The AdCritic

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Here's my take on some notable new campaigns. (Just click on the titles to view the spots.) At the bottom read some of your reviews of the French Ikea ad from last week, and a letter slamming last week's Bud review. Like Mike Maguire, feel free to disagree and e-mail me at shatfield@crain.com, or if by some miracle you -- like William Gelner -- agree with me, you can let me know that too.


Outstanding
Good
Does a job
Wallpaper
Dreadful

Visa: Sheens, Barbers and Jane's Fan

There are those who accuse agencies like BBDO of a formulaic approach to their mainstream brands, which we shall politely call "dial-a-celebrity". And, when celebrities are used badly or are inappropriate for the advertised brand, the results can be painful. However, when celebrities give real performances laced with a little self-deprecation in scenarios that are wholly linked to the brand, they help you cut through the television clutter. In the new Visa series, that is exactly what happens as Frasier's Jane Leeves, Martin and Charlie Sheen, and Tiki and Ronde Barber make a real effort for directors Erich Joiner, Allen Coulter and Frank Samuel, respectively. You are left in no doubt about who the star is here: These ads are all about the Visa check card!

MSN: Launch and Controls

My young daughters spent a very excitable walk to school through SoHo the other day collecting fly-posted butterflies that daddy was slow to realize were a Microsoft promo. They were all over downtown, and made a real impact -- this, even before the mayor's office spoke out against them. In truth, however, it was disappointing to find out they were a) merely for Microsoft, and b) preludes to some very unexciting commercials. The "Launch" spot in which we wait interminably for the MSN butterfly man to emerge from a cocoon is surely one faux documentary too many; there is precious little reward for the lengthy set-up. The "Controls" commercial has a funny and quirky idea in it, but is ruined by the Microsoft corporate voiceover that interrupts too early, and explains literally what we have just seen and understood allegorically.

Ameritrade: Audition, VIP and Big League

These are entertaining and intriguing spots -- even if "Big League" is a little lame compared to the other two. They are directed with verve and wit, and the misunderstood idea -- that the protagonists are the principal owners of companies such as Nike, EMI and Motorola rather than minor shareholder day-traders -- certainly has legs. There is terrific casting: the terrible singing waiter and the mother in "Audition," the goofy businessman in "VIP" and the geeky father in "Big League." But, a nagging doubt persists: Doesn't the whole thing ("80 million Americans have a share. Ameritrade. What's your share?") feel a little 1998 at a time when so many investors are losing their shirts?

Sony: The Trip

Another bravura directing performance from Mr. Pytka, and a nice job in the edit suite from Adam Liebowitz. However, the behind-the-scenes star names cannot disguise that there is a real leap to be made from the plot and tagline of this commercial to the Sony brand. In short, an American rich guy pays Russians to put him in space; "When your kids ask where the money went, show them the tape". Yes, we get the idea that the rich guy on the incredible adventure uses a Sony camera, but the commercial isn't really about Sony. The syrupy music doesn't help convince us that this is the cutting edge brand the scenario would have us believe, either. Right now, some of the product advertising that is also on air doesn't exactly set the pulse racing. The shame of it is that Sony is a brand that should do that very thing -- just as it does in other markets around the world.

Ikea (France): Two Girls and a Guy Here's what readers had to say:

This is the kind of spot that makes me feel guilty and ashamed after viewing it (twice), because it's so, well, erotic. And that feeling doesn't make me want to go out and buy stuff. I'm sure cultured Frenchmen can view this spot without such racking guilt, but I'm merely a simple American with a wife and two kids (the kind I am sure Ikea would like to come into their store) who doesn't want to have to put my groin in check and go to confessional just to buy a lamp.

Anthony Barkdoll
athensvideo.com
apbarkdoll@aol.com

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Okay, I may be working in Phoenix, which is about as forward-thinking as say, Ames, Iowa, on a Wednesday night, so I may not get the idea behind this European-made ad, but I am as speechless as you are.

They had my attention, and practically every other male's attention in the shop, until of course, the unintelligible ending. We've tried to come up with a couple of endings that actually made sense, some very unprintable, but really, when it comes down to it, if you're a guy and you're about to score with two women, nothing, and I mean nothing, including having too much furniture, would stop the night from continuing. Unless of course, if you're in Paris. But then again, the French will surrender just about anything.

Frank Ippolitto
HMI Marketing & Advertising
franki@hmiadvertising.com

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Why Ejaculate? Decorate!

Sue-Ellen Stroum
Intermedia Advertising Group
sstroum@iagr.net

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I really don't know what to say. Complete disconnect. Maybe if they made it a :90 with someone reading the brief on-camera before you see the three in the cab, it would make sense.

Chris Jennings
HSI
chrisj@hsiproductions.com

READERS WRITE BACK
Why AdCritic was wrong about Budweiser
In regards to your review of the recent work for Bud (I'll cite "Wedding Toast" specifically), I have to say (I'm speaking for Tom and I both) we're in a bit of disagreement with you, my good man.

What's nice about this work (and most of the work in this particular campaign under the Bud "True" umbrella) is that they ARE in fact SMALL, "True" moments ... albeit with a BIT of exaggeration, if only in the spirit of good-natured humor.

With that said, I think these spots manage to achieve just that, and end up in a place where they are not biting off more than they can chew and/or more importantly, NOT trying too hard.

And in regards to their direction? Well, being only two (Tom and myself) of a slew of knuckleheads who've directed these spots, I think these are NO WORSE than any of the ones we (or any others among said "slew of (other) directors") have directed. For you to say they were NOT directed and/or NOT executed well is just plain, well, wrong. (And on top of that, a bit friggin' mean-spirited, almost. Shame, shame.)

In my opinion, at the very worst, they were restrained. (Shit ... imagine that. RESTRAINT. In advertising. Go figure.) And I can't speak for everyone, but for my money, I'd rather end up a bit on the restrained tip, than the O.T.T. side that most other work ends up on.

Dem's my (our) two cents.

Yours,

Mike Maguire
Kuntz and Maguire
MJZ
irishsuperhero@hotmail.com

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AdCritic: Not from Mars or Venus
Frankly, I find most opinion columns on advertising today to be out of touch. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover your opinion section of Adcritic.com. Someone is critiquing creative work now who is actually from this planet. I look forward to reading it next week.

William Gelner
Group Creative Director
BBH/NY
William.Gelner@bbh-usa.com

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

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