The AdCritic

Mercedes, Volvo and Jaguar

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Our editors rate recent automotive ads from Mercedes, Volvo and Jaguar.

Mercedes "Framed Portraits"
Mercedes: Framed Portraits and Multiple Portraits

Andy Hirsch and Randy Saitta have overseen some stunning work for Mercedes in the last decade -- first at Lowe and now at Merkley + Partners -- and in that time, it's hard to find what you would call a truly "bad" Mercedes ad. Still, it seems like it's been a few years since we've seen a pure brand statement like 1997's classic "Falling in Love Again," which went on to win a Gold Lion in Cannes. This campaign, however, has that classy, restrained feel that made "Falling in Love" so powerful -- and so in line with the restraint of the brand. Built around snapshots solicited from actual Mercedes drivers, both of these spots are just slideshows placed in subtly cinematic contexts and set to music -- to an achy plaint from surely-soon-to-be-famous chanteuse Mozella and a jaunty slice of Nu Jazz from DJ Cassius, respectively. Together, however, they effortlessly capture both the poignant and wry sides of the brand as it's developed over the years. "No one ever poses with their toaster," quips the copy in "Multiple Portraits," while "Framed Portraits" ends with the earnest -- yet somehow believable -- line, "The love never fades." Falling in love again is right. (JH)

Volvo "Music Video"
Volvo: Video Game and Music Video

It's a treat to see some of the creative shake-ups that happened in New York over the past year bearing fruit -- resulting in a relatively generous helping of pleasing creative coming out of New York shops recently. To wit: these new Volvo spots from Euro RSCG MVBMS and the agency's new Kevin Roddy-led creative regime -- although the ads have hired gun Ernest Lupinacci's mits all over them as well.

The spots employ two of today's dominant cultural forces -- the hip-hop video and the video game -- two very tired aesthetics, to be sure. But they're slyly used and delivered fresh here. The spots are executed with the right amount of cheek, exploiting each genre's visual language to incorporate the style and performance angles of the new S40, along with the classic safety message. All while escaping the painful "hey the kids love this" tone typical of this sort of appropriation.

"Video Game," in particular, is executed to the T, with a thrilling conclusion which shows a game-animated car in full barrel roll with the driver emerging unscathed at the end. It's always effective when audiences are allowed to see scenes that look like they somehow snuck under the broadcast standards fence. The "Music Video" spot, a re-imagined Dilated People's video (the original is Volvo-free), is given the right touches by rap video auteur Dave Meyers and features all the classic hip-hop props (fly bitches and mad ice) raining from the sky, until an enormous chunk'o bling crashes into the car. Volvo negotiates a fine line here. Instead of employing an obvious so-square-it's-cool positioning, the carmaker drives directly down the music and mayhem road. But, in the words of one of the ad's voiceovers, don't let the style and flava mess with your mind. It's all still a bit self-conscious, which works perfectly for Volvo. (TI)

Jaguar "Mechanical Rabbit"
Jaguar: Mechanical Rabbit and Critical Delivery

Given that Jaguar makes stunningly attractive products, recent advertising efforts have really outdone themselves in making the British import seem lame. First there was a tie-in with Sting, whose cultural relevance -- then, as now -- had long been in doubt. Then there was that hip, sexy montage set to Chris Isaak's "Wicked Games," a song that was only somewhat hip and sexy when it was orginally released 12 years earlier, in 1989! We got a brief glimpse of something like coolness in a series of sales promotions featuring the Clash song "London Calling," but the soundtrack's connection to the product was tenuous, to say the least.

These two spots from Y&R/Irvine, however, go a long way toward putting some zip back in the brand. Directed by Jeff and Tim Cronenweth of Santa Monica's (not Canada's) Untitled, portray new Jag models as the fierce, performance beasts that they arguably are. In one, we see a medical team ushering an organ transplant to a waiting S-Type. In the other, we see Jaguar's hood ornament giving chase to a chrome rabbit. It's smart to zero in on that iconic, lunging logo, which simply screams "Jaguar" and serves as a strong focal point for future Jag creative -- something earlier efforts have been sorely lacking. (JH)

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

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