Agency: Merkley Newman Harty/New York Director: Nicholas Barker, Chelsea Pictures
Camp: A man plays his messages and we hear a woman tell him she's not going to see him anymore. It turns out to be her psychologist. I kind of like the strategy behind this. Nothing radical, but simple and smart. Find a better job and you will be happier. A lot of interesting things could come out of that premise, but I don't think this execution went far enough.
Tao: For 25 seconds we see a man getting dumped by his girlfriend through an answering machine message. Then we find out that he's really the woman's shrink, and we cut to a line that says, "Happy in career, happy in life." Huh? All I can say is, if you're going to do one of those pull-the-rug-from-under-us tricks, at least make sure the connection to the product is a clear one.
U.S. Mint, "Casual George"
Agency: The Dan Rosenthal Co., Bethesda, Md. Director: Bob Giraldi, Giraldi Suarez Productions
Camp: George Washington goes clubbing, George scuba-dives; then George, clad in a hip leather jacket, gets himself a coffee. Finally, George breezes through a toll booth, tosses in the new $1 coin, turns to the camera and says: "It's so . . . money." Hmmm. The nicest thing I can say about this spot is that it's probably the best commercial the government has ever done.
Tao: I saw this spot on TV once and was much more intrigued by the product (the dollar coin) than by the spot itself. Sure, having a dead president in the spot is interesting - too bad the execution turned out a bit goofy.
Driveway.com, "Lord Insidious"
Agency: Elvis & Bonaparte, Portland, Ore. Director: Bennett Miller, Hungry Man
Camp: It's the old standby of using testimonials from wacky people, and in this case, an evil, big-brained supervillain who needs to access his files from anywhere. The format is familiar, the idea is familiar, and the spot is familiar.
Tao: Dot-com advertising can be tough. First you have to explain what an oddly named company does (like Driveway.com), then you have to show what obscure benefit the company provides (file storage), and you have do it in an entertaining way. All while wasting eight seconds on a screen shot. This spot tries to be entertaining, but maybe too many odds were stacked against it. Unfortunately, it ended up being just another one of those overproduced, not-so-funny dot-com commercials.
Agency: Leo Burnett/Chicago Director: Neil Smith, Backyard Productions
Camp: Some teens are hanging out in a basement. One drops a McDonald's french fry on the carpet. Another watches him pick it up and asks, "You dropped that on the floor and you're still gonna eat it?" The reply is, "Yeah." The fryless guy says " 'Cause I would've eaten it." Then he gives a sheepish look to the others. Now, I'm an overweight man and there's nothing I like more than a McDonald's french fry (with or without carpet lint), but the problem is that the spot is so obvious about what is going to happen. And also, the carpet is way too clean, there's no sacrifice. I mean, if you're going to show passion for your product, go there. Show me a kid eating a fry off of a sewer grate or a public bathroom floor, then I'll know that's one tasty fry! I don't know, maybe I'm just aware of the campaign and saw it coming.
Tao: I was surprised this was a McDonald's spot because of the moody film and subtle, anti-logo ending. Too bad there wasn't much more to it. The dialogue wasn't particularly funny, and even though the scenario was supposed to show how great the fries are, is dropping them on the floor really supposed to make us want to eat one?
Viva.com, "Pity "
Agency: Robaire & Hogshead, Venice, Calif.
Camp: This ad is a pretty easy one to critique. It's a bar coaster with an interesting headline on it. Given the tone of the ad and the media placement, it's a fun, interesting way to reach a target of twentysomethings. So, in the world of bar coasters, this is a good one.
Tao: Since television is plastered with dot-com ads, why not try a new medium? Luckily, this one works pretty well. It's safe to assume that most people with crappy apartments are young, and the place to find young people is at bars. Let's just hope that these young people are sober enough to read and remember a beer coaster.
Roger Camp is creative director at Camp/Arbues, San Francisco .
Sharon Tao is a copywriter at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco.