Does a job
Last time I reviewed Budweiser spots, Kuntz & Maguire wrote in to chastise me for being too harsh, in a move which will have earned them top brown-nose points with DDB/Chicago. And, you know what? We should indeed be grateful that the campaign is understated in a very loud category. When the "True" campaign is good it is very good indeed, witness "Out of Towner" and "How You Doin'?" The problem with these is just how un-ambitious they are. "Band" suffers by comparison with Heineken's playful takes on the rock and roll world. It's instantly forgettable. "I Don't Get It" -- which must have been a hell of a lot of fun to cast! -- is more engaging. Jokes about the pulchritudinous women aside, the men are very well cast, and it is in Budweiser territory. It's just not that special, and we want Budweiser to be special. And Coors' "Twins" does the laddish sex angle better.
This is a very ambitious new campaign from Hewlett-Packard. The company believes it signals the dawn of a new era, and if reports of a $300 million spend over the next year are accurate, it is determined to be a marketing-led organization. It's a big gamble by any measure. As you might expect H-P begins with an anthemic commercial named -- funnily enough -- "Anthem," placing its technology at the heart of many of America's great companies, and some of the things worth cherishing or admiring in the world. It's very competently done, although the plus symbols take a little getting used to. Ultimately though I am not sure how much the consumer takes out of it, or is even meant to. "Everything is possible" is, I guess, at least a little diversion of the glut of "Nothing is impossible" variants on our screens right now. The "Crime Fighting" commercial, on the other hand, is one of my favorites of the year. It is one of those occasions where a director -- in this case Fredrik Bond -- really makes a difference. The idea that H-P's technology is helping the police fight crime digitally is, to be frank, a fairly flimsy premise around which to structure a commercial, but Bond creates a thoroughly fascinating scenario in which we can actually believe that the villain is being pursued torturously by a cursor. You can watch it again and again, and both the casting and acting are first-rate. Great effects by Method. There is also a beguiling spot depicting an astronaut returning home. It adds up to a very promising start to what will be one of the major campaigns of the next year.
These tidy spots introducing the Green family are fun. So they should be. Film and cameras are all about capturing the joy of life. So, the idea of a family at home, with all the quirky nerdiness that is the staple of life behind the net curtains, is appropriate. The father practicing charades in front of prints of his children; the family ridiculing the sister's date; and the rush to get a shot of dad doing the vacuuming are all entirely believable and entertaining slices of everyday life. If one was to quibble, in truth, these could have been for any film/camera brand, and they are not quite as funny as the Olympus spot where the young boy frightens the aquarium's fish with his shot of the shark. These spots are nice enough, but will we really remember they are for Fuji?
The idea of a Volvo SUV used to be oxymoronic. Wasn't Volvo always about the alternative to the SUV? Partly, this was due to one of Volvo's strengths, fuel economy, and partly due to the position of its wagon as the car for the outdoors. Clearly, Volvo recognized this in planning the launch of its SUV and thought it had to acknowledge the apparent anomaly. So, the idea is "to the list of things you thought you would never see, add the Volvo SUV." It's a somewhat clunky line, in truth. The commercial itself is pretty, but a little ponderous. In addition to the monster in the water, the unicorn in the forest and an Elvis sighting, there are too many in-between shots of the car just moseying along. Sometimes a commercial adds up to more than the sum of its parts, sometimes it is just a series of scenes edited together. Without being in any way bad, this spot lacks the little bit of magic that could have made it truly special.
I am loathe to be too mean to anything that tries to do anything different in this, one of the more painful to watch of all advertising categories. These spots, clearly with a limited budget, at least try to be a little less literal than the average, and manage to avoid the usual clichéd imagery of insurance. So, we should be grateful for the lack of stentorian voiceovers and/or happy, smiling families. And we are very grateful for the restraint in the context of so much over-claiming. However, while they are different and not wallpaper, they are quite hard work after one viewing, and do not offer much reward. They are "nice", but is that enough in this, one of the more competitive of categories?
READERS WRITE BACK
Is AdCritic Getting Soft?
This time you were very generous with your reviews. The Infiniti work is weak on strategy and has nothing more than a few nice shots. The Ikea work has a nice payoff but does not come close to the first round, which is by far better conceptually and emotionally. It looks that they are having difficulties supporting the "Unboring" idea, which from the start looked bizarre and not cooperative with the "You Are Crazy" theme. For the rest, I think you gave an extra point to all of them, except the Nike horse idea which deserves the four points.
Even Nike Misses
Well, I must say that I usually like your commentary on the commercials, but what the f***! (Sorry.)
It's just that I don't understand why you like the (in my opinion, dreadful) Nike "Pull Up" ad. "Wild Horses" I agree needs no words. It's good. But "Pull up" reminds me of TV commercials done in the eighties. "I use Nike so now I'm stronger than the bad and evil tattoo-ed dude."
Sure the execution is good, but with such a bad idea. This would, in my opinion, earn this film only one star.
Alright, we all have different opinions. I just wanted you to know.
(Stefano Hatfield is the editorial director of AdAge Global, Creativity and AdCritic.com.)