Garfield's Ad Review - California dreaming: a look at the state of advertising

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[Not los angeles, calif.] Ordinarily at this time of year, the staff is working out of remote Ad Review Viewing Lab facilities in Marina del Rey. But this winter-due to terrorism, recession and certain infant children who think it's allllllll about them-we remain at home.

Yes, instead of basking in a balmy California 62-degree-and-partly-cloudy paradise, we sit here shivering in a 51-degree-and-partly cloudy icebox. So we thought, "Hey, don't let the changes get you down, man. Why not a virtual visit to southern California?" It might not be a great trip, but surely it could be a pretty good one-"three stars," let's say-plus affordable electric power and the ability to smoke tobacco products without fear of arrest.

Herewith, then, three pretty-good ads from what they call the Southland, beginning with...

Arco. Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica. Differentiating gasoline brands is hard because gasoline is a commodity. Same additives, same detergents, same refining process and, like the jokes on South Park, the same crude source. So to have Arco as your client is pretty lucky, because somehow-for reasons hinging apparently on its aversion to credit cards-its customers pay an average of 9 cents less per gallon at the pump.

It would be hard, as an agency, to screw that up.

Rubin Postaer doesn't screw it up. In fact, it has a charming, funny, straightforward campaign called "Fill Smart" calling attention to the Arco advantage. Three spots show how it pays to go a little out of your way- which in L.A. basically means "across the street"-for Arco. The best is the simplest. We see a guy filling his tank at Arco, getting into his car, crossing the intersection and pulling into the gas station across the street. There he parks and enters the convenience store.

Because he works there.

"Why just buy gas," the voice-over asks, "when you can fill smart?" Excellent question, definitively answered.

California Department of Consumer Affairs Energy Conservation Campaign. Grey Worldwide, Los Angeles. A pregnant woman stands in the foyer, calling to her husband. "Brian, let's go." The husband enters the scene, rattled, but not sit-comically out of control. Playing high anxiety low-key isn't easy, but Kara McNamara quietly nails it. There's no shouting, just the expected amount of scurrying around in this decorous, extremely brightly lit hallway. ("You OK?" "Yeah, I'm OK. Let'sgolet'sgolet'sgo.")

The couple finally leaves the apartment, but the camera stays locked on the door. A moment later, it reopens, as we see McNamara's hand turning off the apartment lights.

"Conservation," the voice-over says. "It's a way of life. And the best way to prevent blackouts."

Yes, if she can think of conserving electricity, you can, too. Simple, arresting, nicely done.

Kia Motors. davidandgoliath, Los Angeles. The problem with advertising year-end auto incentives (when you're not positioning them as an act of patriotic self-sacrifice), is that they all run together. They're so common, and so similar, that they've become boilerplate that consumers scarcely register. Enter Kia, with a way to make its offer vivid. The spot takes place in a showroom, where a couple is seated in a new Kia, just getting a feel for the thing.

Salesman: "So, whaddya think?"

Customer: "Feels pretty good."

Salesman: (Taking wads of cash and stuffing them between the customer's neck and the headrest, to make him more comfortable.) "How about now?"

Customer: "Oh, that feels good."

Voice-over: "It's amazing how much better you'll feel about a car when you get up to $3,000 cash back."

Point taken.

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