The AdCritic

Meijer, Nike, Papermate

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This week, our editors rate recent spots for Meijer, Nike and Papermate.

Meijer "Mom"
Meijer: Mom, Paper and Pencils

Thank you, DeVito/Verdi, for putting an end to the irrational exuberance of the back-to-school season. Office Depot really kicked the hysteria up a notch this year with an early-breaking campaign from BBDO/New York linking children's success in school -- and, yes, life -- to the convenient and timely procurement of graph paper. In one spot, a man is so diabolically giddy about school supplies that he goes out and buys some before his child is even born! Thankfully, this campaign for Meijer reminds us of what should have been obvious all along: School supplies just aren't all that exciting.

The center of the campaign is a spot in which a mother returns home and announces that she's bought school supplies. Her children pounce, gripped by the perfect ecstasy brought on by new glue and rulers and markers, all perfectly wrought by Biscuit Filmworks' Jeffrey Fleisig. But just as you've accepted this excitement as the natural order of things -- as an entirely reasonable call to action -- a voiceover cuts in, accompanied by a scrolling disclaimer at the bottom of the screen. "Your kids will never get this excited about school supplies," it warns. "So why pay more than you have to?" Exactly. (JH)

Nike "Myzel"
Nike: Myzel, Marla, Kathryn and Bernard

This new campaign -- based around the purposefully stilted "More Fast Out There" tag -- kicked off with the big production number "Speed Chain," featuring snakes and trains and horses -- a spot that was retrospectively eye-popping, considering it was practically all CG. The effects in the follow-up spots, however, are even more special -- they are athletes captured by the expert lens of director Errol Morris. Each spot features a runner addressing the subject of speed, personalizing the topic and throwing a challenge out to viewers. 15-year-old Myzel Robinson's is the most obvious and entertaining dare, with Myzel ranting about racing anyone, anywhere, including your auntie and Lance Armstrong. In another spot, Kenyan runner Bernard Lagat talks about his countrymen's famous aptitude for running fast, suggesting that you might need Nike's shoes, but he doesn't. The spot is bookended with lovely Morris moments: Legat delivers the opening line "I'm Kenyan" and grins, and then there is an immense (for a commercial) pause before the next shot. The spot closes with Lagat gleefully throwing the Nike shoe away and bolting. The most dramatic challenge, however, might come from US Masters Record Holder Kathryn Martin, whose spot opens with shots of her super fine buttocks in motion, accompanied by her voiceover: "See that? That's 51 years old."

In all, they do what the best Nike spots do -- entertain and drive the viewer toward action. Each spot also features lingering product shots. Three of the four ads include slow motion, shoe-centered shots of the runner's feet in motion -- specifically, shots of the shoe's distinctive tread -- and it's a rare case where you are left wanting more product display. (A visit to Nike's running web site reveals the shoe to be the Spiridon.)

"More Fast Out There" may be perplexing, and most viewers may want more answers than the spots provide. They do feel vaguely unsatisfying, like they are leading up to something. But then, that's not without its charm, given the ballpeen-to-the-shin approach of so many ads. So Nike once again cooks up a timely recipe -- spots featuring "real" athletes (shot to be no less compelling than celebrity endorsers but way less likely to publicly fall from grace) that are a little weird -- and a lot motivating. (TI)

Papermate "Airplane"
Papermate: Airplane and Test

This campaign for disposable pens hits on an obvious -- but seemingly overlooked -- fact about the category. The fact is that, although a disposable pen typically costs less than a dollar, people can be fanatically devoted to their favorite styles and brands, which they don't usually describe as "good" or "good enough" or "okay," but as the absolutely perfect disposable pen. (This fanaticism sets in years after our blasé attitude toward school supplies, once we've become fully resigned to a world of file folders and Post-It notes.) Start up a conversation or two around the office today about what pens people are using and tell me where else you'll find such undying consumer loyalty. These spots from McCann-Erickson and director Steve Miller build on that simple observation with stories of product loyalty. In one, a flight attendant shows up at a passenger's house to retrieve a pen he borrowed on a flight. In another, a teacher watches with horror as a favorite instrument is degraded by one of her students. Both end with the tag: "You'll get attached." This isn't earth-shattering advertising, by any means, but it rings true and is much more compelling than any story about how a pen can write on plastic or write for decades without running out of ink. (JH)

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

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