Agency: Merkley Newman Harty, New York Director: Bruce Dowad, Bruce Dowad Associates
Kay: Apparently, nothing this century has been more important to Mercedes than safety. Impressive special effects, a la Zelig and Forrest Gump, and great sound deliver this message with elan and momentarily distract one from the realization that this spot is basically just a list of safety features delivered by talking heads through the years. (Imagine five or six decades of Edward Herrmann Dodge spots cut together in one :60. Yikes.)
Real: I like this Zelig-inspired spot. True, it's chest-beating, but Mercedes does have a significant safety-advancement story to tell. And this commercial does it well. My only gripe is the last shot. The black and white people are kind of creepy-looking in an Addams Family sort of way.
American Express Piece of the Future"
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather/New York Director: Rob Pritts, Backyard Productions
Kay: Nice-looking persons of each gender and various ages and races offer their cliché visions of the future to introduce a new credit card named Blue that offers 100 percent online fraud protection. It sounds better than it is.
Real: The cool-looking new card is the only thing this spot has going for it. Other than that, what's so compelling about seeing the Rainbow Coalition spinning around on a rotating chair? American Express deserves better than this.
Agency: Fallon McElligott,/Minneapolis Director: Karen Fong, Imaginary Forces
Kay: Qualcomm makes things like digital phones for the Internet, and satellite communications "stuff." Fortunately, this spot's not a product demonstration; it's a process demonstration. Executed as a simple typographic riff that drifts elegantly over a slow image dissolve, it's free association starting with the observation that you're watching TV, and ending with the possibility that you may have been conceived on the glass screen. It may not be "amazing," but it is interesting "where your mind will go when you let it." As the tag says, "Go brain go."
Real: I'm torn on this spot. I like the simplicity and the type treatment, but at the end of the day I'm left with the taste of a heavy-handed strategy in my mouth. My takeaway is, "Wow aren't we clever here at Qualcomm." Somebody needs to tell the client and the agency, "Pssst. Buddy, your strategy is showing."
E-Trade "Blow'd Up"
Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco Director: Bryan Buckley, Hungry Man
Kay: I've seen funny movie sendups and I've seen thriller parodies so accurate they fooled you (Buddy Lee and anti-smoking's "Truth," for instance). But this fake trailer was neither all that funny nor all that convincing. More importantly, I think the fact that a film stars Anna Nicole Smith and a hundred explosions is a dumb reason not to invest in the production company. Those stupid big-tit action movies crank in the profits, after all. E-trading seems even more foolish if you're getting your hunches from watching commercials.
Real: Any spot that manages to effectively use Garden Gnomes, Anna Nicole Smith and George "Mr. Sulu" Takei is gonna get my vote. Sure, the bogus movie trailer has been done before for Energizer, but dammit, this is funny and relevant. A great addition to an already great campaign.
Dewar's "Blair Witch"
Agency: Avrett, Free & Ginsberg, New York
Kay: The Blair Witch Project "spooksters" ad illustrates just how scary the Dewar's Profiles have become. Not as scary as the headline pun, perhaps, but scarier than the movie. Appropriately, though, this ad affects me just like Scotch and shakycam horror movies -- it makes me want to puke.
Real: It's funny. The best part of this ad is the smallest. It's that little Scotsman in the upper left corner. He's cool. I wonder if he's embarrassed to be in this ad. As my buddy David McCann from Scotland would say, "It's a bloody shame."
Woody Kay is chairman/ECD at Pagano, Schenck & Kay, Boston
Jim Real is a copywriter at Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica