The AdCritic

Honda, Heineken, TCM and Maryland Lottery

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It's only April, but Wieden + Kennedy/London has already made the best spot of the year, plus our editors review new work for TCM, Heineken and the Maryland Lottery. Let us know what you think by sending us your comments.



Honda "Cog"
Honda (UK): Cog

The year is not even halfway through, but it's still safe to say that this is -- and will be -- the best ad of 2003. Whether it's the best ad eligible for Cannes this year is for the judges to decide, but it will surely make the Grand Prix shortlist, and it will win unless something outrageously -- and universally -- funny comes along. In England, "Cog" is already being hailed as a classic. London ad guru Rupert Howell recently called it the best British ad since Guinness' "Surfer" and the best automotive ad in two decades. It's difficult to argue with him. The two-minute commercial shows a complicated chain reaction, set off by a single cog, in which parts from a Honda Accord interact in whimsical ways to ultmately activate the automatic hatch of the fully-assembled car. It's riveting and a beautiful piece of film in its own right. It's also something of a technical miracle. Although French designer/director Antoine Bardou-Jacquet is known for his work with effects, the spot contains no cheats. It took four days and more than 600 takes to get the continuous shot of everything working as planned. That it all pays off in a bedrock value like reliability is the clincher, assuring this commercial a spot in the textbooks. As Garrison Keillor asks in the voiceover, "Isn't it nice when things just work?" (JH)



Heineken "Sue"
Heineken (UK): Sue, Holland and Switzerland

What better time for a campaign that takes the piss out of national identities, both European and American? A new campaign from London's Clemmow Hornby Inge does just that in service of Heineken, which the two-year-old hotshop added to its enviable stable of clients last year. The spots revolve around the premise that the premium brew is now being imported into Britain after having been tested in various countries and withstanding each nation's trademark cultural peculiarity. The U.S. spot sends up American litigiousness, as a minor slight in a bar causes a lawsuit spree that goes all the way to the White House. The funniest spots center around Switzerland's neutrality and its gentle approach to national defense, and on general Dutch weirdness. The "Holland" spot features a young man asking for an alternative to Heineken in a store, causing outrage among staff and patrons -- each and every one of whom, of course, is a complete freak. The casting here is superb, and, courtesy of directing collective Traktor, the whole campaign is executed with style. With the illustrious past of Heineken advertising, CHI had a weighty responsibility here, and the shop acquits itself respectably. These spots are charged simply with announcing the arrival of the beer in Blighty (the spots end with "Now Here") so brand positioning duties fall to the quality and feel of the work -- the humor and sophisticated tone that defines Heineken advertising globally. This campaign serves it up nicely. And amid a sea of gender-oriented beer ads of varying degrees of earnestness or crudeness, these trademark Brit spots are a treat to watch.

We'll eagerly await new spots aimed at France, Germany, Canada and, with any luck, several more at the U.S. (TI)



TCM "Multiplex"
TCM: Multiplex

Director Jim Jenkins' recent spots for Turner Classic Movies represent one of the funniest bodies of work out there. It started with Rocky performed at a nursing home, then Ben Hur as interpreted by schoolchildren, and finally The Dirty Dozen on ice. In this new cinema trailer, Jenkins goes in a different direction by showing movie patrons mulling over unappetizing alternatives like "Visually Stunning But Ultimately Pointless Sequel" and "Bloated-Budget Buddy Movie." The conceit isn't entirely original. We've seen it before, specifically in a film festival ad from Hill, Holliday/San Francisco and Anonymous Content directing duo Carter & Blitz. But Jenkins' comic timing is sure, and the spot includes more than a few solid laughs, all of which cash out in the line "Not every movie out there is a classic, but every movie in here is." (JH)



Maryland Lottery "Line Up"
Maryland Lottery: Line Up, Donut and Office

Assuming you can actually get a state lottery commission to award its account to somebody, doing lottery spots would seem to be a fairly simple proposition. But, after a while, themes of freedom and happiness and daydream fulfillment can grow tiresome. A new series of spots for the Maryland Lottery from Baltimore's Eisner Communications gives us the nightmarish flipside of the dream. The campaign distinguishes itself nicely by leveraging the fear of missing out on a big money opportunity. In each spots, giant numbers -- the numbers you didn't play -- come back to wreak unpleasantness on lazy lottery players. Not content with prompting remorse over a lost wad, these numbers are out to f*ck you up. In one, a young executive seems a shoo-in for a plum new job, as his future boss sings his praises. That is until a big Four shows up, gooses the boss and leaves a ruined career in his wake. The funniest spot has a bad-ass number Seven driving donuts on a victim's lawn, then stealing his newspaper in an act of wanton meanness. The spots also stand out for the directorial heft behind them. The executional mastermind here is David Kellogg and his presence is felt in the intangible yet critical production finesse that makes these spots sing (small things, like the grin on the face of the young executive just before his downfall). In sum, these spots work. (TI)

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

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