The AdCritic

Miller, Coke and Toyota

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The editors of AdCritic and Creativity review new ads for Coke, Miller and Toyota.

ESPN/Miller "The Squeeze"
ESPN/Miller: The Squeeze (Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4)

These four short films for ESPN, presented by Miller Brewing, are engaging, absorbing, wonderfully written and directed examples of how to do what is called branded content -- although in this case it's just great content, brought to you by a brand that, though merely suggested, is meaningfully infused throughout.

The shorts, created by L.A. agency Ground Zero, follow a group of blue-collar Boston guys whose dedication to their team is equaled by their devotion to a beloved and departed uncle. The story is funny and touching and flecked with small gemlike moments, like one in which one of the men seeks guidance from his priest on a plan to resolve a conflict between his uncle's funeral and Game 7:

"Forgive me Father for I think I might be about to sin."
"About to?"
"Well, we're still throwing ideas around."

For ESPN, it's an eloquent statement about the role of sports in the fabric of men's lives and emotional make-up, and beer is incorporated seamlessly in the same context. Miller itself is seen only in perfectly legitimate glimpses -- a case of Miller Lite on a garage shelf that's a background to a meeting of the main characters, and even more subtly - the priest's advice "I'm certain you'll make the right call," perhaps suggesting Miller's "Good Call" tag. In the last installment, which takes place in a bar, the labels on the beer aren't even that clear. When the content is this good, the brands involved with it will surely benefit from the association and the rest of us benefit from a good lesson in restraint. (TI)

Coke "Stories"
Coke: Stories, Pete, Hired & Fired and Trip to Nowhere

Fronting a campaign called "Real" is a bit like calling a magazine "Creativity." Those are some mighty big words, and they come preloaded with mighty hefty expectations. You're practically setting yourself up for failure.

When the "Real" campaign from Berlin Cameron broke last year, one of the creatives responsible told Creativity that the campaign was "just getting warmed up," that the spots would get better and better. And (if you don't count C2), so they have. The Real campaign has up to now been a respectably rendered though not exactly "breakthrough" effort (Penelope emitting a little ladylike burp after swigging a whole bottle of burning bubbles is hardly "real," after all). An early music-driven spot contained the line, rapped by rapper Common, who surely knows whereof he raps, "Real can't be bought or sold." How many layers of unintentional irony was that spot asking the audience to plumb before the message of authenticity became clear? Because we all know real can indeed be bought and sold -- good marketers are hip to the fact that though the kids like it real, they don't mind if real is sold to them, as long as it's done with style.

The new "Summer" spots put the campaign in a whole different league, however. It's as if for a moment Coke took off its Disney colored glasses and tried on a reasonably this-decade approach (something it's attempted a few times in the past, only to kibosh the interesting spots in favor of yet more bland floundering about). The campaign kicks off with an anthem spot chronicling the pointless summer adventures of a group of teenaged boys, with a series of sub-spots zeroing in on some component of their antics, all narrated in an atonal rapid fire by one of the group, with just the right dose of detached irony. They're delightfully real, or, if not exactly real, then real in the way that a great, if somewhat overwritten movie, or a great, completely distorted memory is real. The writing here is complemented brilliantly by the choices made by directing team Vogel Villar Rios, with the resultant look and feel evoking the vaguely vacant, stonerish vibe perfected by directing duo Dayton Faris with the Smashing Pumpkins "1979" video. Of course it's been done -- a Coke spot for Europe, directed by Smuggler's James Brown a few years back made a splash with reality tinged shots of youthful antics (and probably inspired McDonald's to go the route it has lately). But this campaign takes the wacky montage one step further, giving it a cinematic feel and real heart.

While one could boil down the theme of any spot as someone trying to obtain sex, that Coke has even considered a spot which centers on a kid trying to get laid at a party (a goal which is actually stated, in carefully chosen words, by the narrator in the spot "Pete") and being foiled by his mother is relatively "breakthrough" stuff.

Maybe these ads will appeal more to nostalgic 20 and 30 somethings. But that they ring true for anyone is big news, and a wonderful occasion for Coke. (TI)

Toyota "Car Makeover"
Toyota: Car Makeover

Reality advertising -- ads that either spoof or simply rip-off reality TV shows -- has become all the rage, although more often than not there's nothing there other than the spoofing or ripping-off. That's supposed to be enough. Saatchi & Saatchi/L.A., however, has found a way to use the device to actually, you know, say something about the Toyota Corolla. In a pitch perfect redux of MTV's Pimp My Ride directed by Joe Public, we see a woman whose "bucket" is transformed into what -- thanks to this ad -- is presented as the best car imaginable: the Toyota Corolla XRS. The outcome is smart, surprising and althogether satisfying -- and it provides a handy excuse to detail the car's sporty features. It also proves once and for all that, no, simple parody is not enough. (JH)

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

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