel it's a more sophisticated way of boozing up. Telling them that waiters and pet sitters drink Alice White doesn't seem like the sharpest tact. Why is Alice White the "Wine for the rest of the world"? And more importantly, why is that good? If the tag were, "Wine the rest of the world can afford" that would make sense to me. Unfortunately, I can't find any tangible reason to buy Alice White, other than the bottle looks nice.
Barni: The headlines printed on labels and set over the main visual give the ads nice dimension. And strategically there's something smart about a lesser brand making fun of the obnoxious stereotypes associated with finer brands. But no one wants to think they're drinking swill, and the message I get from these ads is that Alice is white wine for white trash.
Gap, "Slow Down" Agency: Modernista Director: Jonathan Dayton/Valerie Ferris, Bob Industries
Waldman: Attractive models have a faux snowball fight in slow motion against a slowed down track of "Little Drummer Boy." Supers read, "Slow down this holiday." You'd figure if Gap could make lip-synching and "Ice, Ice, Baby" cool, a snowball fight would be easy. But even the usual funky film technique couldn't make this one less corny. P.S. Nothing against male models, but what kind of guy doesn't know how to throw a snowball?
Barni: I know it's fashion. I know it's more style than substance. But I like this spot. I like that at its core is a true human insight - the holidays being one of the few times we give ourselves permission to slow down. I like the elegant execution and the emotion it elicits. I like the cozy sweaters. And I especially like that none of the models are dancing to show tunes.
Staples, "Sno-Bot" Agency: Cliff Freeman & Partners Director: Mark Tiedemann, Celsius Films
Waldman: Two tech employees proudly observe their customer service robot, who is busy helping customers with gift ideas. When a guy asks for a fax machine, the robot loses it because he's in love with "her." The tech guys jump in and pull the robot away, comforting him with a new, sexy powerstrip. Which makes him hot. A memorable way to show off the Staples tech department and they worked in a laundry list, including "scanner/fax/copier" without ruining the spot. Nice.
Barni: Another funny ad from a retailer that does consistently good work. This particular spot is a bit harder sell than some of the previous work - at one point a woman looks in amazement at a digital camera and says, "Nice price!" But it makes me giggle. I mean what's not to like about a robotic snowman who falls in love with a scanner/fax/copy machine?
Dxcart.com, "Adam and Eve" Agency: Acme Pictures Director: Bill Barrett, Acme Pictures
Waldman: I hate to admit this in public, but I just don't get this one. As best as I can figure out, two tech heads make fun of their boss, who doesn't know his software. But, the storyline is mysteriously riddled with a nude Adam and Eve who pop into his office. What? Boss bites an apple (Apple Computer?), grabs a big hunk of cheese (a mouse?), and then grabs Adam's testicles (?). Cut to super: "Check out our package."
Barni: Open on a boss staring mystified at a nearly nude couple. Cut to IT staff dissing boss about his lack of technical prowess. Cut back to mystified boss. Cut to IT staff saying boss doesn't know Adam from Eve. Cut to boss giving Adam a healthy grope in the old twig and berries. Card appears that reads, "Check out our package." Dxcart.com, it turns out, is an e-commerce enabler. The music is over-the-top, the acting is embarrassing, the spot is nonsensical and nothing hurts quite like a double-entendre.
Polo.com, "Tribute" Agency: Carlson & Partners
Waldman: This is what happens when you have no money, no time and no idea. It looks like an editor had a hard time filling up 30 seconds. There are catalog shots, a bevy of famous models, video of Ralph wearing a cowboy hat, pictures of horses and polo games, video of a runway model and more catalog shots. I know it probably represents the website, but it cheapens the brand. And did you borrow that schmaltzy music from Old Spice? But I still like some of your clothes.
Barni: The first time I saw this spot I thought Ralph Lauren had died. Put to heroic music, it's a montage of Polo images from the last 20 years randomly pasted together. It crescendos with a black and white photograph of Ralph himself as a younger man. Apparently Ralph is alive. This is not a tribute to someone's life work, but a commercial for a website. That said, condolences are probably still in order.
C.J. Waldman is an executive VP-creative group head at Lowe Lintas & Partners, New York.
Katie Barni is a copywriter at Young & Rubicam/San Francisco.