The serialized murder attempt on the Budweiser frogs (3 1/2 stars, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco) was a bit uncomfortably morbid but a lot funnier than the parallel soap opera playing out in Washington, and at least a trillion times more gripping than the Bud Bowls Anheuser-Busch used to assault us with.
It also was as entertaining as anything in the annual adstravaganza, which in the past three years has substantially (why does this word spring to mind?) degenerated.
It was not, however, the only highlight for Ad Review.
3 1/2 stars:
Mail Boxes Etc. They gave their spot to a customer-a tiny company that makes a basketball-inflating pocket pump. This low-production-budget commercial within a commercial not only taps vicarious excitement for the lucky entrepreneurs, it underscores MBE's dedication to small business. The best idea on the Super Bowl. Kenneth C. Smith Advertising, San Diego, Calif.
Federal Express. Somebody sent the ad to the network by a competing overnight service, so all we see is color bars. Absolutely, positively a breakthrough idea. BBDO Worldwide, New York.
Network Associates. What if an ex-Soviet missile site received an ICBM launch code sent by a computer hacker? The ultimate computer-systems nightmare, a hard-silo hard sell in "Dr. Strangelove"- like black humor. Dark, but funny. And effective, for selling system-protection software. Think New Ideas, Los Angeles.
E. McIlhenny Sons Corp. Reprising the ad seen last year in spot markets, a mosquito sucks a Tabasco eater's blood and explodes. Simple. Visual. Splendid. DDB Needham Worldwide, Dallas.
Miller Lite. Finally the absurdist infatuation with kitsch revolves around the product. The funniest spot on the Super Bowl shows a behavioralism experiment on a subject who wags his arm when he's holding a Lite, the beer sloshing everywhere. Stupid and hilarious. Synchronized foursomes partying in "Bob's Bobsled Bar" are funny, too. Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis.
Bud Light. A poor schlep stuck in the women's department while his girlfriend shops follows some power cords under a skirt carousel and finds a bunch of other guys watching football and partying. A nice twist on a genuine nightmare. DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago.
Nike F.I.T. The apparel line is unveiled-and so are several Nike endorsers, magnificently photographed in the buff. NBC took away even the most glancing views of nipples and genitalia, and with them the spot's novelty. But it's gorgeous-and the lie that F.I.T. is about function, not fashion, is almost convincing. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco.
Primestar. A guy is polishing his vintage Mustang when a gigantic sewer pipe rolls off a truck and straight toward his driveway. He frantically moves the car . . . in the path of the pipe. The 'stang is crushed, but his satellite dish is saved. Never mind what the cable industry says; he loves his direct-broadcast service. ADP/Draft Worldwide, New York.
Royal Caribbean. "You've watched 22 weeks of football. Better make it up to her. Before you get traded." This lovely, simple idea would have been much lovelier if they'd skipped the blunt last line, and the "Rocky" instrumental. For the sake of a dumb musical allusion, they have neutralized some serene aerial photography of a Mediterranean cruise. McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C.
MasterCard. A lushly photographed spot itemizes the costs of an expensive, splendid, 20th-wedding-anniversary trip to India as a celebration of things money can't buy, cleverly portraying extravagance as a human value. Also, a charming vignette about a bungled coffee-bar encounter reminiscent of a Lee jeans spot a year ago. McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York.
Visa. Using the identical theme, this bank card focuses on a little girl who imagines herself with a pet elephant. Dad splurges to get her a jumbo stuffed one. Outstanding compositing job to capture the storybook fantasy. High adorableness quotient. BBDO.
7 UP. Funny vignettes of refreshingly unexpected behavior to promote 7 UP's refreshing reformulation. Y&R.
Pepsi-Cola Co. The usual assortment of cute generational gags. One features a heavily perforated couple spewing Pepsi through their body pierces. Another turns darkly on a fatal confrontation between two friends over the last Pepsi. New, blue label graphics on display. BBDO.
2 1/2 stars:
Hormel Chili. Playing off of car-intro hype to unveil reformulated chili, Hormel tweaks ad cliches. Then, in a spot aimed at kids, it surrenders to them. Promoting chili-based nachos to 12-year-old boys ("Out of the bowl, it's out of control!"), the ad is basically a Mountain Dew commercial with meat. BBDO Worldwide, Minneapolis.
M&M's. Clever idea, staking claim to "Official Candy of the new Millennium. (MM are the Roman numerals for 2000), but these are tedious spots. Dick Clark charmingly makes sport of his own advanced age, but the timing and delivery are off. And the intentionally obnoxious clay-animated M's are . . . obnoxious. BBDO, New York.
Oracle. From the world's most immodestly named corporation, a declaration of revolution. Founder Larry Ellison believes "dumb" network computers will replace DOS-based personal computers and their balky, expensive software. Whether he is the human tool of divine wisdom is not clear, and neither are the commercials. Dramatic, yes, but too vague to be understood as anything but an expensive billboard for the brand name. Think New Ideas.
Tide. An un-Tide-like visit with a high-school athletic director who claims winning isn't everything . . . whiter whites are. The spot is supposed to engender emotion, but-despite the intriguing premise that vanity supersedes competition-doesn't quite make it. Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, New York.
Pontiac Grand Prix. Live-action car superimposed in a Wile E. Coyote/Roadrunner cartoon. Wide track, narrow idea. D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Troy, Mich.
Iomega. Why you should back up your home computer files on Iomega zip drives. Cute. Euro RSCG DSW Partners, Salt Lake City.
Intel. To paraphrase Preminger, "Bunny Suit is Missing." A confusing interactive mystery, solved-with the help of online votes-in a fourth-quarter spot. Brave technology gamble, dull game. Euro RSCG DSW Partners.
Holiday Inn. Jurors deliberating an open-and-shut case stall on a verdict because they're being sequestered in a Holiday Inn. It's a satisfactory joke, but mistimed and clunky-and a lot less inform- ative than last year's transsexual fiasco. Fallon McElligott.
Pizza Hut. Elvis is digitally reincarnated eating The Edge Pizza. Big deal. BBDO.
Heinz ketchup. The kid actors are annoying. The hamburgers they eat look like those plastic display things you see in restaurant front windows, only faker. But the computer animation of 25 tomatoes being sucked into the ketchup bottle is a strong image and sensible use of technology that partially redeems this otherwise hamfisted creative. DDB Needham.
Westin Hotels & Resorts. Corporate beefcake turning on another meaning of "Who's he sleeping with?" Executive super heroes stay at Westin and prosper. Nice cinematography and editing in this paean to the shallow. DDB Needham.
1 1/2 stars:
Michelin. Introducing the run-flat tire. They so stylize the demo for cinematic appeal, the claim is unclear. Unfortunate. A tire that will run normally for 50 miles after a puncture doesn't need style to sell. Just clarity. DDB Needham, New York.
Qualcomm. A man wakes up in a foreign hotel room, spooked and disoriented. He winds up on the balcony with cheering throngs below. They're hailing the revolutionary leader on the next balcony, but our guy is confused and raises his Qualcomm digital phone in triumph. And the point of this stunning, enigmatic, surrealistic spot? Good question. DGWB, Irvine, Calif.
Tommy Hilfiger. Michael Richards in drag across the desk from Tommy himself. Not remotely funny. Basically, this is $1.3 million for a two-second sneaker shot and a vanity cameo. Deutsch, New York.
Auto-by-Tel. Well, the net address is prominent. And the ad is marginally less horrendous than last year's out of sync animation. But it's still a bizarrely terrible "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" journey. And they still don't mention that Auto-by-Tel merely puts you in touch with dealers, who still behave like jackals when you contact them. RBI Communications, Los Angeles.