Advertising's Best & Worst.

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Source of inspiration

Best: Travel. Preferably, overseas. For a relatively long time. With someone you like. A lot. Wine. More specifically, a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino, with pecorino cheese, prosciutto, and a caprese salad, sitting in a café in the hill town of Todi, on a balcony overlooking the Umbrian countryside. Old Monty Python sketches. Books: A Staggering Work Of Heartbreaking Genius, by David Eggers, for its ruthless honesty. Or anything by Hemingway, for style. Movies: Dr. Strangelove and Some Like It Hot, for their ironic detachment. Chinatown and The Godfather, for style. Keith Jarrett, the Köln Concert. My partners, Haligman and Bedecarre (where all my ideas come from). My wife. My kids. Bill Bernbach.

Worst: Other advertising. Focus groups. The phrase, "Been there, done that." Wieden's ESPN campaign. (Can't be copied. Don't even try.) The Matrix. "Wouldn't it be funny if the world didn't have our product?" (Got milk? Got beer? Got Coke?) Old TV shows. Old rock 'n' roll songs. Old Monty Python sketches. Wired magazine or Raygun, for type design (only David Carson can pull it off.) The 70s. Old One Show annuals. Old CA annuals. Old D&AD annuals. (Been there, done that.)

-- Kirk Citron, President, Citron Haligman Bedecarre, San Francisco


I don't know if working with any of these clients is fun or a nightmare. But I do know that, in the end, what really matters is the quality of the work. That said, I've found that the best work generally comes from clients who have a simple, strong vision, a clear picture of their audience, a really good product or cause, and few layers of approval.

Best: Clients who encourage risk-taking, offer the freedom to fail, and simply say, "Give us your best." Judging by the work, I'd say clients like Fox Sports, Budget, Altavista, Etrade, Nike (Hmmm, maybe the best clients are any that choose to work with Wieden, Goodby, or Cliff Freeman -- I guess that makes Nike the very best because it works with two of them). I'd also include Apple, Volkswagen, Yahoo, and clients that get great work in tough categories like Target and Jack in the Box. And clients that do good work year in and year out, like North Carolina, Harley Davidson, Taylor Guitars, and The Economist.

Worst: The worst clients are unfocused, unsure of their target, scared to make a decision, and quick to blame. (Or, of course, those that leave Wieden, Goodby, or Cliff Freeman. Like Microsoft.) Or take good work and screw it up, like defacing "Got Milk" with a milk mustache. Or that just have a hopelessly bad product like tobacco, guns, or Hillary Clinton.

-- Woody Kay, Executive CD, Pagano Schenck & Kay, Boston

Advertising Trend

Best: When it comes to creativity, there is no such thing as a good trend, much less a "best" one. After all, by its very definition, "trend" means to show a common tendency, or to follow a general course. When advertising "follows a general course" it becomes predictable. And when our ideas begin to look, sound, and feel similar to everything else people see, we as creative professionals have failed. It is precisely this lemming-like behavior that makes advertising agencies susceptible to encroachment by non-traditional competition such as consultants, talent agencies, and even design firms, all of whom are hungry for a bigger role in the development of a brand's communications. When we conceptualize, present, and produce ideas that resemble other advertising, we devalue the client's brand in the marketplace. We devalue the agency in the view of the client. And we devalue the advertising industry as a whole to the general public.

Worst: Geez, I'd say the worst trend is creative people who take everything so darn serious. I mean, it's just words and pictures. Lighten up, you know?

-- Kevin Lynch, Executive CD, Arian Lowe & Travis, Chicago

Car Commercial

Best: In two months, I'm buying a car. Correction: I'm buying a VW. And I've never even set foot in one. My fiance foolishly asked me, "How's the mileage? Are they safe?" Like that matters. This brand is me. At least, that's what their ads have brainwashed me into thinking. The latest batch is so good, it's difficult to earmark a Best. So I've picked two. In "Spread the Joy," a new Jetta owner discovers the key-operated windows, and drags his annoyed "honey," mid-pedicure, outside to show her. An idea so small, it's big. These people think like me. "Five-second rule" is equally clairvoyant. A late twentysomething marvels over the fact that he's become a grown-up. I know exactly how he feels. But how did VW know I knew that?

Worst: I'm nominating a wanna-be Volkswagen spot. Not hard, since they're everywhere you look. The one for the Neon or Focus or whatever where those oh-so-hip Club kids park so tight they have to climb out the hatchback. A total VW scenario, and if executed by the VW team, it might have been a winner. Hint: if you're going to borrow their image, you might want to borrow their director.

-- Michelle Novella, art director, Berlin Cameron & Partners, New York

Public Service Announcement

This category is a tough one. Not because there isn't lots of good and bad public service work out there to nominate -- there is. It's a tough assignment because I'm loath to criticize work, no matter how poorly conceived, that's been done for free in order to make some bad situation better. On the other hand, so much pro bono work is done simply because the creative team figures they can do whatever they want since it is for free, that maybe knocking it is a reasonable response. If the work's so bad that it doesn't help cure cancer, feed kids or reduce illiteracy, then running the ads could ultimately be more damaging than helpful. And if the ad is stupid and derivative to boot...

Best: "I Has A Dream," by Austin Kelly Advertising for Atlanta's Black Professionals. It's brilliantly conceived, perfectly crafted and hard-hitting. AD: Lee St. James. Writers: Krystal Falkner and Mark Robinson.

Worst: Anything discussing Mayor Giuliani's privates -- such as PETA's "Got Prostate Cancer?" ad. To their credit, at least they didn't paint a milk mustache on the mayor's ass. Then again, maybe that would have helped.

-- Bruce Turkel, Executive CD, Turkel Schwartz & Partners, Miami

Use of an Animal

Best: The American Tourister gorilla. Not only does his performance illustrate his thespian abilities, but his inclusion actually demonstrates what makes the brand so great. A great spot with a demonstration! What a concept! For those of you unfamiliar with it, a gorilla basically beats the shit out of a piece of luggage that is left in perfect shape. The HBO gorillas came in a very close second but they lip-synched their lines. Maybe next time.

Worst: Spuds! Spuds MacKenzie! The use of Spuds to sell beer (does anyone but me not remember which beer?) is part of the reason why I no longer like to be near dogs. He's always seen with hot chicks and as a producer once said to me, "Dogs in commercials getting human pussy just isn't right." Another reason for me to hate this little leg-humper: A friend bought me a T-shirt for my Birthday with a screen-printed Spuds on it. We no longer speak.

-- Steven Block, art director, BBDO/New York

Dotcom ad

I've been asked to pick the best and worst ads in the dotcom category. Having spent the past few years contributing to both categories, here are some caveats before I add a few more enemies to my ever-growing list.

1. A search on yields 130+ dotcom ads, most of them horrible.

2. Let's give at least some of the credit for all this bad stuff to the typically inexperienced, stressed-out, first-time "approver of advertising" who believes he/she is on "internet-time" and doesn't have the "luxury" of time to get the advertising right, then calls three days after the TV (with 50 GRPs/wk) breaks to tell you that the "ad isn't working."

Best: Essentially, a portal that focuses on employing freelancers. The spot is directed by Noam Murro, and beautifully done. Set to Chopin's "Polonaise," (although I'm told the agency chose a Paul Anka tune for the one that ran instead...Why?) a very slow, somewhat sad melody, we meet Bob. A promising young employee who grows older before our eyes through a montage of stills and video until his inevitable retirement, complete with company watch and bargain-basement cake. As he walks out of his office, box of stuff in hand, his ultimate reward for being a company man is the heart attack he has on his employer's front steps. Tagline: "The Company Man. May he rest in peace." A Willy Loman for the new decade. Shocking, yes, but very smart and very memorable. The print is pretty darn good as well.

Worst:, "Banana." Essentially, a site that sells cheap textbooks. OK, so I never really found Tom Green funny in the first place. And humor is subjective. And I'm certainly not in the target. But let's assume for a minute that Tom Green is the funniest guy on the planet, and I just don't get it. Simply putting him in your commercial isn't going to salvage a crummy script. If it's not going to be funny without Tom Green, it's probably not going to be funny with him. If you're not focusing on the brand's core competence, and going to do the shock value thing instead, at least make it funny. Shooting gerbils out of a cannon: funny. Neglecting old people: funny. Watching a monkey do the cha-cha in a garage with two dorks clapping in time: Funny. Watching Tom Green yell at me while holding a really big banana: Not funny.

-- John Butler, Co-Creative Director, Butler Shine & Stern, Sausalito, CA

Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI)

Best: For my nomination for Best CGI, I have to go old school and dig out the Hawaiian Punch "Chain Reaction" spot that Randy Roberts did way back in the '80s. It never got the air time it deserved (rumor has it because of a change in package labeling after the spot was animated) but you could put it on TV today and it wouldn't look dated at all. Just goes to show ya, it ain't the technology, baby -- it's good old-fashioned filmmaking craft.

Worst: Remember those dancing, bending, and squooshing credit cards and gas pumps that Shell did a couple of years ago? I cringed every time I saw them, and that was lots.

-- Alex Seiden, Director, Cyclotron, New York

Special effects

Best:The Nike "Morning After" spot was seamless. ICBM's wandering through the sky, giraffes, explosions. All very well done. But the special effects I respect most this year were on a campaign for Discovery Channel. Were they realistic, technically advanced and crafted with precision? Absolutely not. But they were effects and they were special. You see the strings holding up the guys in their rudimentary mosquito costumes. The hand that comes in to swat at them is big, floppy and foamy, like something from a grade school play. But you know what? Big floppy hands are funny. Swarthy guys in meteor suits are funny. The effects were so well done that they made a line as inane as "oh, the atmosphere" the best line from last year.

Worst: My pick for the worst effects would have to go to the Gillette Mach 3 spot where the jet zooms through the air and then turns into a razor and then lands in the guy's hands and then gives him a close, comfortable shave. Like that could happen.

-- John Heinsma, Writer/Partner, Borders Perrin Norrander, Portland, OR

Location to Shoot

Best: You probably figure I'd say Alaska, Corsica, Copenhagen, Mykonos... No, my all-time favorite shoot location was a third-floor loft on Broome Street. in New York. So we're watching playback when one of the clients starts walking around the loft, looking in closets, opening doors, generally casing the joint. The producer and I look at her and say, "You know, somebody lives here, we don't know if you should be poking around in their stuff." She has now worked her way around to a door right behind the monitor. She opens the door and there, on the bed, are the loft owner and his girlfriend, buck naked and going at it like farm animals. In mid-stride, they turn their heads and see all of us sitting in our director's chairs, coffee in hand, enjoying the view. The client screams. The happy couple screams. The producer and I are laughing so hard we can't breathe. There's no other way out from the bedroom than that door. So about an hour later, our libidinous friends come slinking out the door and beat a hasty retreat to the elevator. I drive by that building in SoHo a lot. I laugh every time.

Worst: Alice Springs, Australia. During the Olympics, you saw a thousand shots of the Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach, the Great Barrier Reef and all the other beautiful, throw-a-shrimp-on-the-barbie shots of Australia. What they wouldn't show you is Alice Springs.

Alice Springs is the geometric center of Australia. It is the heart of the Outback. From our hotel there, it was a three- or four-hour drive every morning, to every location. The first day, we noticed that there were no port-o-potties or other facilities on the set. The nurse explained that because it was so hot (110, 115 degrees) your body would be losing every ounce of fluid to perspiration and you would be unable to urinate. It just confirmed what we heard after we landed there. We'd stepped off the plane, walked across the runway and looked out at the sea of red clay that stretched to the horizon. The Australian PA who was picking us up pushed his cowboy hat back on his head and said: "Welcome to the end of the Earth. Where God left his shovel."

-- Jay Williams, Executive VP/Group CD, Arnold Communications, Boston

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