The AdCritic

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Welcome back from the turkey break. Here's my take on some notable new campaigns. (Just click on the titles to view the spots.) And, if you agree or disagree with anything you read, please feel free to e-mail me. The address is

Does a job

Target: Revlon/Motrin and Scotch Brite/Cheer

This is the advertiser that shook up the retail sector. In these spots, you can see just why. Somehow, they manage to simultaneously communicate a sense of fun, style and value for money, even though they are advertising products as mundane as Motrin and Cheer. They are all a quiet smile rather than laugh out loud funny (apart from maybe the crowd shaking bottles of Motrin at a free throw shooter), but they neatly convey the intended message: Target's prices for everyday products are good enough that you don't have to worry about the quantities you buy. The real thing about these commercials is how much worse they could be; how horrible so many ads like this are. Instead the Target spots have a welcome wit and style to them, without losing the selling message. The only real gripe is the splicing together of what appears to be two 15-second spots into one commercial. But then again, I guess, what is irritating watched in isolation on a website about advertising is an effective media-buying ploy in a commercial break on television.

Dinty Moore: Rock Stars

This is a sweet gag, extremely well done. It relies on the outstanding, restrained performances from all the family, both the excited and earnest parents and their dismayed, despairing offspring to raise this commercial out of the pack. MJZ director Clay Williams could have played this one for much bigger laughs to much less effect. The casting of the parents is spot on, and I love the family portrait on the wall in the background. Both the mother/father, and brother/sister pairings interplay with each other well. But my favorite element is the way the son silently displays a focused horror, bordering on hatred, towards his parents' stupidity. The product looks disgusting, but I am sure it is very popular. This one really is a step up from the standard packaged goods fare, particularly when contrasted with all those painful Chunky Soup ads.

Spam: Dinner and Barbecue

Ah, Spam! The very name conjures up … Yep! That's exactly the problem that every agency has when confronted with the Spam account: how to dispel a history of negative associations? And there is no doubt that these two spots try hard. Thanks to AdCritic, we can all watch them over and over again, puzzling as to what BBDO/Minneapolis (which brought us the spot-on Dinty Moore ad above) is really trying to say about Spam in these irony-laden commercials. Leaving aside for a moment the life crisis that puzzling over Spam ads must inevitably induce, it feels like the irony is a result of an embarrassed acknowledgement of the negatives. It's certainly the case that the commercials are lively, noticeable and different. They even manage to successfully display ways we could cook Spam without alienating our friends and relatives. But by making the cooking and barbecuing father a goofy wack-job, and allowing the other characters to descend into suburban pastiche, what message are we given? Are we crazy if we cook Spam? Will the chemicals in Spam make us goofballs? Can we cook Spam with straight faces, or can we only serve up Spam ironically; that is, with everyone eating it being in on the joke? The spots are fun. But is fun enough?

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

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