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From Drug Ads to Auto Spots, Rance Answers All Your Queries

Like, How Did BBDO Come Up With Those AT&T Spots?

By Published on .

It's time for the second installment of Ask Rance. Keep those questions coming, readers.

How complicated were those "Phila-ware-a-prague-a-cago" AT&T spots to produce? -- W. F., Southern California
They were quite complicated, although the shoot went very rapidly. BBDO got the idea for the spots from a couple of employees in the office. They used to play a game with friends where they'd ask each other where they'd lived and combine the names into catchy words.
For this AT&T spot, Wes Anderson filmed in the Czech Republic and built six sets, each containing mini-sets of all the locales for a particular spot.
For this AT&T spot, Wes Anderson filmed in the Czech Republic and built six sets, each containing mini-sets of all the locales for a particular spot.
At first BBDO bosses thought it would make a good radio spot but be boring TV. Three hours later they'd rethought the idea. The entire campaign went from conception to air in about four to five weeks.

Movie director Wes Anderson was in France finishing the edits for "The Darjeeling Limited" when approached. They filmed in the Czech Republic and built six sets, each containing mini-sets of all the locales for a particular spot. Anderson used an ensemble-cast format where the six characters remained the same but took on different roles for each spot. The actors were well-rehearsed, and the shoot required hardly any retakes.

Where did that sweet "sweater" song come from that they play on the Old Navy spots?
That "just-like-butter" song is called "The Way I Am"; it's by a fast-rising musician named Ingrid Michaelson. Still officially unsigned, the 26-year-old Staten Island, N.Y., native is building quite a résumé as TV's go-to girl. She has had great success with her song "Keep Breathing," which was used in the dramatic season-three finale of "Grey's Anatomy," when Sandra Oh's character, Cristina Yang, was jilted by Isaiah Washington's Preston Burke.

Ms. Michaelson was discovered last November by someone who worked for a company that licenses TV and film and saw her talents on MySpace. Soon her work was being featured on shows such as "One Tree Hill" and "Kyle XY." She recently completed her second self-released album, "Girls and Boys," featuring "The Way I Am," which hit the Billboard's top 200 -- an amazing distinction for an unsigned artist at the moment.

Will Hyundai's new "Think About It" ad campaign help it compete against Lexus?
No. If Hyundai wants to go upscale, it should show the car in places where upscale buyers congregate -- polo matches, for instance. Don't make people guess what kind of car it is. The company says the car has a "perception gap," but hammering away at product attributes such as dependability, reliability and quality won't narrow it -- lower-priced cars also talk about those things.

Consumers who buy expensive cars want, above all, prestige, and so far Hyundai isn't delivering. The company needs to work on product placements at fancy events.

Aren't advertisers taking a big risk by blocking proposals for a two-year moratorium on new-prescription-drug advertising?
Their successful lobbying efforts could come back to haunt them, especially now that former Sen. John Edwards is making this a campaign issue. The ad industry called the legislation a big victory for commercial free speech, but Mr. Edwards wants to reopen the issue. "A delay will ensure that well-informed doctors, not high-paid advertising consultants, drive prescriptions in the early phases before Americans know the full story of the new drugs," Mr. Edwards said on the campaign trail. What the ad industry should keep in mind is that safety always trumps free speech. Remember the old test: Don't shout fire in a crowded theater.

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Got a question for Rance? Contact him at rcrain@crain.com.
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