The AdCritic

Honda U.K., Minnesota Youth Tobacco Prevention, Sony

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This week, our editors rate the follow-up to Honda's "Cog", plus new commercials for Minnesota Youth Tobacco Prevention and Sony. Let us know what you think by sending us your comments.

Minnesota Youth Tobacco Prevention "Bubble Wrap"
Minnesota Youth Tobacco Prevention: Bubble Wrap

Every state has an anti-smoking campaign, and all of them can be sorted into two categories. Either they're old style scare campaigns, or new fangled assaults on the tobacco companies -- corporate evildoers who lose when you refuse to light up. The former are useless when it comes to preventing smoking, which is why the tobacco companies always run them when some court orders them to run something. The latter -- pioneered by Florida's "Truth" campaign from Crispin Porter + Bogusky -- are effective, but have become a little tiresome. Grainy footage of precocious, socially-conscious teens sticking it to the man was riveting a few years ago, but now that there's an actual war on, it's hard not to wish they'd find something more important to protest.

Clarity Coverdale Fury has found a third way, however, with its "Target Market" anti-smoking campaign for Minnesota Youth Tobacco Prevention. The premise isn't that smoking is deadly or a sign of mush-headed conformity. It's just ridiculous -- fear of appearing ridiculous being the prime motivator in teen's lives. In a previous spot, we saw an idiot who had covered his body in magic marker but still considered that to be less ridiculous than taking up cigarettes. Here, we see teens strung out on bubble wrap, saying all the things kids say when they think they've got a handle on smoking. Smoking isn't even mentioned, but the message is clear: Smoking is useless and silly. PSAs directed at teens have always been tough territory, since too much haranguing makes any behavior seem like the perfect rebellion. The strength of this campaign is precisely its lack of urgency. It merely whispers that smoking is lame -- which is exactly how peer pressure talks. (JH)

Honda "Sense"
Honda (UK): Sense

"Cog" was a hard act to follow, so it's no surpise that the latest Honda spot from Wieden + Kennedy/London isn't really in the same league. Few commercials are. But it is based on a big but simple idea: that if lights and stoves and faucets knew when they were not being used and shut themselves off, a lot of energy would be saved. The world where this happens is sublimely rendered by Gorgeous Enterprise's Peter Thwaites, a director who makes even NASCAR reek with chic. This is a beautiful film. Its connection to the product, however, is pretty obscure. The commercial is touting IMA, or Integrated Motor Assist, the technology behind Honda's new hybrid Civic, which literally shuts down to conserve energy at stoplights. Knowing that, the concept is a perfect fit, but with a such a novel technology, will anyone get it? I had to look up the car's specs to make sense of it. Subtlety is nice, but this commercial veers into obscurity. (JH)

Sony "Morning After"
Sony: Athens Beach and Morning After

This new pair of spots for Sony see the ever suave Plato character in cheeky summer circumstances. In one, Plato orchestrates a silent dance party on the beach via mass use of Sony's (not very clearly showcased) digital music player. In another, Plato wakes up on the beach next to what is revealed later to be some sort of non-U.S.-born model and uses his (not very clearly showcased) digital camera to provide a visual reminder of a night of cavorting with this and other models. Plato is also revealed to be chained to his sleeping companion, who gets a little ornery when he attempts to leave.

In all, the ads seem unremarkable for a category that seems like a key area for electronics makers, one that has a lot inherent interest and energy, and therefore, advertising potential. That potential is not fully exploited here. The beach party ad is sweet but feels vaguely like it's been done before. And what has clearly been done before, as has been harped upon previously in this space, is the whole animal/non-human mascot hooking up with human babe saw. Like countless ads through the ages, the ads for Sony's personal entertainment gadgets seek to convey cool by association, through a character who is non-human, and therefore not bound by human limitations. But here, the interspecies relations feel tired and just plain icky. Judging by commercials, it must be pretty bad out there for women looking for companionship. There are already an overabundance of commercials in which beautiful women are depicted frolicking with various types of unsavory homunculi, but it still seems alarming when they are forced outside of the human gene pool for a little love. That could be an irrelevant criticism in terms of the target audience here, but overall the ads don't really seem to do anything for the products or the brand, and they seem to blend into other Sony advertising which, aside from PlayStation work, has felt all over the place for some time. (TI)

(THE REVIEWERS: Jim Hanas is the editor of Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine.)

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