The AdCritic

By Published on .

Here's my take on some notable new campaigns. (Just click on the titles to view the spots.) Feel free to disagree and e-mail me at shatfield@crain.com.


Outstanding
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Does a job
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Dreadful

Fox Sports Net: Lullaby

It probably seemed a bright idea at the time: a babysitting Mike Tyson rocks a child to sleep as its parents go out for the evening. It is one of those ideas that wows on the level of an advertising conceit. You know how it works: monstrous ogre is actually revealed to be a big softie. Trouble is, advertising doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's part of a real world, where violence is an all too genuine menace -- especially to children. In that real world -- never mind him threatening to eat Lennox Lewis's children -- Mike Tyson is a convicted rapist, whose repugnant behavior has contributed to his bad-ass image. Whichever way you look at it, by employing him in an ad like this, all concerned are capitalizing on, and thereby profiting from, his appalling, illegal past activities. In the real world that is morally offensive. Which is why it really wasn't a bright idea. The only real surprise is that no one in the approval process spotted that.

Ikea: Lamp

The people behind this commercial, and the rest of the upcoming campaign, have a lot riding on it. For Crispin Porter + Bogusky, fresh from its "Truth" and Mini campaign triumphs, a hugely successful Ikea campaign would firmly establish it in the first rank of national creative agencies. It is also director Spike Jonze's first commercial for the MJZ stable, and we all know why that matters. And, as for Ikea, wherever it has presence in the retail world, it has marketing that goes beyond the funny or quirky and popular. Ikea elsewhere has a distinctly edgy European tone; one that veers towards a very un-American insulting of its potential consumer's taste. A memorable UK campaign exhorting Brits to "chuck out your chintz" caused a furor among Brits who felt their inalienable right to have a cup of tea surrounded by the chintz in their living room was under threat. Another campaign for a store opening featuring a little girl looking forward to an Ikea opening near her, took a savage twist when an Ikea big cheese revealed the store would be built on the site of her home! It takes guts, and -- just as important -- time to get away with this stuff. This first attempt from CP+B takes the risk. It features a Swedish Ikea executive lambasting us viewers as "crazy" for feeling sorry for a forlorn, discarded desk lamp. The spot is tonally and strategically spot-on, and the campaign hugely promising. "Unböring" indeed!

Burger King: Golf, Junior College, Single and Small Talk

Burger King's advertising bar has been set so low for as long as we can all remember that I suppose we should be grateful for a little humor creeping in amid all those images of flame-grilling! The idea is that the all-new BK Value Menu "speaks for itself". So, we actually see a talking BK value menu in a variety of settings from the zoo to a golf course. You will never see a more obvious example of the brief on the screen. But then, you won't be able to recall these spots long enough to use them as an example.

Crispy Things: We Tried Everything and Chacker

There is an advertising adage that says the spoof on the agency trying to come with an idea for its client's boring product is the last refuge of an agency trying to come up with an idea for its client's boring product. And adages don't get to be adages without being true.

AXA Financial: My Way and Women

No matter how many tasteful visual clichés you can cram into a commercial; no matter how many politically correct boxes you tick (disabled, African-American, pregnant woman, lesbian, etc.) you are still going to offend the population's sensibilities if you insist on using two musical travesties masquerading as cover versions of Frank Sinatra's "My Way." Only Sid Vicious ever got away with it. Now that would have been something!

Chase Banking: Tellers

Okay, I want so badly to believe this is ironic because of two reasons (actually there are many more than two, but there's a limit to your indulgence): the first is that the extremely talented name of the Joe Public directing duo is attached to this spot as directors, and the second is that it would restore my faith in being associated with the industry. The trouble is that the real Joe Public out there doesn't know how clever the Joe Public directing duo is; what great ads it has done before. All the real Joe Public has to go on is his or her appalling personal experience of dealing with banks and bank tellers, so when the bemused customer and the angelic bank clerk hold hands through the plexiglass screen, it is extremely easy to miss any intended irony. In fact, so far away from personal experience is this that it would be possible to surmise that Chase is actually mocking us. It's not, is it? Truth is, I have just watched it five times, and I haven't got a clue.

(Stefano Hatfield is the editorial director of AdAge Global, Creativity and AdCritic.com.)

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