It's Tired, It's Been Done Before, and I Couldn't Stop Watching It

Ad Might Make Garfield a Little Less Quick to Roll His Eyes

By Published on .

A couple of weeks ago, here in this very space, we talked about an ad for Post Shredded Wheat that embodied a great idea, but nonetheless fell flat because the copywriting, direction, acting and editing all came up a bit short. It wasn't a disaster by any means, but still extremely disappointing by virtue of not being the triumph it might have been.

Title: Streaker
Marketer: Tabasco
Agency: Duval Guillaume, Brussels
This spot simply forces us to re-examine our notion of badness, and perhaps to be a little less reflexively dismissive.
To prove life is not fair, this week we offer an ad that probably should miss -- on several levels -- but nonetheless more than does the job. It's a familiar (maybe even tired) idea, commencing with a hoary and unfunny joke, all atop a bed of musical non sequitur.

It's the kind of thing that will get whistles at Cannes.

Big deal. The thing about this trite and derivative exercise in gimmickry is: You can't take your eyes off it. Not that it's so bad it's good. No, it's very good on merit. The spot, from Duval Guillaume, Brussels, simply forces us to re-examine our notion of badness, and perhaps to be a little less reflexively dismissive.

The spot opens on the grassy pitch of a football stadium, where security has pinned down some jackass streaker, a fellow looking more dazed than vainglorious. It takes an instant of action to realize, though, that the video is moving not forward, but backward. What looks at first like the guy being led away is actually the last moment of the pursuit. So the escort of this naked idiot to the tunnel is, in fact, the rewind of his sprint to the middle of the pitch.

Ah, so this will be all back to front, will it? What a novel solution. (Except for the other 700 wound-back spots we've seen in the past 10 years or so.)

Oh, and streakers. Well, isn't that au courant? We suppose the client passed on the boards with hippies, beatniks and mop-topped pop idols. Streaking! Ha ha ha! Maybe the sequel will do a takeoff on "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

But, wait. Just as AdReview, the inveterate critic, wonders how the agency could have alighted upon such a moldering artifact of transgressional culture, AdReview, the audience member, wondered, "OK, I'm hooked. So what prompted this exhibitionist outburst?" As wondered every single other audience member -- even, we suspect, the world-weary, whistling geniuses of Cannes.

Anyway, we see the guy running backward as he rapidly throws on his clothes -- which is to say, we understand he has been rapidly throwing off his clothes. Again, why? We follow his mostly barefoot, eventually shod anti-progress to a lovely little café, where he bolts into his chair. Then he is waving spastically, his mouth open like a hungry bass. Only he isn't hungry.

He's burning. His mouth is on fire.

From? Well, now he's chewing, and enjoying, and now he's shaking some sauce on his pizza and ... but of course. Tabasco. Liberally applied. The onscreen tag: "Deliciously hot."

Once again, it's easy to let one's eyes commence rolling. Hot-sauce hyperbole, like the brand's famous 1997 exploding mosquito, only less witty. A surprise ending yielding zero surprise.

On the other hand, in the course of a year, how many spots do you scrutinize, frame by frame -- the first and every subsequent viewing -- to see what fleeting detail you might have missed? The big buzzword these days for the hangers-on of this dying industry is "engagement."

This ad engages its (bare) ass off.

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