Garfield's Ad Review: 10 Ads I Loved

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1 Honda Accord

wieden & Kennedy, London

Controversy swirled around this commercial, mainly over the charge that it was somehow a ripoff of a short film also featuring an incredible Rube Goldberg machine that functioned, in all its sublime pointlessness, before your eyes. But so what? First, those filmmakers didn't invent these devices either. And, secondly, who says originality is sacred? "Cog"is breathtaking to witness, on first viewing or 100th, and - unlike previous Rube Goldberg exercises - does make a point: that the Honda (the components of which constituted this extraordinary machine) "just works." One of the greatest TV commercials ever made.

2 HP

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco

This campaign got off to an awkward start with executions that didn't quite measure up to the potent borrowed-interest strategy. (You can't leach on the customer's credibility if you can't name the customer.) Those problems are gone. A spot about toys commuting to work at Toys 'R' Us, and another showing Dutch master Hendrich ter Brugghen's subjects brought to life at London's National Gallery are magnificent masterpieces of the advertising art and perfect articulations of HP's applications scope. The message: Is it not abundantly clear that we're not just a printer company anymore?

3 Budweiser

Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosumpulos, Boston

A reprise of the famous football-playing Clydesdales. Only this time, the gridiron action was stopped while an official ducked his head under the monitor hood to see the replay. And the official was ... a zebra. Only Budweiser has the equity to make this kind of beerless Event Advertising a brand builder. It needed the Super Bowl around it to really work. And we may have over-valued it based on the ad-stravaganza in which it appeared. But the media buy can't be separated from the viewer's experience. This was a quintessential Super Bowl ad, and it was...you know...super.

4 Gatorade

Element 79 Partners, Chicago

Here again, we may have been guilty of irrational exuberance in rating this 4 Super Bowl stars, but we stand by our admiration. Michael Jordan, #39, the aging Wizard, played Michael Jordan, #23, the young Bull, one on one. They sweated. We gasped - and wondered how in the world this was done. (Answer: Michael's face digitally composited on a body double.) Perfect production. A poignant tribute. And not a bad way to sell sports drink. The criticism, disturbingly enough, was that Michael is just a geezer, irrelevant to the youthful target. Speaking for ourselves, we wish to remain in denial.

5 General Motors' Hummer

Modernista, Boston

Dump everybody at Buick, Chevy, Pontiac and GMC. Give their jobs to the people who did this wonderful commercial because they-almost uniquely in the GM universe-understand their product, their audience and the function of advertising. The little kid soap-box racer builds a wooden Hummer and takes it offroad to win the race and win the girl-tapping directly into the (abnormal) psychology of the prospect. Who, after all, buys a Hummer? The showoff who imagines himself a daring renegade-as opposed to the self-obsessed jerk he almost certainly is.

6 KelloGg's Special K

Leo Burnett, Chicago

A normal-looking woman waits for the bus, obsessing guiltily about her weight and flirting with self-delusion about getting into a size 6, as if.. Then a title card: "Don't be so hard on yourself." Then the announcer: "Sweet strawberries, crunchy flakes, just 110 calories. Special K Red Berries. Help yourself!" Ah! Truth in advertising! It acknowledges body guilt (human truth), provides a modest contribution to normal-looking women in their unwinnable battle against impossible standards (factual truth), but declines to trot out the unattainable ideal (moral truth). It also makes the product look scrumptious.

7 Right Guard

BBDO Worldwide, New York

The spot itself is ordinary. Warren Sapp, the obnoxious Tampa Bay Buccaneer, raises his arms to gloat over a foosball goal, a vile stench overpowers everyone. But try to imagine, say, 10 years ago, a spot in which the butt of a B.O. joke would turn out to be black. It never happened for fear of: a) meanly toying with racial stereotypes, and b) being accused of meanly toying with racial stereotypes. But now every time you turn on the TV you can find a black character taking it on the chin. Which means we are finally comfortable enough with each other to be equal-opportunity ridiculers. It's a watershed. Be happy.

8 Miller Brewing Co.

Ogilvy & Mather, New York

While chasing such imbecilic paths as "It's It and That's That," lesbian cement wrestling and the self-indulgent "Dick" campaign, Miller squandered a billion or so marketing bucks while Lite's share skyrocketed from 10.3% in 1990 to its current 7.4%. Then, while waiting for the next Creative Breakthrough, it slapped together some ads talking about Lite's low-carb advantage. No post-modern irony. No digital tricks. No gigantic hooters. Just a very good reason for the body-conscious not to buy the leading brand. Sales went up. Then it came out with its branding "campaign"which was business as usual. Oy.

9 Budweiser

DDB Worldwide, Chicago

Advertising is not art. Advertising is not art. Advertising is commerce. Except for when it's art. Such as this spot from Bud's "True" campaign, showing male office workers speculating on which female colleague they'd like to boink. "Vicky!" everyone agrees. Yeah! Vicky! Cut to Vicky, who's been asked the reverse question by her office girlfriends: "Nobody." Men and women, having a beer, behaving like men and women. Sure, weighter thinkers have contemplated le difference for ages. But so what? It's like criticizing a Madonna and child as derivative. This is enduring, universal...and True.

10 Department of Homeland Security

Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.

The Web site has an unfortunate URL- www.ready.gov-which sounds like a stuttering cockney taxi driver. But we refuse to laugh off poor Tom Ridge, who was ridiculed for talking duct tape in the face of Armageddon. Why? If a big snowfall denudes the grocery shelves of staples, as it did along the northeast corridor a week ago, imagine what chaos an earthquake will set off in our complacent society, much less a dirty bomb. Those color-coded terror warnings do nobody any good, but the dispensing of real civil defense information is crucial. This campaign should still be on the air, and stay there forever.

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