Recognizing such small-scale triumphs, of course, is what the coveted Bobby Awards are all about, because in the space of 30 seconds, there is neither room for building a character nor margin for error. This year's five finalists create the moments, milk them and, finally, make them their own.
Rick Almada: He's the first cop in the Taco Bell spot from TBWA/ Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., talking down the desperate suspect, who frantically brandishes a Taco Bell entree. "Sir," Almada instructs, in a voice both authoritative and calming, "drop the Chalupa. Put it down and back away. I said, drop the Chalupa." His downward glance at the talking Chihuahua is worth the price of admission.
Ele Keats: She's the pregnant woman in the Visa ad, searching paint stores for just the right shade of orange. One's too red, one's too dark, and she gets more and more forlorn. As she passes a mixing machine, shaking up the paint that other people have found when she has not, her longing is palpable. In another shot: an adorable twisted mouth of uncertainty.
When she finally finds just the right shade, she looks positively angelic. Cut to the next scene, which is not the nursery but a Denver Broncos home game. The orange paint is on her face and she's shrieking at the home team. "Catch the stinkin' ball!" BBDO Worldwide, New York. Wonderful.
Michael Maronna: He is Stuart, the ponytailed, redheaded young computer kid in an OgilvyOne, Chicago, spot for Ameritrade. We meet him squeezing his face inside the office photocopier, making invitations for a big weekend party. When his supervisor summons him to his office, we think Stuart's in trouble, but actually he's there to get the boss' Ameritrade e-account running. "Let's light this candle!" Stuart says, with magnificent lack of deference to his superior. "You're riding the wave of the future, my man!" Then he performs a gyrating, semi-spastic victory dance that is simply unforgettable.
Carmine Parisi: In the same spot, he plays the boss. While Maronna chews the scenery, he simply becomes a boring, middle-age manager excited by his new toy. It is a tour de force of the nondescript. In one shot, his tongue is thrust out with the thrill of trading online. In another, his appreciative, disingenuous response to being invited to Stuart's party: "I'm gonna try to get there. Thank you, Stuart. Thank you." The line delivery is perfect, but the genius is in the body language, looking over his half-glasses at the invite, while perfunctorily thanking the kid and closing the door behind him. Masterful.
Dan Panush: In a brilliant spot for E*Trade, from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco. He's the shleppy broker who rolls out of his water bed at 4:45 a.m., claps for his Clapper to turn the lights on and makes his way with groggy resignation to his securities boiler room and a day of cold-calling prospects. He has only one line, but from beginning to end he is the absolute picture of defeat.
And the winner is . . .
A tie! For the first time in Bobby's venerable 12-month history, a tie between Michael Maronna and Carmine Parisi. In the immortal words of Stuart, "Rock on."