The AdCritic

PS2, Miller and Volkswagen

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This week, our editors rate recent spots for PS2, Miller and VW.

PS2 "Mountain"
PS2 (UK): Mountain

As a pure piece of cinema, this is the best commercial of the year. Director Frank Budgen is at -- or beyond -- the form that earned him the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2002, as (it seems) every able-bodied man in Rio struggles to prevail in a massive game of "King of the Mountain" made up of 5000 extras, multiplied several times over by the Mill in London. Juxtaposed, not with rock guitars or a bumping dance track, but with Shirley Temple's rendition of "Get on Board, Lil' Children," the call to action is rousing, the overall effect sublime. Of course, it's worth asking -- and some people have asked me -- if it will connect with the gamer target. It will, and here's why. In a way, "Mountain" is perfectly under the radar. It contains no trappings of popular culture, and none of its components -- taken individually -- are cool, or even pretend to be. Attempting to portray the target in advertising is always risky, and is botched more times than not. There's no better way to signal that you're out of touch then by portraying a mockable, cartoon version of gamers or tuners or whatever subcult you happen to be courting. "Mountain," however, portrays nothing more than an energy, a spirit, a movement -- in short, a blank slate devoid of bum notes on which gamers will have no problem proudly projecting themselves. (JH)

Miller "Dominoes"
Miller: Dominoes

This spot is part of a new series of Miller ads intended to redress the company's apparent miscarriages of creativity, re-energizing ad strategies variously criticized for being schizophrenic, self-indulgent and mammary-driven. Whatever one makes of the inherent ad value of Dick or boobies (which is still very much up in the air, so to speak), it's clear that Miller could use a few more people swilling its product. So, there's a bit of pressure here, especially for creative pinch hitter Y&R Chicago, stepping in on creative duties here. The spot seems like a strong statement out of the gate -- with all the visual candy and none of the surgical enhancement. The spot presents a very watchable dramatization of the act of asserting individual choice. A human domino chain -- composed of the tumbling bodies of what can only be assumed to be Bud drinkers -- snakes its way through offices, down city streets, on and off buses and eventually along the floor of the local bar, where a lone beer appreciator remains upright by stepping out of line to grab a Miller (he's shown reaching for a Miller Lite, and a Miller Genuine Draft is seen in the background on the bar). The spot ends with the words "At Miller we brew great tasting beer for people who want to make their own choice," and the tagline "Good Call." All of which is great and fun to watch, and very competently executed by Fredrik Bond, but the question becomes, how far can Miller go positioning itself as the other guy, the rebel's choice? Sure it's a trusty old ad strategy but it would seem necessary for Miller at this juncture to assert itself as something more than the anti-Bud. All those dominoes, after all, are drinking Bud for a reason that surely transcends the flavor of the brew. "Dominoes" puts some fun in Miller's new ad game. More fun will be had watching where the brewer goes from here. (TI)

VW "Rewire"
Volkswagen: Rewire

VW and Arnold Worldwide know a thing or two about introducing new products. Last year's cinema spot for the Beetle convertible, "Bubble Boy," was still winning awards as recently as last week at the London International Advertising Festival. This :90 cinema teaser for the forthcoming Phaeton will have no such luck, however. In it, we see a mock science documentary in which a little girl has a hard time changing her perspective between tasks. The same thing happens to a cocky adult when he's subtly confronted with the idea of a VW luxury car. This is a fairly original way to say that the Phaeton has the best attributes of the best luxury cars, but it's also a very looong way to say it. Director Malcolm Venville's VW spot from last year -- "Squares" -- was subtle, but this spot goes too far in that direction. The mockumentary footage is so right on that the "mock" has almost disappeared entirely. And because it represents about half the spot, "Rewire" is really going to challenge audiences -- even captive ones -- to stay tuned for the payoff. (JH)

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

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