Does a job
This is a rare opportunity to compare and contrast the work of two fine agencies within the same network -- TBWA/London and TBWA/Chiat/Day/Los Angeles -- on the same edgy brand: Sony's Playstation 2. Admittedly, the UK campaign is advertising a particular game, Tekken 4, but the exercise does serve as a microcosm of the difference between the two marketplaces. Both are strange, "creative" as we would understand that word -- by which I mean imaginative -- and both use comedy, but the resemblance really does stop there. The U.S. campaign relies on a knockabout quirky humor, which at first sight is bizarre, but is actually quite sanitized, quite clearly taking place on advertising sets. The British work has no aspirations to bizarre. It just is. On the surface it is reasonably normal, but the performances by the respective actresses are a step short of deranged, and are all the more alarming because they take place in the kind of downmarket housing developments that are the heartland of the Playstation user. The overall effect is to leave one feeling that Playstation in the U.S. is an entertaining mass market product aimed at an older audience than the bleaker, darker, less familiar and discomforting U.K. work. Watch them both, and you be the judge!
Computer Associates: Hello Down There
This campaign is the kind of work not just Young & Rubicam, but the greater advertising industry should be promoting and praising to the skies. Think how boring this campaign for network solutions could be -- actually just think about all its rivals, and you will know what I mean. Although perhaps not as surprising as the last campaign, with hard-working office minions being knocked unconscious on the way to the unbriefed boss's meeting, this execution is right on track. This is a funny film, built on a smart strategic insight, married to a fine performance and some deft direction (slightly let down by the obvious final gag). Like the other film, it really does stand out, not just in its market, but on television full stop. And you can even remember the brand name!
There is nothing really wrong with these ads. They are funny enough; they are an apt enough product demo; they have some really very clever post effects in pursuit of that appropriate product demo. It's just that they don't really make the viewer want to get the video-on-demand product being advertised. Is it just a bit of fun, or is it truly a must-have addition to the lazy family's domestic armory? True, the female voiceover has one of the sexiest voices in advertising history, but -- altogether -- it's just not quite enough.
Puma is THE comeback brand of the moment (although I guess Burberry and Adidas may choose to differ). But its journey back from near obsolescence to urban hip-dom has not been built on advertising. It's the sneaker's design, first and foremost, and then the whole design-led move out of pure sports and into fashion and lifestyle. Although the company itself may not agree, the road back (as with Adidas, and now, in a just-starting way, Pony) began with retro styling, which was then picked up on by urban fashionistas. Word of mouth PR was at the heart of the marketing strategy. Advertising played a backseat role -- as might be expected when the competition has Nike, Adidas and Reebok's budgets. Now, here are a couple of commercials, and they have to position Puma as the quirky, stylish alternative while maintaining the brand's edge. They immediately run into the problem that all sports brands do: Nike's already been there, and covered virtually every strategic angle. So Gyro Worldwide has resorted to pastiche - literally remaking Nike's "I Am Tiger Woods" classic around extreme sports daredevil Travis Pastrana . It's funny and spot-on in its attempt to reassert Puma's underground cool. The other execution features Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon saving the city from a marauding 50-foot-tall babe by having her fall in love with him. It 's funny and kitschy and cool, but mainstream cool. There in a nutshell is the Puma's dilemma: how to stay cool when there are Puma stores in SoHo and Soho, and you have slick TV commercials on the air!
(Stefano Hatfield is the editorial director of AdAge Global, Creativity and AdCritic.com.)