Does a job
It's always a double-edged sword creating an outstanding ad: how do you top it next time out? In this case, how do you improve upon what really should have been 2001's Cannes Grand Prix winner, "Bear"? Leo Burnett/London at least had the advantage of promoting canned tuna rather than salmon in a follow-up that's both spot-on and bloody funny. "Shark" has all the hallmarks of the Traktor collective's weird and wonderful aesthetic without veering into the self-indulgent indiscipline to which they and their imitators must sometimes plead guilty. This spot recreates perfectly the feel of a wildlife documentary, with the voiceover's concern for the incredible beast they have caught for scientific research. Of course it's all blown apart by the sight of a) a whole tuna, and b) a grinning northern English fisherman emerging blithely from the giant jaws. You may still not be sure quite how far those John West folk will go for the best tuna, but you do know this is the best ad for canned tuna you've seen in your life!
Sorry to sound like such a nostalgist, but my, didn't Jeep used to buy some fabulous advertising? I still remember the Jeep's indicator winking through the snowscape, or the guy hauling his jeep over the rocks he's deliberately piled up over the front of his driveway "for the adventure." Maybe the rest of the SUV market has eroded what made Jeeps special? Anyway, two of these three spots are clever enough, and a quiet smile, but not really in the league of their antecedents. The third, "Seal Pup" is simply both gratuitous and grossly-over-sentimental. We are given the impression that the Arctic Jeep driver is about to cull the seal pup violently, but he is actually digging a hole in the ice to allow the seal to live happily ever after with his soon to emerge friend. Pass the sick bag, Alice!
The backroom guys return in six new FedEx spots directed by the ubiquitous Bryan Buckley. They pick up where last year's left off, and they are fast-paced, slick and -- unusually for mainstream commercials -- demand a little concentration. The trouble is, they actually demand a little too much concentration for the reward. The banter is lively, and the spots feature FedEx product benefits, but they are actually a little difficult to follow, and not everyone watching will have the benefit of replaying the spots on AdCritic as I just have. I am loathe to criticize any campaign that tries to do more than simply churn out lowest common denominator advertising, but perhaps these spots try just a little too hard?
Does anyone care what has happened to Coca-Cola's advertising? Or doesn't it matter that one of the handful of most famous advertisers on the planet hasn't made a commercial for its Coke core brand in the post-CAA era that anyone on the street can remember since those cutesy Polar Bears. And, that's a stretch. I know there are some who think this is at least a step up from recent efforts, but it's depressing to think that the bar is so low. Yes, it's a technically clever little balletic spot featuring bottles, tops and the brown fizzy stuff (to keep the client happy), but who is really going to take any reason to purchase out of seeing this spot? Actually, who is going to remember it five minutes later? There has to be something to say about the world's most famous brand.
Three Porsche 911 drivers cruise along a mountain road as a piece of litter is kept flying in the air by their wake. Finally, the third driver rolls down his window to stick out an arm and collect the litter. The joke is of the "keep highways beautiful -- drive a Porsche" variety. Get it? Er, and that's it. This is Porsche, for God's sake. There's nothing offensive about the spots, but -- as with Coca-Cola -- does Porsche really have nothing to say?
I really struggled with this one; tried like hell to put myself into the mind of both the creators and the intended target market, but I just can't see how this brand joins up those dots. Isn't Samuel Adams classier than this knockabout sub Budweiser-esque loutish male behavior would have us believe? As it is, do we really want to be like the doltish protagonists? Isn't the orgasmic screaming just a little too far-fetched for two not so fantastical scenarios? Maybe I am being a bit snobbish. However, here I declare a personal interest. Sam Adams is my favorite American beer -- the only one I would cross a barman to seek out. It tastes good enough that I am almost prepared to believe that the Sam Adams brewery has made the first decent-tasting light beer in history. Almost. But, I can't believe there isn't a way of persuading me of that without making me embarrassed of a brand I had hitherto loved.
(Stefano Hatfield is the editorial director of AdAge Global, Creativity and AdCritic.com.)