The AdCritic

H-P, Honda, Value City

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This week, our editors rate recent spots for Hewlett-Packard, Honda and Value City.

HP "You"
Hewlett-Packard: You

Kudos to Carly Fiorina, because without all those merger-backlash shenanigans HP might not have been motivated to be reborn as the modern-feeling, forward thinking marketer it's become. From the first HP "Anthem" spot from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which introduced the new "HP +" look and linked the company to corporate movers like FedEx, the company's ads have just gotten better, culminating in this well-conceived and stunningly executed ad in support of HP's digital photography solutions. If there was any criticism of the previous efforts, it was that they verged on opacity -- we didn't know exactly what the company links meant. But they looked so great, it didn't matter. We wanted a piece of HP. In this latest spot, it's all spelled out in the most accessible yet beautiful and emotionally appealing way possible. It's a perfect idea executed with music and visuals that pack an emotional right hook while delivering a straight ahead product benefit uppercut that makes you want to run to the store and buy all this stuff now.

The spot mixes live action with graphic elements that create the effect of still photos carved out of everyday life. Director Francois Vogel creates the compelling effect of photographs coming to life -- sometimes several in one shot -- like giant pixels, revealing the hidden photographic art available all around. The now-famous HP "+" signs also appear on the scene and morph into colorful frames for the photo moments in the film footage. The Cure's "Pictures of You" provides the perfect musical accompaniment -- obvious and surprising at the same time. For the small chunk of the 18-49 demo whose constituents don't have some attachment to this music, the song will just be a lovely, lyrically appropriate tune. For the rest of us, it's emotional and mnemonic gold. Even the timing of this campaign seems perfect, appearing as it does at a time when analog stalwarts are finally converting to digital cameras but are worried about not having anything to put in the old photo album. Rounding out the perfection is a punchy print campaign and a web site that allows everyday photographers to post their shots and tell their stories. And it all comes together without that yucky "putting the power of technology in your hands" dot-com-era tone. (TI)

Honda "Best Friends"
Honda: Best Friends

One can't help but wonder if the runaway success of last year's "Cog" commercial from Wieden + Kennedy/London hasn't raised the creative bar for Honda worldwide. If so, U.S. agency Rubin Postaer & Associates appears to be up for the challenge. The new model spots for the Civic and the Accord are a magnitude beyond last year's work, and the agency has even pulled off a few stunners -- including the effects-driven "Purpose" commercial for the Element and this brand spot, which can safely be put on the shortlist for best commercial of the year.

Anonymous Content's Malcolm Venville -- who shot last year's awarding-winning "Squares" spot for Volkswagen -- returns here with a steady eye and admirable restraint as he sets up shots of Honda owners that resemble their cars. This is a chestnut where pets are concerned, but applied to cars -- where the resemblances are more abstract -- the idea is nice and big. It also provides a way to show the entire Honda line without skidding all the models to a halt on some barren salt flat. The half star comes off because Venville's austerity is not as startlingly original as it was a year ago, but this commercial will still win many admirers -- and probably just as many awards. (JH)

Value City "Role Reversal"
Value City: Role Reversal

And the award for best performance in a commercial goes to ... well, it has to be the woman in this smart and simple spot for Value City from Cliff Freeman & Partners. The concept is that Value City is so great, kids will have to drag their parents away the way children are routinely dragged away from toy stores and Chuck E. Cheese. Director Neil Tardio Jr. of Go Film wisely goes with a locked camera shot. After that, it's a all about the performance. The actress precisely channels the mix of panic and apocalyptic hysteria that we have all observed in -- and yes experienced as -- children, whenever the fun threatens to end too soon. (JH)

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

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