UPFRONT; 'SEXIST' STREN: AD OVERBOARD!

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Imagine Dorothy returning from Oz and holding a press conference with 4,000 reporters to talk about it. Or Alice dialing up an AT&T interpreter to translate all the foreign languages she encounters in her Wonderland travels.

That's the premise behind a whimsical campaign for AT&T from Young & Rubicam/New York that links each of its products and telecommunication services with a modern-day fable. "Every AT&T product seemed to fit into a fairy tale," says Paula Dombrow, who wrote and art directed the campaign with Patrick Milani.

Since the 28-page insert ran as the only advertising in a special technology issue of Time, the ads had to stand out, explains creative director Jonathan Mandell. Hence, they rely on highly stylized photos by Joseph Astor, offset with bright backgrounds and hand-set type.

In an ad showing a '90s Alice, for instance, the headline, "Oops. I seem to have fallen into a language barrier," is wrapped in a swirl that faces a page showing Alice and the Cheshire cat talking on cellular phones as they're sucked into some sort of colorfully lit vortex.

Elsewhere, a frog wearing a crown and a "Hello" name tag that reads "Mr. Information Superhighway" greets readers on the first page; in the end a wizard has turned the high-tech frog into a prince. The wizard's magical powers make it easy "for people to embrace technology," opines the copy with the gleeful optimism of the incorrigibly wired. "So what once seemed unattractive became beautiful in the eyes of everyone."

Other credits to single-name stylist Robertino and type director Silvia Frascaroli.

Red Riding Hood, the Wolf and Grandma: what a great videoconference! 10

London's Bartle Bogle Hegarty seeks to cure Polaroid of its "stuck-in-the-'70s image," says art director Tiger Savage, of two no-dialogue international spots, which will be seen on MTV here, that are designed to appeal to Gen Xers.

In one spot, slightly reminiscent of Jerry Lewis in "The Nutty Professor," a disheveled, clearly hung over young man stumbles into a chemist's shop, as we're treated to his blurry POV. Unable to describe his ailment to the pharmacist, he slaps down three Polaroids, apparently taken the previous night. The chemist glances at them and grimaces as house music suddenly blasts, and flips them over. He prepares a trayful of medicines, but before he can hand them over, the pounding music erupts again, this time with a horse neighing. The pretty female clerk looks up, red faced, caught peeking at the presumably obscene images. The tag, "Polaroid. Live for the moment," fades into focus like a print developing. "It was one of those situations we can all remember," says Savage, who teamed with writer Paul Silburn. The spot was directed by the duo known as Sprote-Chris Palmer and Mark Denton of Redwing, London.

Another Polaroid spot, shot by Spots Films' Tarsem, is set at a rock concert where a model-perfect fan catches the eye of a rock star by taking a picture of herself and flinging it onstage. Credits to writer Victoria Fallon and AD Steve Hudson.

In a commercial for Audi's new A4 from BBH, also created by Hudson and Fallon, dialogue makes the spot. An obnoxious yuppie is test driving an Audi around London. "I've always been competitive," he says as we see him making deals on the car phone. "If you've got it, flaunt it," he snaps as we see him cel phoning his way through a ritzy lunch. Finally he returns to the dealership, hops out, tosses the keys over, and proclaims, "Nah, not my style." The tag:"Audi A4, It won't be appreciated by everyone."

Paul Weiland Film Co.'s Frank Budgen directed the spot; John Hegarty was the creative director on all the spots.

Alas, no TV spot split our sides this month (insert frown face here), so the Corner welcomes a particularly idiotic Vans print ad, from dGWB Advertising, Costa Mesa, Calif., that tickled our piggies all the way home.

Credits to CD/art director Wade Koniakowsky, who wrote the ad with Joe Cladis. Photo by Peter Samuels.

Tighten your chastity belts, the results of the University of Michigan's Sexual Assault Prevention & Awareness Center's 11th annual Sexism in Advertising Contest are in, and the winner is .*.*. Stren fishing line. Stren fishing line? From Carmichael Lynch/Minneapolis? That funny campaign themed, "The most dependable fishing line in the world."? 'Fraid so.

The ad pictured here was one of eight print nominees, and it sneaked by a rather ho-hum Jaipur fragrance rear-nudie shot 350 votes to 335. According to Jen Scott, co-coordinator of the Center, 1,500 ballots were distributed to men and women on campus; the nominees were chosen by the Center itself. In third place, with 306 votes, was the Madonna Gianni Versace ad where she's doing some Eden eatin', playing a Delicious corpse on a flight of stairs. Curiously, a Wonderbra ad headlined "Double major"-an informal survey leads us to believe this campaign (and product) is widely reviled-tallied only 106 boos for sixth place. The other nominees were nude and semi-nude fashion/beauty small fry.

So what's up with the Stren? Is it being baited just for the halibut? "I think Stren won because it's the most blatant use of sexism," says Scott. "What does a bra have to do with fishing? You'd never use a fishing line for this purpose; it would actually hurt."

Well, unbeknownst to voters, another Stren ad features the line used as a belt by a guy with a gut, and, wait till PETA hears about this, a third dangles a giant anvil above an itsy bitsy baby chick. Carmichael PR spokesman Bryan Le Monds says the ads are quite intentionally "surprising and unconventional."