Justin Crawford, ECD, JWT, New York
Matt Smith, president, Smith Gifford
Holiday Inn Express: Rapper
Mic skills come in handy.
JC: I'm usually a sucker for any construct where the expectation is the unexpected. You know what you're watching, and you're hungry for the flip. Past Holiday Inn Express spots have delivered on this premise, and the brand recognition happens long before the gag plays out. That's pretty amazing. But they may be wearing this one a bit thin with the uppity white guy stereotype proving he's down with the urban stereotype. Dropping his mad white-boy lyrical skillz. The execution and performances are really tight; I've just seen it too many times. Does that make me now think Holiday Inn Express is less likely to surprise me with their extraordinarily comfy beds? Absolutely. Two stars.
MS: This has been a great campaign all around. If I had a dollar for every client that mentioned the campaign in a meeting I would be able to shoot one of the spots myself. It's a bit fuzzy in the middle as I try to follow the message within the rap, but it's entertaining enough that I'm willing to hang on until the end. Sure, I've seen the nerdy-guy-suddenly-acting-cool shtick before, but it's always nice to see it done well. Four Stars.
Fruit Burst: When Will the Fruit Burst
A fruit explosion is imminent.
JC: OK, so a giant inflated strawberry next to a giant push-pin would definitely get my attention. Now that you have it, would I be curious enough to go to a URL to investigate what it's about? Probably not. It's a lot to expect from a billboard. So how exactly would someone using simple eyeball technology know the giant strawberry balloon is actually filled with delicious candy? Or sometime soon it will pop and spill its candy guts all over the streets? Or there is a guessing game for when it might spill its guts? You wouldn't. I would think some additional messaging would have helped here. Two stars.
MS: Man, what a cool idea. The web tie-in makes it even cooler. I guess I could ask what the position and strategy of the company is, and if this ad properly meets the objectives, but hey, it's fun! Candy is fun! Exploding things are fun! I wish all my ads were this fun! Give these guys the Dodge project. Four stars.
Dodge: Ram Challenge Webisode
Dodge revs up the tough guys.
JC: It would have worked far better for me had it been more about the "challenge" and less about car porn. Who are these guys, beyond their professions? What makes these machines uniquely capable? I was disoriented watching this guy and that guy and wondering who was ahead or behind or if I should stop paying attention to those helicopters flying all around. The gratuitous spectacle was a distraction from what I felt could have been time spent developing a story, more meaningful challenges and connection to the brand. One star.
MS: I can almost hear the meeting: "Most reality TV looks like crap. What if we did one that was nicely shot? We could evolve the category." It was so obviously overshot, helicopters and all, I kept waiting for the joke. It misses the point that reality ain't pretty. That's why we watch it. Maybe I'm too jaded and this will be a huge hit. It probably will. Zero stars.
U.S. Treasury: Bad Credit Hotel
Check out...but you can never leave.
JC: I applaud the approach; taking a frightening issue and creating a non-threatening, gamelike experience where you might find useful and actionable information. I like the core idea, design and technical implementation—all are done really well. What isn't done so well is the bulk of video content on the site in the form of the hotel concierge; it was poorly executed and quite obviously a rushed production. A big issue when so much of the site experience revolves around weak material and main character. Two stars.
MS: Kudos for taking a dry, painful subject and trying to make it fun while teaching me something important along the way. But the morbid setting makes me feel that I am guilty until I prove my innocence in room 850. Where's the hope and reassurance? Henry Paulson would never stay in this hotel. The Treasury is supposed to be on my side, defending and protecting me from places like this. Zero stars.
Bardia Eshghi is a recovering candy addict.
Fruit Burst: When Will the Fruit Burst
The future of billboards has arrived in New Zealand and I am happy to report that it tastes great! This is an alright gimmick and it's nice to look at, but if you watch the video from when the berry finally burst, you will see that there are only a couple dozen people present. The low turnout is not surprising to me: who is going to wait day and night in a parking lot just to get some free candy? Don't get me wrong, I love candy, but I have a hunch that this would have been way more popular if they filled the giant berry with cash.