Barbara Lippert’s Critique

Having been knocked out by last summer’s shockingly sophisticated Circuit City campaign from TBWA\Chiat\Day, I was a bit disappointed in the two Christmas-themed spots that broke this month.

One of my faves from the earlier round showed a soccer fanatic watching the game on screens around his house—even in his sock drawer. The second involved a blind date over the Internet—with each party shamelessly lying about their looks.

The big idea—firing up the consumer’s imagination with an unexpected payoff (the ad equivalent of the guy on Dallas who wasn’t dead, just in the shower)—continues, with the tagline “Imagine that.” Thankfully, there are no ho-ho-hos in the new holiday spots. But there is fake snow, and in one we get Santa, with hat and beard but sans red suit, on the links with his elves in the golf cart and the reindeer grazing on some distant hole. His assistant, with the help of a digital organizer, has just booked his takeout dinner at Spago, and the jolly one is on the cell phone arranging a foot massage.

The whole setup, but especially the way the elves sit, Secret Service-like in the cart, reminds me of how Bill Clinton might play golf. The hyper-sunny and bright green look of the course is annoying, and the situation is overexplained. “Shouldn’t you be making toys?” another golfer asks the elves. “We’re digital now,” one responds. “We get the toys done in half the time.”

I don’t want to envision Santa entering the digital age—and I certainly don’t want to know about his secret pleasures, such as receiving a foot massage from Kiki. But surprise! It was all a fantasy, as we see in the last frame, with Santa shown pressing his cherry nose against the window of a Circuit City store.

Another spot plays on the Christmas in July bromide. It shows a family in its holiday-decorated living room, madly using all the devices placed under the tree. Then we get an exterior shot—papers piled up at the door of the moldy house in mid- summer. It was Dad’s dream. But to be stuck inside a living room with the entire family in pajamas, maniacally playing videogames for months on end is my idea of a nightmare.

The nonholiday commercials, however, are much better, offering more charming payoffs and funny details.

“Download that, amigo,” says the female Rambo in one spot, wearing what looks like black rubber in an action video. Her name is Rene Ramirez (cashing in on the hot Latina phenom) and as her crazed crowd of fans makes clear, she’s so popular in her modern, processed, cross-platform way that in addition to the movie and top single, she already has her own screensaver and mouse pad.

She’s the complete package—in her head. “Hey, lady,” a guard says to her, jostling her back to reality, where she, Rene Ramirez, an everyday noncelebrity shopper, stands in a crowd outside a newly opened store.

“Date Points” is also first-rate. It has a groovy, faux-’60s look. We follow an awkward adolescent couple (she’s a head taller) through their painful date. As with a videogame, there’s a point system in the corner of the frame, deducting from the total when the guy says something stupid, and adding to the jackpot when he’s on target.

The commercial is amusing on its own, but in the end, we discover these two crazy kids were in the Circuit City store, playing a videogame all along. Imagine that—an inspiration for Christmas without a fake snowflake in sight. Circuit City

Agency

TBWA\Chiat\Day

New York

Creative Directors

Patrick O’Neill

Dallas Itzen

Art Directors

Andi Bird

Greg Jensen

Paul Meany

Patrick O’Neill

Copywriters

Gail Barlow

Arun Nemali

Dalla Itzen

Agency Producer

Anthony Garetti

Director

Baker Smith/

Tate and Partners