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Last week, this magazine put out its highly anticipated and influential Ad Age Best issue, with its list of best advertising work for 2000. This week, Adages would like to proffer its own short list of unofficial bests, deliberately chosen from the world of direct response broadcast spots. Why direct? Because at their best, direct spots are the most effective communications, and besides, it's an underserved category in the awards department. Adages likes to champion the underdog. Hence, a new ad trophy. Cannes has its Lions. Adages has its , both past and present.

Adages' Underdog of 2001 is an Epil-Stop & Spray 60-second spot that does for body hair what Carbona does for grease stains. Instead of smothering lovely gams in gobs of shaving cream, Epil-Stop & Spray can be sprayed on like Pam and then wiped off. The ad graphically shows the results: a cloth full of hair.

"Underarms?" asks the voice-over, as we see a lady shamelessly baring the patch beneath her limb. "No problem." There's plenty of product in this spot and strong differentiation from competing waxes and creams. "It's pain-free!" The product is even shown tackling the ultimate challenge: "Look at this man's hairy chest," the narrator commands. "Just spray Epil-Stop & Spray and wipe that hair away. It's that easy." In true direct fashion, the ad offers a bonus lifetime supply of Epil-Stop Roll-On. "Remove unwanted hair on your upper lip!" And for those who "call right now" a cotton robe worth $80 is thrown into the deal, all for just $29.95.

Tongue-in-cheek stuff? "No, it's very straight ahead," says David Stocknoff, executive producer of TV at IGIA, which markets Epil-Stop. He is also the director and principal writer of the spot. "I've used it myself on my upper arms. I usually keep the hair on my legs."

Adages' Classic Underdog is a Four Paws 3o-second direct spot originally released in 1998 for Wee-Wee Pads. A job that cost the company about five grand, the Wee-Wee Pad ad put the pad on the map and introduced the Wee-Wee girl, a seven-year-old who rivaled Pepsi brat Hallie Eisenberg as an absolute public annoyance. She fusses: "Mommy, I think we need another Wee-Wee Pad," when she sees her doggy snuffling about for a dumping ground in the living room. Miss Wee-Wee slips one under the pup, while a voice-over describes the artificial scent in the pad that attracts doggies when nature calls. A big black dog then enters the room. "Mommy," cries Miss Wee-Wee. "I think we're gonna need another Wee-Wee Pad." Oh boy.

The ad was written by Allen Simons, president-CEO of Four Paws in Hauppauge, N.Y. Allen's granddaughter, Amanda Garcia, starred as the Wee-Wee girl. The spot was produced on Beta tape and directed by Frank Flynn of South Shore Teleproductions in Islip, New York. As for Amanda, she was bitten on the set. Not by the dog-but by the acting bug. As this issue goes to press, she was winging her way to Hollywood to audition for a movie starring Patrick Swayze. Oh, mommy!

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