The AdCritic

FedEx, Sega/ESPN, Vancouver International Film Festival

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This week, our editors rate recent spots for FedEx, Sega/ESPN and the Vancouver International Film Festival.

FedEx "Drama"
FedEx: Call Center, Crate, Career Maker, Drama, Remind Me, MBA, Chinese Office and Problems

The newest round of FedEx's always entertaining advertising doesn't just sit there looking and sounding funny -- although, sitting there, it does look and sound funnier than many ads we've seen lately. It gets down to business. The new effort from BBDO/New York is the perfect evolution for FedEx, stepping gracefully away from the last campaign, which gave us smart-yet-silly office banter about business conundrums solved by FedEx. While that campaign was an award winner and is a sentimental favorite, this round of spots might be considered to be even better advertising in the strictest sense. While the bantering duo conveyed product benefits in an entertaining way, the cleverness of it all may have left some in the demo cold. The new spots have a wonderful mass appeal, and while that sounds like a dis in our rarified universe, it's so not.

The campaign introduces a new tag line, "Relax, it's FedEx," and the spots concentrate on touting the courier's efficiency, with some service-specific messages (like shipping to Asia and freight delivery) added to the mix. "Career Maker" does a magnificent job of making the potentially deadening line "If you're shipping internationally you've got to use FedEx" the hero of the spot. It's repeated over and over to great comic effect as a hapless office drone parlays the simple advice into a successful life and a neverending war story. In "Drama," mailroom workers engage in hilariously exaggerated gestures and intonations (including loudly enunciating the word "Doom!" repeatedly), since FedEx has taken all the actual drama out of their work routines. Once again, creators of this campaign had the wisdom to go with a director who knows from note-perfect comic timing. Frank Todaro makes this campaign, as Bryan Buckley and Joe Pytka made the last two.

The adscape is littered these days with an assortment of lo-fi looking comic scenes ranging from dry to wacky and the tune-out factor is increasing everyday. These spots rise to the challenge of being funny, engaging and effective, while not feeling like a rehash. Sound simple? You try it. (TI)

VIFF "Businessmen"
Vancouver International Film Festival: Businessmen, Break Up and Dinner Party

Campaigns for film festivals are, by and large, pretty creative. If you can't make something reel-worthy out of the sweet brief a festival provides -- even with a budget ranging from modest to zero -- you may need to reevaluate your career options. As a result, each year brings us a flood of servicably interesting festival promos and one or two that really stand out. Last year's home run was the campaign for the Mill Valley Film Festival from Hill, Holliday/San Francisco, which won its share of awards. This year's just might be this effort for the Vancouver International Film Festival from TBWA/Vancouver. Directed by Untitled up-and-comer Wayne Craig, the campaign is built around the conceit -- festival campaigns are always based on conceits -- that life would be lame if it was like a foreign film. You would have to hear your girlfriend's inner voice narrating your break up (with a French accent, but of course), or you would always look as pasty and pale as a Scandinavian antihero. A funny concept, well-executed, and capped with an unforgettable line you never thought you'd hear in an ad: "Damn you Lars von Trier!" (JH)

Sega/ESPN "Sapp!"
Sega/ESPN: Sapp!, Little Birdy and Billy White Shoes

There are celebrity spots, and then there are spots that use celebrities. Wieden + Kennedy has proven over the years that it knows the difference. Think Dennis Hopper as a demented referee, or the entire "This is Sportscenter" campaign. Now the agency does it again by cleverly casting SNL's Tracy Morgan as the spokesperson for a new line of Sega videogames that are being co-branded by ESPN. SNL alums -- except Bill Murray -- should really stop making movies and accept that their true calling is in spots. Witness Will Ferrell's annual appearance in offically sanctioned Apple "spoofs," or his turn as Neil Diamond for The Gap. Everyone knows the show's sketches go on way, way too long. 30 seconds, on the other hand, seems just about right. The funniest of these spots is actually a :10, in which we see Morgan maniacally staring down a mirror and cursing Warren Sapp's name. In the others, he confronts the Tampa Bay star in the locker room and details all the skills he's learned by playing Sega's ESPN NFL Football. Not groundbreaking, but very funny. Morgan is also slated to flaunt his talents in spots promoting Sega's baseball, basketball and hockey games. (JH)

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

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