The AdCritic

Nike, Nascar and Nissan Europe

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Was it too soon for Reebok to tackle Nike? Can NASCAR be stylish? Could David Lynch's French car ad be any less inviting? This week, our editors answer these questions and more. Let us know what you think by clicking here.

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Reebok "Tate on the Field"
Reebok: Terry Tate on the Field

Two weeks out and Reebok's Terry Tate campaign is the only Super Bowl spot we're still talking about. That alone should land the effort in five-star territory, since the last Reebok ad everyone talked about for two weeks was -- well -- we have no idea. But going after Nike? So soon? The con here is that the ad seems to acknowledge that Nike advertising is supremely interesting to Reebok's target. The pro is that Nike's advertising has become so arcane in the last year or so that a good old-fashioned sack-and-taunt just might rouse the loyalties of rank-and-file sports fans who've been confused by Nike's recent resort to British soccer footage and French voiceovers. As a challenger brand, Reebok is right to take the risk, and to break Tate out into Energizer bunny territory as soon as possible, leaving consumers wondering where he'll strike next. Detractors of the campaign argue -- often directly to me -- that this Tate thing is just fun and games and won't move shoes. That depends on what Reebok and The Arnell Group do with all the interest, which -- detract if you will -- is entirely the result of this campaign. (JH)

NASCAR "The 12 Car"
NASCAR: The 12 Car and Finish Line

In this new campaign for NASCAR, Y&R/Chicago attempts to convey the gut-twisting essence of the sport with spots that manage to be down home and high art at the same time. Apologies in advance for this: these spots are firing on all cylinders. In the first, "12 Car," an appropriately Southern-inflected voice tells us that "Six days a week I am 200 pounds of flesh and blood. Today I am 3,400 pounds of sheet metal, rubber and steel," by way of describing the transformational power of driving, as man and machine become one in the service of speed. The driver's solemn deliberations are accompanied by compelling visuals conveying the heat, speed and intensity inherent in autoracing.

I was a fan of a previous Cliff Freeman campaign for NASCAR on Fox, directed by Ringan Ledwidge, in which people went to absurd and dangerous lengths to approximate the rush of a NASCAR race (e.g. one featured a man fighting his way into a tornado and planting a lawn chair). While those spots attempted to create an analogous situation, to comic effect, this campaign harnesses the aggressive charms of the sport itself while dressing it up just right. Y&R/Chicago and Gorgeous director Peter Thwaites use a technique that is visceral yet slick -- the judicious use of sound design, blur, color correction and jumpy frames elevate the sport without dandifying it beyond the reach of its actual fans. The spots give us a stylized version of the feeling of a NASCAR race, and, viewed the right way, the feeling of sitting on your couch after 16 beers. Both things are dear to the hearts of the NASCAR fan, and so should these spots be. (TI)

Dairy Queen "Big Fry"
Dairy Queen: Big Fry and Labor of Love

Given some of its past iterations, we wondered how many more ways Dairy Queen's advertising could dish out the soft-serve money shot before it all just became a meaningless, squishy parody of itself. Mercifully, with the latest DQ effort from Grey Worldwide, directed by Sean Mullens, we don't have to grapple with such questions. The new campaign, in keeping with its "DQ Something Different" tagline, departs from the sickly sweet paradigm and gives us some sharper edged (for Dairy Queen!) comedic moments that stick to the brand nicely.

The spots do cleave a little close to the well-worn "What If We Tried This, or Maybe Not" formula (used most effectively in Budget spots from Cliff Freeman and abused many times since), but the work has a likeable tone and is well-executed. In the most difficult proposition, selling burgers, DQ fares surprisingly well. Along with the juicy product shots, we get a scenario in which DQ contemplates matching the giant size of its burgers with a giant french fry. The spot conveys the big burger idea and has some memorable images, not least of which is a shot at the end that shows the outsized spud taking out the DQ drive-thru sign. The same formula is used in other spots for DQ cakes, but again, some funny touches save the work from being boring. Here, DQ proposes some new inscriptions for its cakes, substituting "I Hear Voices Too," and "Parole Denied" for the more traditional "Happy Birthday."

"Labor of Love," is a more straightforward appeal to the base instincts that drive us toward DQ's classic frozen treats. In it, a terrified husband tries to calm the unexploded hormonal bomb that is his very pregnant wife as the couple appears to be hurrying to get to the hospital in time for delivery. It turns out the mommy-to-be is just in mid-craving, and the car ahead of her at the DQ drive-thru is not keeping the pace.

In all, the spots are a tad predictable, but in this category, and considering the legacy of the advertiser, they manage to stand out. The fact that we're reviewing them here is sufficient commentary in itself. (TI)

Nissan "Micra"
Nissan (Europe): Micra

There is a far off advertising land where hard-sell is heresy, where engaging the viewer is optional and where sex, in any possible shade or form, is absolutely de rigueur. That was a clue right there. France is probably the only country in the world where a pair of floating blue lips spouting made-up words (literally too -- the words fly out of the suspended lips as graphic text) as a Micra breezes through a blue-hued modernist cityscape could possibly pass for a car ad. It's icy and uninviting and in total contrast with the jaunty looks and personality of the car itself. And it's all set to a disconcertingly awful piece of Europap pop -- also an unmistakeable clue that this is French advertising. Still the French have Chambolle Musigny and Zinadine Zidane, Pont L'Eveque and Christian Louboutin. And, when you have Emmanuelle Beart, who cares if your advertising's as crappy as your pop music? (SH)

Kit Kat: Office
Kit Kat: Office

From the French obsession with sex to the American obsession with stimulants, in whatever form they take. This is the 52nd thousandth variation of an advertising cliché: regular guy seen in ordinary environment; mundane advertised product completely transforms regular guy into all-singing, all-dancing maniac; regular guy's family and/or friends and colleagues look on in disbelief and resignation; ordinary life reasserts itself with a knock at the door, or a meeting, and entrance of friends or family or similar. Again, there is a lot to say about Kit Kat the product. It has a real personality which emerges from its physical make-up. This brand personality has historically allowed for some great ads. This isn't one of them. (SH)

(THE REVIEWERS: Jim Hanas is the editor of Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine. Stefano Hatfield is a contributing editor to Advertising Age and Creativity.)

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