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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Acura: Maitre d', Shortcut, Cabin and Apartment

Oh dear! Sometimes ads are so bad they are good. That's in the cultish, ironic, post-modern way that neither agency nor client ever intended, of course. They can achieve awareness, but my, the long-term damage! Sometimes -- as is the case with this stunningly dreadful series -- they are just plain bad. Mystifyingly so, given the approvals process. Whatever chance these spots had to overcome the cringe-making scripts, smug casting, lame product shots and farcical sports car on a winding road cliches; however pretty Pete Smillie and his visual trickery can make these look; it doesn't matter. The appalling voiceover that sounds half-dubbed, half-computerized destroys any hope of rescuing the spots from lines like "Right now life is perfect, thanks to an empty road, a full tank, and the voice-activated navigation system of an Acura MDX." On second thought, the spots never had a chance!

Budweiser: Wedding Toast and Statistics

These spots are a long way from the highest level of Budweiser advertising. They scarcely even raise a smile. Although they continue the idea of everyday human observations, these commercials are neither particularly witty, nor do they benefit from any execution-saving direction. "Wedding Toast," in which the best man makes an excruciatingly inappropriate speech, is particularly leaden, while "Statistics" is redolent of the earlier "Greeting Card" spot, but not as funny. They are nice enough, but entirely forgettable. It's almost as if this is advertising as "holding pattern." We have just come to expect more from Budweiser. Still, anything's better than the other campaign currently on air in which August Busch IV extols the virtues of the "brewed on" date on the bottle's label!

IBM: Adapter, Binoculars and Genie

IBM and Ogilvy had a big challenge facing them: How to move on from the e-business solutions campaign that has served them for the past few years? This campaign, which retains the letterbox stylistic device, attempts to get across a relatively complex message with simple, humorous commercials, directed with élan once again by the incomparable Joe Pytka. The wacky gadgets featured in the spots -- a universal business adapter, a magic business lamp, and "future of business" binoculars -- are a clear swipe at the hype of the dot-com era. The campaign positions IBM as a knowing, clever and -- most importantly -- very credible solutions provider. I have no idea whether you really can get business solutions on demand from IBM, but these convincing spots make me want to believe it. What's more, we only have room to review the commercials here -- as ever the collateral will be at least as important in the mix. This is advertising of the highest order.

Volkswagen: Bubble

The Electric Light Orchestra revival starts here. No joke! The "Mr. Blue Sky" soundtrack is the most memorable element in this wittily directed launch commercial for the new Beetle convertible from Arnold and director Mike Mills. I'm not so sure that's the way Arnold intended it. A work slave is trapped in the boxes of his everyday work routine. In case we don't get the idea, the screen is compartmentalized into boxes in which he acts out his dreary life. Trouble is, most of us have such humdrum daily lives, his doesn't seem that miserably different -- in fact it is probably nicer than many people's! That makes the contrast with his supposedly longing gaze out the window at the Beetle soft-top disappearing out of the car park scarcely stark enough. I've watched it with grown-ups who haven't really gotten it on second or third viewing. One hates to criticize a commercial on these grounds, but perhaps this is actually a little too understated?

Maryland Lottery: Comb Over, Gold Digger and Cell Phone

These ads are a quiet smile -- if you can be bothered to pay attention to the punchline. Mischievous Chinese waiters play with their customers' feelings by cobbling together the fortune cookie messages depending on what they hear at the table. The idea? "Let yourself play." The executions are nice enough, but in truth there is a large leap required from the ads themselves to any compelling reason to play the Maryland Lottery. This category should be a gift to agencies. It's strange how disappointing so much of the work is.

Ikea (France): Two Girls and a Guy ???

Am speechless. Why don't you all watch this and e-mail me the reviews. We'll publish the best.

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

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