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Rating:3 stars NUTS TO NOUGAT: NESTLE DEPICTS GLORY OF MUNDANE TRIUMPH

By Published on .

What the hell is nougat, anyway?

For as long as the Ad Review staff can remember, we've been seeing candy-bar commercials that go on and on about nougat. Historically, in fact, nougat is given equal weight to caramel and milk chocolate and nuts and peanut butter and all those other confectionery ingredients routinely photographed being poured in languid super slow motion.

This has always puzzled us, because candy bar advertising is all about trial, and we are at a loss to understand what property of nougat-which we believe is that caulk-like filler favored by manufacturers for not costing as much as caramel and milk chocolate-is deemed fundamentally tantalizing enough even to mention.

So, if for no other reason, we're partial to a spot for Nestle's Nuts candy bars from Lintas Amsterdam. Not a word in it about nougat.

This may simply be because there is no nougat in Nuts, but we can't be sure, because no other ingredient is mentioned, either. Indeed, this spot steadfastly refuses to acknowledge any conventions of the category-except, hilariously, to poke fun at them.

The commercial opens with a shot of a plastic garbage bag on a garage floor, cutting quickly to a young man with a goatee looking pensive but determined as he gnaws off a bite of Nuts. Then, quickly, an exterior shot of a suburban, southern California house, its garage door slowly opening to reveal our grungy hero, now with the candy bar in one hand, the garbage bag in the other. In the background: the rousing concluding passage of the "1812 Overture," bespeaking drama, nobility and triumph.

Slowly and purposefully he strides down the driveway, Tchaikovsky blaring around him. Then he leaps, in super-slow motion, over a foot-tall fence and slams the garbage bag to the curb. Yes, as the cannons thunder in the "1812" finale, he throws his arms skyward in victory. Alone and unaided, against who knows what obstacles, this heroic 20-year-old has taken out the trash.

"No Nuts, No Glory," says a super suddenly bursting onto the screen, and we are inclined to agree. It is glorious how the ads manage, in one sweeping send up, to both ridicule and honor both the institution of advertising and the indolence of youth.

The hyperbole of the emotion in this spot wouldn't be so funny if actual Generation Xers didn't tend to exaggerate the challenge of day-to-day living. And it wouldn't be nearly so funny if other advertising didn't absurdly try to imbue mundane products with heroic imagery. Snickers, for example, in the U.S. ludicrously suggests a candy bar fortifies firemen and journalists with energy and courage.

The irony of the garbage bag ad is that, by parodying the overstatement of others, it does imbue Nuts with something special: attitude, an attitude of good-natured mockery and self-mockery perfectly suited to the youthful, hype-averse candy bar consumer.

In the spirit of Kit-Kat advertising in the U.K., which positions candy as a modest self-indulgence in the midst of comical disaster, Nuts charms by understanding its essential insignificance. That this should by communicated by grotesquely overblowing Nuts' significance is irony heaped upon irony. And nougat to our ears.

The rating system

The rating system uses four stars to represent excellent, three for notable, two for mediocre and one for pathetic.

Advertising Age International welcomes submissions for Global Ad Review, particularly breaking TV campaigns. Please send 3/4-inch NTSC-format videotapes or 1/2-inch videotapes in any format to Bob Garfield, Global Ad Review, Ad Age International, 814 National Press Building, Washington, DC 20045-1801.

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