1. Dyson Vacuums
OK, it's a guy standing there explaining why he designed a better vacuum cleaner. It isn't funny. There are no digital effects. No cleavage. No surprise ending. The cinematography happens to be modern and pretty, but that's hardly the point. The point is, when James Dyson finishes talking, you suddenly wish to own a $400 vacuum cleaner. How often does a 30-second-spot accomplish that? Permit us to answer: almost never.
2. U.S. Army
Leo Burnett, Chicago
"Be all you can be" isn't such an inviting proposition when what you can be is blown to bits by insurgents. With American soldiers dying in Iraq in alarming numbers, imagine a brief that says: Recruit more soldiers! Yet these brilliantly written, acted and directed spots manage to convey the notion of seeking a greater purpose without glossing over the danger. In fact, the danger of the conflict tacitly provides the narrative conflict, and with it raw emotional power.
Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
"What if." Ho-hum. A perfect Nike commercial. But we refuse to be jaded; it's still a masterpiece, imagining superstars playing unfamiliar sports: Michael Vick, ice hockey; Andre Agassi, baseball; and so on. But they don't bungle. They excel, because they are transcendent athletes, which is why-against all logic-we care so deeply about watching them perform. And, as usual, Nike transfers that fascination and associated emotions to its own brand.
4. United Airlines
The "Rising" campaign was ridiculous, because it claimed a brighter future while implying the airline's all-too-obvious problems-problems which, sure enough, led to bankruptcy. The gorgeous "It's time to fly" campaign, by contrast, deployed famous animators to remind us in wordless picture stories why we fly. The vignettes, and Gershwin on piano, are oddly serene-a serenity that somehow rubs off on the brand, even though a United flight is seldom exactly a rhapsody in blue.
5. `Ashley's Story'
Progress for America Voter Fund McCarthy, Marcus & Hennings, Washington
We said, "It might come down to one commercial," and it may well have. A retelling of candidate Bush's encounter with an Ohio teenager answered undecideds' doubts. The president wasn't a dry-well-drilling gambler, moron and fool ... he's a fearless leader who will hug us. "All he wants to do," Ashley said, "is make sure that I'm safe, that I'm OK." He won, Ashley! Now just don't enlist or get pregnant.
Ungar Group, Chicago
Call this a sentimental favorite, because there wasn't much of a media budget behind it-or any budget whatsoever. But therein its charm. The POV image takes us inside a hot shower, to the accompaniment of "I'm in the Mood for Love." The onscreen copy: "How many people does it take to come up with a big idea? Then why work with a big ad agency?" Good question. And the spot's simplicity (and low cost) only make the answer more compelling.
"Mountain." In AdReview's disconcerting Year of Being Wrong, this was our biggest blunder. At first we rejected this cinematic masterpiece as the triumph of production values over brand-building. But then it dawned: What better metaphor for the global community that is PS2 online gaming than teeming throngs converging to build a mountain of humanity for an epic contest of king of the hill? This spot won the Cannes Grand Prix and, a little belatedly, our utmost respect.
Venables, Bell & Partners, San Francisco, and Mediasmith
A witty flash-animation serial announcing Napster's transition from law-flouting international file-sharing conspiracy to legitimate downloading service. It's an awkward sell, like trying to advertise Doans Pills to an OxyContin freak. So how to position a renegade-turned-sellout? No rich-media gimmicks, just fanciful online storytelling that slyly clings to the brand's outlaw image. The metaphor: Napster's cat breaks out of jail and finds music-industry adventure.
9. Fiery Hot Pringles
Grey Worldwide, New York
You can debate all you want whether Procter & Gamble's sudden infatuation with "creativity" is self-improvement or self-destruction. But after a decade of wide-eyed nincompoops wearing fake smiles while gobbling fake potato chips, this arty evocation of the chili sweats was a revelation. Hot-pepper masochism, of course, is an enduring gastronomical mystery. But Carmina Burana, wit and NO COPY from Grey and P&G? That's a damn miracle.
Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami
Here's the kind of guy we are. We're the kind of guy who, when you tell us there's a Burger King Web site that features a person in a chicken costume who will perform any act you request, no matter how tawdry, apparently (but not actually) in real time, we will drop everything and commence issuing unspeakable poultry commands. Turns out, this is the way millions of people are. Have it your way, indeed.