Creative: Critique – Manly Things

What Do Men Want? Khakis And Sports.
Haggar Credits
Agency: GSD&M/Austin, Texas
Creative Directors: Brent Ladd, Brian Brooker
Copywriter: Adam Butler
Art Director: Marty Butler
Agency Producer: Kate Talbot
Director: David Denneen/Atherton Credits
Agency: Cliff Freeman and Partners/New York
Creative Director: Eric Silver
Art Director: Kilpatrick Anderson
Copywriter: Kevin Roddy
Agency producer: Nick Felder
Director: Rocky Morton/MJZ

What can you say about khakis, in this age of anomalies for men? That they are pants? That they are manly? That they are pleated, full-seated? Gap, Dockers, et al., has already covered the territory. Pelvi-cam? Been there. Talk of money and/or hair loss? Done that. Hyper-
caffeinated slackers meeting cute? Taken.
In its last image go-round, Haggar (“Stuff you can wear”‘) was relegated to the dumper, literally, in a TV spot in which your average khaki-wearing white man (voiceover by John Goodman) lumbered down his front porch steps in his pajamas to get the morning paper. “I don’t have time to think about what I wear. I have important guy things to do,” the announcer says. With that, future khaki man heads back inside, carries his sports page into the bathroom and closes the door. Ba-boom. Women find this pride in bowl-time ritual a true gross-out; the fact this was the only remaining common denominator in the ad medium’s exploration of men was a bit sad.
Haggar is an old American brand founded in 1926. The double diamonds of the Haggar logo suggests Rat-Pack/martini era, but that, too, is played out.
But in the first commercial for its Black Label (top of the line), Haggar has fixed on a fresh print of a Hollywood idea: Meet ’30s guy. He has two-tone shoes, a magnetic screen presence, a Matt Drudge-like fedora, and a penchant for talking in the patrician accented yet colloquial tones of old Gary Cooper movies. (“Aces!”) The actor, Ron Matthews, a New York theater type who resembles Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient, not only provides a swell delivery but can also dance.
What makes ’30s guy stand out (not his modern double-pleated khaki pants or even the ’39 Cadillac with air bags he drives) is tone. While he lives in a carousel of color, he has a tendency to glow in black-and-white. At the spot’s end, when he’s cuttin’ the rug in a club, wowing everyone with his ability to swing, an attractive woman says, “I’d like to buy the guy in black-and-white a drink!”
This juxtaposition of black-and-white with color is not new in advertising nor in movies. But there is a new digital software application used here. It’s the same technology seen in the movie Pleasantville, and the allegory is the same: ’30s guy stays uncorrupted–if he stays in black-and-white.
The period touches are smashing, and our khakified hero even walks in a jaunty, ’30s guy way. Obviously, we have romanticized that period, despite the Depression and the dicey, pre-World War II time. But that’s what movies are made for, toots. The tagline, “cool comes around” is kinda swell, too. I’d say it has legs.
Speaking of men and sports: TV sports culture is relatively new, and as with all closed societies with maniacally devoted followers, it has its own rituals and language. Perhaps that’s why it’s so easy to define and parody, and why advertising for TV sports is usually so funny.
Unlike the sometimes deadly (to me, anyway) programming on ESPN, the commercials promoting ESPN are inspired. So are the spots for Fox Sports, although Fox, with its viewer-friendly technological innovations like catcher-cam for baseball and the glowing puck for hockey, sure gives an agency fella a lot to work with.
Cliff Freeman and Partners has created hilariously knowing, dark, edgy, funny work for Fox Sports all along. And now, in the afterglow of that hockey puck, and with the kind of head-turning, heart-rending synergism that makes Rupert Murdoch’s empire a true global monster, Fox Sports is promoting its Web site,, with spots on its own Fox stations.
These are the anti-PSAs, perfectly aping all the timing, camera angles and sensitive voiceovers we associate with public-interest causes that get donated airtime. What makes these spots really amazing is that even after showing meanness (they dare to be cruel), they never make the joke obvious.
Take “Feet” for example. It opens on a severe close-up of toes, a man diapering a baby–even fastening the big, dangerous old-fashioned diaper pin–with his bare feet. “These feet belong to Roger Camp,” the announcer tells us, “an extraordinary man who overcame a tremendous challenge.”
It turns out that his amazing abilities weren’t developed because he is missing his hands or arms, but because he refuses to “miss a second of Fox” (The feet actually belong to another man, who is armless and also plays fantastic blues guitar.) The spot closes with the logo and the phrase, “making a difference.”
The second spot opens on an old guy barely making his way with a walker through his kitchen. There’s an oxygen tank and other equipment of the ill piled on the side. Painfully slow and shaking as though he has Parkinson’s, he’s heading toward a cabinet to take down a jar of peaches.
“This man is 98 years old,”the announcer tells us. “Life is not so easy any more. But every day, he learns the importance of being independent, thanks to this man, Nick Felder. Nick ignores him and spends all day on”
The cybernumbed one merely sighs at the nerve of the old guy for interrupting–just because he’s spilled an entire jar of peaches on the floor. Is there anything more vomitous looking than spilled peaches? We hear the old guy’s muffled cries, “Nick, Nick!” The kid just sits there. He’s consumed with more important work–manipulating the mouse.
Here’s a new category: the few, the proud, the maniacs, the sports nuts who leave no insensitivity unturned. And to boot up, they all wear khakis.