The AdCritic

Levi's, Labatt, Osteo-Biflex and Uncle Ben's

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Our editors take a look at new campaigns for Levi's U.K., Labatt Blue, Osteo-Biflex and Uncle Ben's. Let us know what you think by sending us your comments.

Levi's "Swap"
Levi's (UK): Swap

This Levi's spot from BBH/London and director Michel Gondry elicits a simple summation: Of course. For those who need more: Of course a Levi's ad should feature a cool track (here it's the Nelle Hooper Remix of The Dysfunctionals' "Payback Time"). Of course it should feature some sort of beautiful, skewed version of reality (here it's mouse-headed hipsters and their normal human companions kidnapping a cat). Of course that reality should be presented in a dead-slick way in the ridiculously capable hands of a maestro like Gondry (in the past, we've seen how an idea can go wrong in production for Levi's -- witness "Stampede"). Of course -- and this may surprise some -- it should showcase the product in some way (here, while we're watching the cat caper unfold, we can't help but be sucked in by the effortlessly cool look of the mutant hipsters). What else could you want a Levi's spot to do? Kudos to BBH/London for getting it right again. (TI)

Osteo-Biflex "Frank's Morning"
Osteo-Biflex: Frank's Morning and The New Frank

The creative assignment here was so difficult, it makes my head hurt. Osteo-Biflex is an herbal remedy for joint stiffness, and -- in case you missed it the first time around -- it's called "Osteo-Biflex," a name that will never roll off anyone's tongue. The creatives at Cramer-Krasselt make it look easy, however, with a simple idea: "Let's make a run-of-the-mill, testimonial spot with a cloying voiceover and a standard issue "enjoying life" montage. But, oh yeah, let's make Frankenstein the star." I'm impressed they were able to sell it, but the execution is even more impressive. Director Bennett Miller plays it absolutely straight, which is what the idea requires. One wink to the audience and this would have been a disaster. Instead, the spots manage to be hilarious while effortlessly delivering the nuts-and-bolts of the pitch. An ingenious solution to a tough creative problem. (JH)

Labatt "Golf Balls"
Labatt Blue: Golf Balls, The Faucet Game and Feel the Love

Shortly after the new Labatt campaign out of Grip Ltd. Toronto broke, I was in a bar with a group of men who were discussing pranks. In one, a new bride and groom -- after enjoying the magic of their wedding night -- found the next morning that a few of the groomsmen had been under the bed the entire time. Others involved strapping one's mates naked to public signposts. The unique character of male bonding never comes as much of a surprise, and it's why this new round of spots for one of Canada's two main beer brands works so well. I don't wander lightly into praising what my colleague calls the Jackass-ification of North American society, but these spots, which feature male friends and the loving pranks they inflict on each other, define a real emotional connection between friends, and between those friends and their beer.

The campaign is the first major effort from Grip, the agency formed by Labatt last year. Labatt has transitioned from the "Out of the Blue" campaign, done through Toronto's Ammirati Puris, which had defined the brand for over seven years. Those campaigns tended to be consistent award winners and crowd favorites (Labatt pulled its account from Ammirati not because of the work but due to a stated problem with the big agency process and its attendent costs). There's enough legacy here from those spots to maintain a consistent feel for the brand. But these spots go further -- and more realistically -- into the building blocks of male friendship, a potent recipe for an everyman brew like Labatt. (TI)

Uncle Ben's "Anthem"
Uncle Ben's: Anthem

This is a very big idea in a category that usually does without them. In fact, this may be the first "Anthem" spot ever for a microwaveable rice bowl. This is no ordinary rice bowl pitch, however. The premise is that everyone from wage slaves to movers and shakers have neglected lunch until it has finally disappeared. But what's this? Uncle Ben's is bringing it back! In this case, a rice bowl is not just a rice bowl. It's a lifestyle solution. The spot hits the point squarely and cinematically, and is well-supported by standout print and outdoor. It's worth noting, however, that the last really big idea in this category -- BBH/New York's campy "When you cook, you're a family" campaign for Lipton's Sizzle & Stir -- didn't work. It won awards but didn't do much for sales -- perhaps because the ads failed to differentiate the product from lots of other things you and your family could cook. If Uncle Ben's wants to save lunch, in other words, it will eventually have explain why its rice bowl is right for the job. (JH)

(THE REVIEWERS: Jim Hanas is the editor of Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine.)

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