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
Good
Does a job
Wallpaper
Dreadful

Wilson: Tee Shot

Advertising is supposed to be about imagination; it has aspirations to art, which it applies creatively -- so they say -- in the pursuit of commerce. The new Wilson campaign calls for an execution that involves a golfer beating the crap out of the new Jack ball on the tee. Is it too much to ask that we might expect a solution that is a little less literal than a ball exploding with the sheer force with which it has been whacked off the tee, and depositing crap all over the shirt of an annoying onlooker. We might expect better, but that's exactly what we get. Ha, bloody ha! Truly execrable.

Honda: Dreams

The part of me that has spent more than a decade in and around the ad industry wants badly to give this commercial a higher rating, especially given how much more effort has gone into this spot than the Wilson folly above. Sadly, the consumer in me thinks I am being too generous. The imagery is unique; the direction by the king of car directors, Gerard de Thame, is both restrained and imaginative; the model-making is fabulous; Sam Sneade's editing of the highest order; the post from the Mill is sumptuous; and the music -- kudos to Groove Addicts and the composer Danny Elfman for music that is original and absolutely outstanding -- is as good as it gets. And yet? What does a parade of fantabulous children's concept car creations careering down a desert highway tell us about Honda? The line is "the power of dreams", which I guess is a clue, but are we to dream about Hondas? Dream and we can have one? Does it mean that Hondas are fantastical? That if we dream up a concept car Honda will make it? Surely it's not that all Hondas are as rickety as those concept cars? The ad industry part of me wants to say how great it is to see a different kind of car commercial on the screen; how refreshing not to have the Honda model range forced down my throat -- let alone a zero-percent financing offer. The consumer in me just wants to ask: what the hell is this about? Why on earth should I care? Ultimately, there are no answers to these questions in this visually stunning commercial.

Smirnoff: Laundry

There's not really much of an idea here, and once again there's a serious disconnect between the commercial and its endline, "Smirnoff Ice. Intelligent Nightlife" In the latest in the series, a couple of "dudes" impetuously start a soap-sud disco in a laundromat with three up-for-it babes who have never frequented any launderette you or I have ever been in. I have no idea how this qualifies as "intelligent nightlife." However, the Twelve Caesars track is cool, and the spot is curiously infectious. If you have to do lifestyle advertising, it may as well be an attractive lifestyle.

Nicorette: Machine

Probably the most interesting part of this commercial lies in the credits. This really is the new Tony Kaye: Everyman director for Anybrand. There is nothing remotely Tony Kaye-esque about this relatively throwaway spot, in which a mobile cigarette vending machine chases a former smoker, firing cigarettes at him to tempt him back to smoking. He only has his Nicorette with which to defend himself, which he wields like a priest warding off Satan with his crucifix. Nicorette is very well branded throughout, and this spot is a refreshing contrast to the way this, and other anti-smoking brands, have been advertised in the past. It's amusing and memorable enough. Perhaps -- in the light of the Burger King talking value menu -- there is a new trend towards vending machines and backlit posters in ads. God, I hope not.

Mitsubishi: Journey

The benefit of hindsight undoubtedly helps (or hinders) judgment of this campaign. I know some creatives hate this stuff, but it clearly must be working, otherwise Mitsubishi would not be bringing it back, right? "Start The Commotion" and "One Week" appeared to have airplay up the wazoo, but it was probably the distinctiveness of the music tracks and the ads' lack of any other baggage that made them so familiar. They were more like pop videos than commercials -- that is, other than the crass endless product shots. There was also something intangible; something uninhibited about the spots. They had a certain "joie de vivre". This latest commercial is in the same vein. The choice of music is all. Its "cool" factor (again relatively obscure euro-dance), and the astute casting succeed in once again redefining how we approach the Mitsubishi brand. Like a pop video, it almost doesn't matter what happens in the vignettes, although I wish my life in cars was half as exciting! I wonder if I am being too generous to this work, but it bears repeat viewing -- which is just as well! -- and it has made me think differently towards Mitsubishi. It is one of the more fascinating campaigns in the culture currently, even though it's really just lifestyle set to music!

Vauxhall (UK): Hide and Seek

This is a little gem of a commercial from the small agency that took the General Motors Astra brand away from Lowe/London. Like many of the best ideas, the minute we see it, we get it. How many agencies must have thought of cars playing hide and seek before? But it relies on some skilled and disciplined directing and -- in particular -- editing to pull off the idea of small cars playing hide and seek. It's almost a "Tag" for cars. The director Frederic Planchon's skill here, though, is to bring out personality using nothing but how the cars move before his lense. The voiceover is a little redundant, in truth. You get a little more out of it with each viewing, however, and it makes a dull car interesting.

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

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