Omniscient ad savant saves another: Xerox

By Published on .

Advertiser: Xerox Corp.
Agency: Y&R Advertising, New York
Ad Review rating: One and a half stars

Today's review is brief and guaranteed accurate. But first a word about our new rate card.

Week after week, we dispense analysis worth, conservatively, jillions of dollars. Yet our modest compensation pales next to the kings' ransoms earned by the misguided ad professionals whose work we periodically eviscerate. This is a travesty.

We see the problem, however.

Quite often people unveil utterly asinine campaigns, the demerits of which we document in detail. If advertisers would fix--or simply kill--the work at that stage, they could save fortunes. Plus their dignity. But here's the thing: They don't.

Consider, most recently, the GOP, whose last-minute Monicagate ads we predicted would be disastrous. They aired anyway--on orders of Newt Gingrich. Need we say more?

And now we learn that the Miller Lite "Dick" campaign from Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, is officially a complete flop.

Duh. Though the most recent iterations, finally, were wonderful, it was too little, too late. As we repeatedly observed from day one ("It's a smug, masturbatory sort of advertising"), postmodern cleverness that is irrelevant to the product and the consumer is bound to fail.

The agency took that as vicious and personal. Wrong. It was just our usual completely objective total omniscience.

By the same token, TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., was infuriated at our early warnings about the Levi's "hard jeans" and Nissan "Mr. K" campaigns. ("Advertising is a journey," we wrote back in mid-'96, "and it's going to be a rough ride.") Nissan poured half a billion dollars into Mr. K, only to see sales plummet and dealers scream for Chiat's head. Meanwhile, the long-awaited hard-jeans campaign ("The advertising and the characteristics it promotes are ... unpleasant.") has already fizzled.

See what we're saying? It may be human nature to dismiss a bad review as the ravings of a moron, but it's unwise--not because we are astonishingly insightful (although clearly, in all humility, we are), but because we have no ax to grind, no myopia by immersion, no investment of time, sweat, emotion, prestige or any other judgment-skewing impediment. Ignore us at your own peril.

Take McCabe & Co., New York. If they'd listened and not aired their raunchy "Big Buford" spot invoking penis-length gags to sell Rally's hamburgers, they'd have saved their client from a debacle.

Their former client, that is.

Likewise Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, with its fatuous "Passion for the road" campaign for the since-departed Mazda. And many others, from Domino's and Rayovac to Mike Dukakis and George Bush. In 13 years, you can count our wrong calls on three hands. Yet most often, when we detect impending disaster advertisers call us fools and proceed as planned.

Ask Newt who looks like a fool now.

Which is why our sub-dentistry income is one of the great injustices. Henceforth, therefore, we ask agencies and clients to dispense with those kissy-assy little thank-you notes for the three-star-and-above reviews.

We want to hear from you only when we pan your work. Then, just kill the campaign and attach a check for 10% of what you would have spent.

Let's begin with Xerox, from Y&R Advertising, New York. The screwy new spots feature John O'Hurley, the J. Peterman character from "Seinfeld," as some Socrates-like figure surrounded by a Greek chorus.

Ditch 'em. They suck.

Copyright November 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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