The AdCritic

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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

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Guinness: Bathroom, Shower and Cast

The Guinness brand comes with a history of fine advertising from all over the world, and more importantly, an extraordinarily rich heritage and unique personality upon which to draw. Strange then, that with an admittedly less than expansive brief for its Guinness draft in bottles product extension, these commercials appear so unambitious. There is much to be said for understatement in this category, but these ads don't really say anything about Guinness, literally or metaphorically. They are sweet, and a knowing smile, but they are generic. You could enjoy, and indeed relish, quiet time with many a different beer in the bathroom or shower or with a cast on your leg. The thing about Guinness is that it is so different. It polarizes people over the slightly bitter taste, the waiting time for it to settle, the frothy head, even the color. There are many beer brands about which there is nothing to say. Guinness isn't one of them.

Mercedes: Peep Show

Oh dear. Is this really the best Mercedes can do? I feel like I could almost repeat the comments on Guinness. The guys salivating over a Mercedes coupe in its garage like they might a pole dancer on stage is an idea whose time came and went 40 years ago. It is a crass, generic idea for almost any brand, but for Mercedes? The commercial, both in concept and execution, seems entirely inappropriate for the brand: too down market, too ordinary. Surely, this is not where a brand as special as Mercedes, with its incredible heritage and quality values, wants to be. Again there are many car brands about which there is nothing much to say. Mercedes isn't one of them.

Play Station 2: Morphoray, Devastator and Decoy

Most video game commercials are hopelessly disjointed affairs. They follow a familiar, conservative formula: Bring to life with actors and crazy stunts -- usually extraordinarily violent stunts at that -- a version of what happens digitally on the Play Station or Nintendo or Xbox or whatever. Then there is a sudden and tenuous jump cut to the game itself, usually accompanied by a portentous voiceover. In truth, that is actually pretty much what happens in this series of three commercials from director-of-the-moment Noam Murro. But these spots have a lightness of touch and a joie de vivre about them that actually makes PS2 approachable and desirable, rather than makng it the anti-hero's hobby. The tone and pace of the spots mean that the inevitable jumps to the game itself do not feel gratuitous, but seamless. It is surprisingly good stuff; the "Devastator" execution is particularly hilarious. And they also achieve the difficult feat of branding both the PS2 console and the "Ratchet and Clank" game.

17 Cosmetics (UK): Knockout

I feel bad being hard on this commercial, because it has no shortage of the ambition I have just decried other spots for lacking. And I guess we should just be grateful that this is a cosmetics commercial that doesn't a) feature a celebrity endorsement, b) linger over a beautiful woman's face and curves, or c) depict model types getting heavy with each other because of the product. Instead we have a series of men showing off their bruises and other injuries, and talking enigmatically about how they got them. Then we cut to seeing the men incur their injuries as they spot stunning women in the street and are physically bowled over by their charisma and charm to the strains of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love". It's an arch idea, making heavy work of a feeling to which we can all relate. The script is actually leaden and ponderous, however. You could say that it tries too hard to be different, but really it's another example of the brief becoming the execution. "Knockout" is surely better expressed less literally. In the end, this is clunky when it could have been brilliant.

NYC2012: Fencers

This is an entertaining spot that captures a little of the spirit of New York City, and brings to life just why it would be different to stage the games in the Big Apple, as two fencers duel over who gets to take a disputed taxi on Fifth Avenue. The delicious juxtaposition of the idealism and sportsmanship of the games and the aggressive competitiveness of the city make the prospect of a New York Olympics seem mouthwatering. But when all is said and done, will they really build a stadium in Manhattan?

(Stefano Hatfield is the editorial director of AdAge Global, Creativity and

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