Best Spots: Visitor’s View

Wow! as you know, January is always the month with a lot of great spots. But instead of writing a puff piece about all the wonderful work of winter, I want to examine some inconsistencies from some of the best in the business and thank them for showing us that we’re only human, after all.
First up, Pepsi. Without question, a Hall of Fame client with a staggering amount of work from BBDO for more than 20 years. And the “Goose” spot is another grand slam, perfect in every detail (above, left). You’ve got to love a hot-shot sky surfer getting competition from this flat-footed (flat-winged?) friend. After the aerial acrobatics comes the acknowledgment of a job well done from the X-sport fanatic with a shared Pepsi, the goose feather wave and the gaggle of geese logo. Just lovely. Emotionally endearing and very cool at the same time.
Then there’s the flip side. The “Gnat” singing “Brown Sugar.” It has some uncharacteristic flaws. First, the spot feels old and dated, very expected and ordinary from a client we’ve come to expect the unexpected. “Gnat” Jagger is old news, this is not the choice of “Generation NeXt.” Secondly, I don’t want to be reminded that my drink is just “brown sugar.” What’s next, “Beef. It’s dead cow”? Yeah, Pepsi is brown sugar, but that’s not why people drink it. In fact, it’s the reason many people don’t, turning to diet colas, water, teas, milk, fruit drinks, etc. Lastly, the production is kind of irritating. The gnat sounds like “Froggy.” I’m glad he gets squashed. I know the spot is supposed to introduce the new can, but remember the ad from six or seven years ago with the two kids checking out what we thought was Cindy Crawford, but turned out to be the can? Terrific. One last thing while we’re talking about BBDO. While “Goose” is great and probably cost a million bucks, you’ve got to love an agency that turns in a Super Bowl spot as dead-on and beautifully simple as the FedEx ad. It featured the color bars because the real spot didn’t make it to the network on time. Maybe it cost $1,000? But it’s easily one of the most powerful spots of the month.
Now, Nike. Again, a Hall of Fame client and agency. But what’s up with “I can” (above, right)? It’s just the empowering version of “Just do it”: “I can stand up to my father.” (Stand up to your father. Just do it.) They’re virtually indistinguishable. And maybe that’s the objective. But the fact of the matter remains that “I can” is not enough of an evolution for a company that has a core value that stands for evolution (if not revolution) more than any other brand in the last three decades. Granted their spots feel like a duplicate of the insightful and touching “If you let me play” work, but I’m sorry, it’s just a step sideways-and that feels like a step down.
It’s never easy being critical. And maybe this means I’ll never work at BBDO or Wieden & Kennedy. But if you’re going to criticize work, I guess it’s best to go with agencies and clients that have so much good stuff that my opinion is a passing fancy. Which it is.

Rodney Underwood is senior partner and creative director at Bozell Worldwide in New York. His accounts include Lycos, Bonita, Caterpillar Footwear and Carlsberg Beer.