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Jack in the Box: "Focus Group," :30

Kowloon Wholesale Seafood Co.,

Santa Monica

@radical.media, Dick Sittig, director

Someone should give Dick Sittig a bigger canvas to work on. He writes a lot of these , directs all of them and provides the voice of Jack, making him the Woody Allen of advertising. Too bad he doesn't have a national campaign to play with.

Here, Jack watches as an all-male focus group spills its guts about the Ultimate Cheeseburger, a stripped-down sandwich with nothing but meat and cheese. As the guys get into it, one suggests they do away with the bun. Jack bursts in and points out that without the bun they'd get meat and cheese all over their hands, to which they all nod. "We can look into that," he says.

The brilliance of this campaign is how it has built Jack into such a nuanced character without the benefit of facial expressions -- it's all body language, funny scripts and Mr. Sittig's vocal performance. The spots also incorporate a nice balance between product info and entertainment value.


Dial-a-Mattress: "Arctic Ground Squirrel," :30

Dweck & Campbell, New York

Hungry Man, John O'Hagan, director

Mattress delivery guys must see the strangest things, going into people's bedrooms. That observation, along with a desire to change the brand's perception (prior to this campaign, Dial-A-Mattress was known in the New York area for painfully bad TV spots), is behind this demented commercial. Two delivery guys are met at the door by a hostile, ranting fellow in a ridiculous squirrel costume. Complaining about his nagging wife, who we hear off camera, he has the mattress delivered to his basement, where he intends to bed down for eight months.

The slogan, seen on the back of the mattress delivery van, is "Always out there," and that's just what this spot is. Still, it's a daring move for a retailer in this often-parodied category. The unexpected nature of the spot and others in the campaign, along with the genuinely funny executions, helped drive Dial sales up significantly.

Staples: "Voice of Todd," :30

Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York

Farmland Studios, Los Angeles; Jeff Gorman, director

Speaking of humor, this Staples spot employs a gag we've seen over and over -- the incongruously altered voice of an actor, done for comic effect. Here, Todd comes off sounding like God as he is first heard off camera advising a woman in an office to check Staples for guaranteed low prices. Turns out Todd is the maintenance man, and the light bulb he was replacing had shown down on the woman like a beam from Heaven. So it wasn't the Almighty who just imparted divine wisdom! It's funny if predictable, but we won't hold that against it. We're just

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