UPFRONT;IT'S THE CLIFF FREEMAN COMEDY CORNER!;SHOOTIN' HIGH; BALLS VIA MAIL;SPACE CANDY;OFF-ROAD ART

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"It was one of the worst cases of videogame boredom we'd ever seen," relates a grizzled state trooper sitting in his patrol car, as an old lady with a walker is mugged in the background by a pair of clowns. And so begins a nutty :30 from Asatsu/BBDO in Los Angeles for Aura Systems' Interactor, a wonderfully subversive strap-on backpack sort of thing that's jacked into the videogame player to "turn audio into physical impulses," as agency creative director Steve Chavez explains it.

So a team of troopers, one of them barking like a dog, races into the comatose kid's room to jack his back up with an Aura and save the day. The inspired closing package shot features a little pooch, his face blanked out "Cops" style, and the VO, "Dog's head sold separately."

Anyone over 12 might have some trouble figuring out just what the hell the product is, but that's not an issue here, according to Chavez. The Interactor is the most successful videogame peripheral on the market; all it needed was a fresh spinal infusion of lunacy.

Other credits to AD Gerald Gomez, writer Steve Williams and producer Bob Belton. Tenney Fairchild of Barking Weasel Productions directed. The old lady, by the way, who just might be a stocky guy in drag, eventually kicks the crap out of her assailants.

A pro bono campaign from Fallon McElligott for the Children's Defense Fund eschews drab gun-toting shots of kids and gloomy copy for a positive call to action, explains writer Phil Calvit. "A lot of people were waving fingers at kids saying, 'Don't shoot each other,' which seemed pretty ineffectual," he says. "So we decided to aim at who's raising the kids."

The posters and print ads combine thought-provoking copy with approachable art direction, employing photojournalists' candid shots framed by an attractive yellow background, explains art director Deb Hagan. "Live your life as if someone's watching you. Because someone is," reads one poster, next to a photo of a child, and body copy that explains how children learn how to act from you, so the next time "you're moved to act violently, stop and think about the lesson you're teaching."

Credit also CD Bill Westbrook; photo seen here by Matthew Septimus.

If the amount of information spewed out every day on Seattle's Sports Radio 950-AM could fill hundreds of textbooks, wondered CD/art director Wade Koniakowsky, then why not turn the station into a quasi-correspondence school?

That's the idea, anyway, behind a tongue-in-cheek campaign for the station, which has dubbed itself, "The Sports Radio Institute of Knowledge."

Created by Big Bang Engineering, a startup agency with offices in San Diego and Seattle, the ads mimic '50s comic book ads, hence the tacky art direction and hyperbolic copy: "No more greasy creams and salves .*.*. your inferior sports knowledge can be cured with radio waves!" goes one headline. "I never put an exclamation in an ad until I did this," Koniakowsky admits.

Other credits to CD/writer Rob Bagot and art director Jason Busa.

Though Skittles ranks in the top five of the "sugar brands," like Lifesavers, its popularity just wasn't sticking in the young adult market, explains Ron Crooks, CD at DMB&B/St. Louis.

To fix that, Crooks, art director Michael Smith and copywriter David Swaine decided to give the colorful Skittles candy a little charm and mystique with a visually offbeat rainbow campaign. "Rainbows in general are pretty amazing," Crooks says, "and people are generally pretty surprised and tickled when they see them."

In an effort to capture that same childlike feeling in the commercials, a trio of CGI-enhanced spots includes one in which a helmeted pilot-turned-farmer takes his squeaky wheelbarrow over to a spot in a field not far from his downed plane. There he plants a handful of Skittles. Moments later, the ground begins to shake and out pops a rainbow, which rains Skittles down on the farmer.

In a second sci-fi spot, cute, wormy space creatures pop their heads out of their planet's cratered surface and murmur "yum" as a rainbow appears and feeds them with candy. "Skittles, taste the rainbow," whispers the kiddie-wise VO.

Directed by Gore Verbinski of Palomar Pictures, Los Angeles; visual effects by Australia's Animal Logic.

When "ordinary methods didn't capture the fun" of Toyota's new RAV4 sport utility vehicle, co-creative directors Terry Balagia and Miles Turpin of Saatchi & Saatchi/Pacific decided to borrow the talents of some well-known artists.

"This is the kind of car that offers something different for everyone," explains Balagia, "and we needed a way to visualize the different personal interpretations it can inspire."

As an example, illustrator Maira Kalman's interpretation includes a whimsical scene brimming with copy, reminiscent of her fantasy-laden children's books: "Swimming underwater in silken, seductive pajamas," it begins. Photographer Jeremy Wolf designed a Hockneyesque photo collage of both the car and the outdoors for a kind of environmental dream, and illustrator Pol Turgeon came up with a modern abstract design. The tagline in all ads: "This is [artist's name] RAV4 dream. What will yours be?"

The TV spots are similar exercises in free expression, directed by Erick Ifergan, of O Pictures, Los Angeles and Oliver Harrison of Acme Filmworks/Los Angeles. Other credits to writer Betsy Hamilton, AD Melinda Kanipe and producer

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