The AdCritic

Toyota, Visa and Time Warner Cable

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This week, our editors rate new spots for Toyota, Visa Canada and Time Warner Cable. Let us know what you think by sending us your comments.

Toyota "If Kids Ruled the World"
Toyota: If Kids Ruled the World etc.

Last week I made reference to a spot that provoked a wince in anticipation. So, approaching a new campaign for the Toyota Sienna minivan, given its premise of touting the vehicle from a child's perspective, and given the ad industry's standard portrayal of kids as precocious, adorable cherubs, or horrible, spoiled little dictators, I almost ran sceaming in anticipation. Granted, I'm not the target audience. My attitude is pretty much: who cares what the little bastards want. When I was a kid, my expected feedback on the family car experience was sit there, shut up (like when I would ask my mom to crack a window when she was smoking) and don't make me take my belt off.

But again, the work in question proves to be a happy surprise. It's not Honda "Cog," but it's a Minivan campaign that endeavors to provide some product insight, emotional appeal and a memorable comic hook. Under the direction of Hungry Man's Hank Perlman, the kids turn in fine performances, particularly in a spot in which a little car dealer pitches the benefits of a Sienna to a wan looking customer who captures that mix of slight bewilderment and dead-eyed exhaustion one often glimpses in minivan drivers. Funnily enough, the kids in the spot are sometimes precocious, sometimes spoiled miniature dictators, but they are also a little melancholy and lost-looking and amused by their own silliness. That means many prospective minivan drivers will identify with them, given the various states of arrested development apparent in half the adult population. And for the actual adults with kids out there, simply putting the precious little things on film usually does the trick. Going one further and memorably equating the Sienna with satisfied children, this campaign will surely make Sienna owners out of many in the minivan driving audience. Or, it could make them horribly aware of how completely their evil spawn control their lives and depress the hell out of them. (TI)

Visa "Luggage"
Visa (CA): Luggage

This Canadian spot for Visa from Leo Burnett/Toronto and directing duo Kuntz & Maguire is flatout fun and -- to American eyes -- a complete surprise. The U.S. campaigns for the three major credit card companies begin to blur after a while, and it's refreshing to see a spot for Visa that's left of even Goodby's offbeat work for Discover. Foreign travelers find that they've lost their luggage, but are lucky enough to have fitted their suitcase with a homing device, which sends it tooling through the streets to a groovy world beat provided by L.A. music house Groove Addicts. The sell is pretty weak -- "If life were like that, you wouldn't need a Visa card" -- but the entertainment goes a long way. (JH)

Time Warner "Man Eating Westie"
Time Warner Cable: Man Eating Westie etc.

Stylistically, I'm all for this campaign. The premise is that bad things happen to good people when good people don't have all the services Time Warner Cable has to offer. A little girl ends up being raised by a bear; a little boy hooks up with hobos; your girlfriend ends up marrying a mullet-head; and the family pet becomes a maneater. Director Mike Mills renders these dread scenarios in perfectly blank pastels, navigating deftly between the real and the surreal, and there are plenty of honest laughs, particularly in "Night Out" and "Man Eating Westie." Who doesn't like to see a tiny dog gone wild? Unfortunately, the campaign falls prey to one of advertising's (apparently) most tempting clich├ęs -- call it Good Idea/Bad Idea. GI/BI works like this: The product is obviously supposed to be good, so you demonstrate its goodness by juxtaposing it with something bad. Anything bad, and it doesn't really matter what it is: injury, disgrace, death, your girlfriend marrying a mullet-head. Unfortunately, being better than that isn't much of a product attribute, since it applies to everything. Compared to your girlfriend marrying a mullet-head, anything sounds like a honey of a deal. The last campaign to really get away with GI/BI was Cliff Freeman's brainstorming campaign for Budget, and then only because it went so far over the top. In this case, however, everyone knows that a lack of cable features won't really cast your children into the wilderness, and GI/BI ends up saying precious little about the product. That work's left to the banal voiceover, which -- as boring as as it is -- is the only thing that keeps these spots from being a total sales wash. (JH)

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

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