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Northern States makes things better

By Published on .

Advertiser: Northern States Power
Agency: Martin/Williams, Minneapolis
Ad Review rating: 3 1/2 stars

Dear diary:

This isn't going to be easy. These things are hard to make yourself say. Not that I feel guilty--I don't--because, after all, you have to follow your heart. Anyway, I don't care what anyone thinks. I'm just going to say it, out loud, for anyone who cares to hear.

I'm in love with another public utility.

Yes, I've lived in Virginia for nearly 15 years, and Virginia Power has always been there for me. Through rain and shine, through good times and bad, it has given me kilowatt hour after kilowatt hour, asking nothing in return but an outrageous sum of money.

But I love another. I love Northern States Power.

I love, love, love, love Northern States Power.

My power company doesn't understand me. It gives me electricity, tells me to do the laundry at 3 a.m. to beat the peak-hour rush, tries to sell me heat pumps, but it hasn't even tried to show--not tell, but show--me how it fits into my life.

But beautiful, beautiful, beautiful Northern States has demonstrated its love from so very far away. Three TV commercials from Martin/Williams, Minneapolis, say it all. That it isn't just about power. That there's more to our relationship than a rate base sustaining a fixed return on equity. If I would only come to them, they would be a part of my life.

There's the spot with the night Little League game, with 8-year-old Joey in right field, his back to the infield, playing with a cricket, when the ball is hit to him. Of course it bounces past him, but this isn't about Pizza Hut right fielder angst or pathetic pratfalls. It is about life, illuminated by overhead towers and perfectly rendered with a slowly panning camera and vivid sound actualities that make you feel the summer evening.

"They may not always catch the ball," says the on-screen super, "but at least they can see it."

And then the slogan: "The energy to make things better."

I believe you Northern States. I love you.

The barbershop spot is even better, more precious, more real. It's just three older Minnesotans, talking about how the early bird catches the fish, while Glenn the barber runs his clippers through Don's thinning hair. There's an off-mike hollowness and a distance to the sound, but that only adds to the genuineness of the dialogue, which is far too stupid and wonderful for anyone to have written it. ("You ever go fishin' early in the morning, Ray, and you have to put the light on on the boat to getcha your way out to your fishin's spot?")

"Glenn's been running his clipper for 38 years," the super says this time. "So have we."

The third spot is real-life, too: a mom singing a lullaby to her baby, while the night-light burns away. "You sing her the lullaby," Northern States tells us, "we'll take care of the boogeyman."

And you will, too, Northern States. I know you will. That's why I love you.

Go ahead, scoff. Say, "Bob, you can't love an electric utility over a TV commercial or two." Can't I? Can't I? Don't I love an electrical appliance, KitchenAid dishwashers, every time I hear the song "Through the Years," because of a commercial from six years ago? Didn't I melt whenever General Electric lit up Hungary?

And I'm melting again. Sure, the Cyranos here are director Jeth Weinrich and sound designer Dale Goulett, but they don't matter to me. It's you I love, Northern States. Forever. Because you love me.

Copyright September 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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