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ESPN 2 "Knowledge"

The strategy and consumer insight work is painfully simple: watch ESPN2 and watch your knowledge grow. Stop watching and it will go away. Brilliant, call in the creative team. Given that, my hat goes off to the creative guys for staying simple and coming up with an innovative, fresh and wonderfully executed series of spots in which sports knowledge is represented by a big furry ball with feet. From the monotoned VO, closeups of the guy's pupils absorbing knowledge, simple scenes, and great situations the writing and art direction combined with great account planning put 'em in my top five for '98.

AGENCY Ground Zero

DIRECTOR Dante Ariola, Propaganda Films

Volkswagen "Synchronicity"

OK, I watched this spot about 10 times in a row and it was not possible to avoid tapping my foot. God, I like simple. However, I'll bet the storyboard bordered on being too simple. I can just hear the creative team presenting this idea: "We show a couple driving around and the beat of the music they are playing matches the pace of what's going on around them." Creative director's potential response: "What else ya got?" Great execution won't save a shitty idea, but it can put a simple idea over the top. I took this spot home and showed it to my kids and my son said his teacher was talking about it at school. His teacher's quote: "It's worth watching a program you don't like just to see this commercial." Anytime you can emotionally connect to a group of people in a memorable and positive way, it's a success. Believably connect that success to a brand and that's great advertising. Every scene in this spot builds support for the premise: "Sometimes in life everything just comes together." Great direction, music, editing and client.

AGENCY Arnold Communications

DIRECTOR Gerard de Thame, HSI Productions

Bass Ale

Not since Cliff on Cheers has a barroom patron been so knowledgeable, or not, about beer. This Bass guy supports the "Legendary for a reason" tag on these spots through some pretty elaborate whoppers, or maybe they're true. The cool part of his dialogue is that you want to believe that this much passion exists behind Bass ale. With the Brits being so retentive and traditional about their beer, these stories support the brand heritage with an intrusively current edge. The direction and editing create a tension between bartender and patron that helps add focus to this know-it-all's story. The creative team probably fell out of their chairs when this guy, actor Donal Logue, stepped into the casting session. He's great for this script and the direction doesn't try to overpower his delivery with technique, it's straight ahead. In a time where animals seem to be the experts, these spots restore my faith that humans can still be intelligent and passionate about the craft of brewing beer.

AGENCY Weiss Stagliano Partners

DIRECTOR Christopher Guest, Moxie Pictures

Nike Alpha Project

My art direction roots forced me to study the parts of these ads that were well-crafted: the eyeball/runner photograph on the watch ad is cool. The image manipulation and art direction of the borders is a neat spin on a common idea. Then I remembered to put my creative director hat on. As much as I liked the Alpha Project TV, I expected more from the print. It seems vague and aimless to me. If the print is expected to deliver the unique product attributes, they're in there, but overshadowed by the art direction. It seems like the creative team got caught between trying to deliver a cool print extension of the television and the reality of a Nike product manager's need to include his Alpha Project technology. I will also say that the watch ad would stop me in the middle of Runner's World and reinforce my confidence in Nike's heritage.

AGENCY Goodby, Silverstein & Partners


Simple strategy, simple idea. Transferring your leg power to your pedals is key to the Shimano shoe/ pedal system. It's great to see a creative team that actually listened to a client when they wanted to feature the product in the ad, and then go away and solve it with an actual idea. Result: benefit clearly communicated without heaps of Photoshop eye candy or dude copy. Kind of refreshing, especially in the bike industry.

AGENCY Crispin Porter & Bogusky

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