Lotus casts net for hard-nosed users

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Advertiser: Lotus Development Corp.
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, New York
Ad Review rating: 3 stars

Lately the Ad Review staff has been sifting through the World Wide Web for nuggets of information, which is like panning for gold just below a sewage treatment plant. So we're in just the right frame of mind to enjoy the latest TV-commercial rant from comic Denis Leary, this one set in a cybercafe.

"You know what I'm sick of hearing about?" he asks.
"The Internet," one Net surfer replies. "The Internet," another replies.
"The Internet," Leary confirms. Then he walks up to a guy with a prominent, red, Lyle Lovett pompadour.

"Whaddya doin'?" Leary asks.
"Surfing the Web," answers the guy. Leary just glares at him acidly.
"Nice hair," he says.

One customer is looking at pictures of dead rock stars, another has some sort of UFO page on her screen. Leary, as always, is unimpressed.

"A zillion dollars worth of technology and what are we doing with it?" "Browsing," a lady says.

Browsing? That's like using a particle accelerator as a go-cart track. So, Leary suggests: "Use the Internet for something useful, like running a business. OK? All right? No kids, no chat rooms, no smiley faces. Just raw, naked, in-your-face capitalism."

Then, reverse-type title cards:
"Work the web," "domino. powered by notes," "lotus."

Aha. From Ogilvy & Mather, New York, the introduction of Domino, the Internet version of the Lotus Notes software product that allows remote computers to work together. The campaign's first object: to remind business people how to exploit the zillion-dollar playground that is the Internet. The second object: to say so with a style and attitude distancing Lotus from its relatively staid corporate parent, IBM.

Missions accomplished. If irreverence and independence are what you want to project, Leary is certainly the man for the job.

The ordinary response to disdainful superiority is irritation, as in "Who the hell does he think he is?" But Leary has cultivated a sort of likable hostility. He is hiply smug, endearingly confrontational, attractively pugnacious. And he can even cover copy points at the same time.

In a second spot, he reminds managers of Notes' capability to connect their far-flung subordinates to one another, and to the boss. And in a third, he finds himself--thanks to digital compositing--discussing Internet security with police Sgt. Joe Friday. Yes, transported from about 1971, it's Jack Webb.

"You know there are over 50 million people on the Web," Leary tells the detective, "and they're not all nice."
"Liars, cheats," Friday says.
"Hackers, snoops," says Leary.
"Con men," says Friday.

Webb talks Web. Pretty irresistible stuff.

Except for slightly different resolutions and film grain, the revisionist dialogue is convincing. Director Joe Pytka has done digital resurrection before, disinterring John Wayne for Coors Light, but to far greater impact here.

Whereas neither the Duke nor the Army-base premise had anything to do with Coors, this security discussion is critical to business' concerns about the Internet. And, of course, to the security features of Domino. Instead of trotting out old footage and new technology for irrelevant gee whiz value, this ad taps their meaning.

So, yes, there is indeed gold to be found on the Internet. The trick is to pan above the standpipe. Or, if you happen to be Lotus, to sell the pans.

Copyright November 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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