Guest Review

Published on .

ANN HAYDEN

Executive Creative Director Young & Rubicam/New York

ROB

SCHWARTZ

Executive Creative Director TBWA/Chiat/Day/L.A.

1. VOLKSWAGEN "Prom/Fuel Efficiency"

The spot opens with a complex, animated explanation of an engine function. The scene cuts to two high school kids at a prom, in line to get their pictures taken. They have apparently been asked to explain the preceding diagram. The guy looks baffled, but the girl throws in her two cents. "It means it gets good gas mileage." "And it goes fast," says the guy. Cut back to the animated diagram. Female VO: "It's not rocket science. Well it is, sorta."

Agency: Arnold Worldwide CCO: Ron Lawner GCD: Alan Pafenbach ACD/AD: Paul Renner ACD/CW: David Weist Agency Producer: Bill Goodell Director: Dayton/Faris /Bob Industries

HAYDEN: Every so often, Volkswagen looks to their German engineering heritage to remind us how technologically adept the brand is - admittedly, more so than the average guy at the prom ever needs or cares to know. I get it. Kinda. In this case, girls cut through the rocket science and articulate what it means in the real world. Guys say duh, but probably love those charts and graphs anyway. Does that make them both drivers? Creatively, I still feel like there's some punchline I'm missing, but this commercial remains a good example of what I love most about Volkswagen: They zig, and just as the category starts to zig too, they zag. 3 stars

SCHWARTZ: This was probably a tough brief. It must have been chock-a-block with client desires to wax philosophical about all kinds of valves, pistons and other bits of German engineering. And then in the ad's spare time, maybe the agency could get around to talking about the benefits. Well, the boys at Arnold have done it again. They achieved the hardware part by producing this wonderfully goofy faux-industrial film, and then cutting to the chase with these two wonderfully cast high-schoolers. My only knock is the sub-themeline: "Makes it better." "Drivers wanted" may not be "The ultimate driving machine," but it's damn good and doesn't need any help. 3 stars

2. ONDCP "AK-47"

This faceless spot for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy asks, "Where do terrorists get their money?" The answer: "If you buy drugs, some of it may come from you." Strung together in rapid succession, gritty scenes represent a terrorist's shopping list: cars, phones, bribes, fake IDs, safehouses and AK-47s, with the cost of each flashing between scenes. The only sounds are a creaking door, footsteps on concrete, a phone dialing.

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather/N.Y. CCO: Rick Boyko ECD: Chris Wall ACD: Andy Berndt AD: Jeff Compton Agency Producer: Lee Weiss Director: Tony Kaye/Tony Kaye Films

HAYDEN: I've always believed strategy is everything, and execution is everything else. This controversial spot is a great example of both. It's been a long time since I've heard so much discussion about an ad's premise: "It's manipulative, dishonest, takes unfair advantage of 9/11"; or "It's provocative, it makes you think." I'm in the second camp. The link between terrorism dollars and illegal drug use is intelligently offered for consideration. It's hard to get through a topic that's as saturated as drug use. At the very least, this premise is fresh and interesting. The documentary style and almost endless list of supplies makes it more real. And, finally, the increasingly caffeinated edit builds our uneasiness. By the end, you can't quite keep up with the items and the action. Things are out of control. How untrue can that be? 4 stars

SCHWARTZ: Typical anti-drug ads talk about how drugs destroy your mind, wreck your body and ruin your life. This one takes a different tack: The drugs you buy may actually be funding terrorists. This is unexpected and powerful logic. Kudos for a great strategy and an execution that feels real. Nicely done. 3 stars

3.BMW 7 Series "Focus"

A poetic VO narrates the nostalgic, solitary journey of a man in a BMW. It takes the driver over "green snaked waterways" and past a tree "that casts a shadow like an old man's hand." The spot, and the VO, eventually wend their way to a parking lot, where it turns out the driver has been giving driving directions to a nonplussed couple in another car.

Agency: Fallon/Minneapolis ECD: David Lubars ACD: Bruce Bildsten AD: Chris Lange CW: Michael Hart Agency Producers: Brian DiLorenzo, Ted Knutson Director: Laurence Dunmore/RSA

HAYDEN: While strategically not far from Volkswagen's "Drivers wanted," this is one of the more enjoyable car commercials I've seen this year. It's beautifully shot and obviously poetic. And then you take a left/And go past yesterday's grain/And tomorrow's bread/And then another left/And past the lonely telephone poles/And over railroad tracks./Once. Twice./And then past an old elm tree/That in the late afternoon sun casts a shadow/Like an old man's hand. Perhaps it's not Kerouac's On The Road, but the love of the driver for the journey itself comes through. And the transition from his inner poetry to the more pragmatic driver giving directions is seamless. The explanatory end line - "A new perspective on driving"- seems reductive and unnecessary. Unadorned, "The ultimate driving machine" is more powerful. 3 stars

SCHWARTZ: I fell for this one hook, line and sinker. At first I was thinking, Here we go: Another car company shooting beautiful film, espousing the virtues of their sheet metal through dime-store Walt Whitmanesque poetry. Then, blammo. I'm whacked with the back-to-reality joke. The only thing that bugged me was the 7 Series themeline: "A new perspective on driving." Must be something in the water over in Germany; I prefer the old perspective: "The ultimate driving machine." 3 stars

4. CHILI'S "Island"

'NSync is stranded on a beautiful, deserted island. They mournfully begin to harmonize, "I want my baby back, I want my baby back . . ." Then they sing the punchline: "Ribs!" They write "Send Ribs" in giant letters in the sand, and dance around, trying to flag down a plane. One guy breaks away from the pack and is squished by a giant crate of Chili's rescue ribs. He's OK, of course; his feet are seen swaying happily at the end of the spot.

Agency: GSD&M CD: Guy Bommarito AD: Tim Sabo CW: Clay Hudson Agency Producer: Kenny Grant Director: Rob Pritts/Backyard Productions Music: Mark Levisohn/Hum Music & Sound

HAYDEN: Wasn't it Fat Bastard in The Spy Who Shagged Me who last sang "I want my baby, I want my baby back ribs"? Somehow that seemed funnier than seeing 'NSync marooned on a desert island doing the same gig. I can understand choosing 'NSync. Fun as these prepackaged boy bands are to criticize, they're enormously popular. It's all generational, I guess. I admit, there was a day when Davey Jones of the Monkees looked cute. What I don't get is the desert island bit. What were they thinking? It's too late for Survivor. Hmmm. Lord of the Flies? Whatever. The situation feels tired and overly corny. Even prepackaged 'NSync deserves better than this. 1 star

SCHWARTZ: This spot subscribes to my theory that only two kinds of advertising work: the genius and the heinous. This commercial achieves both. The heinous part is the gratuitous use of 'NSync to pitch baby back ribs. The genius? The song. My God, that song! I can't get that thing out of my head. "I want my baby back, baby back, baby back ribs . . ." C'mon, sing it with me . . . 2 stars

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