Guest Critic

wanted to do something I haven’t seen done in this space.

Review all 157 spots I was sent.



Agency. Clients. Clients’ competitors. People I know.

Plus, the important one:

Who cares what I think?

Is anyone reading this hoping for a remedial course in TV advertising creation and production?



There were three spots I loved.

Criticism sours, praise serves.

Let me praise.

First, the United Airlines “Dragon” spot.

It’s hard enough to do good work. How the heck does an agency do good work for a client barely out of bankruptcy?

(But let’s not account for degree of difficulty, the audience doesn’t.)

Business travel, as most of you reading this will sing along with me, sucks.

The seats suck.

Airports suck.

Crowds suck.

Turbulence sucks.

The Poet Laureate of the United States, Ted Kooser, doesn’t fly.

He says it’s like being squeezed through a metal tube from one town to another.

That’s exactly what flying feels like to me.

The “Dragon” spot didn’t waste time spelling out my problem for me. Instead, it picked me up and hugged me.

It knew where I was and met my head and heart with an alternative view of my problem:

I am a knight, not just a paycheck-loving schlump.

I journey by mystical flying creature to a meeting of brave knights.

We are attacked by fire-breathing dragons.

My ingenuity, decisive action, precise targeting and bravery defeat the monsters.

After being feted by the court of the far-off land, I return to the safety of the home I left that morning with a trophy for the son I’ve protected.


When you put it that way, I feel better about that metal tube thing.

Middle seat, last row?

I can take it.

United gave me a gift.

And I loved a Liquid-Plumr spot.

A man and woman, young, beautiful, sitting at a fancy restaurant, speaking love—it’s French—are interrupted in the middle of je suis une tres …. by a dog-poop-size clump of god-knows-what falling onto the table between their about-to-kiss faces.

You swear the woman is going to puke.


Cut (upwards) to a man and woman in a bathroom recoiling from just having used a new Liquid-Plumr containing some kind of unexpected explosive power on a clogged sink to great effect.

“Where do you think the clog went?” she wonders.

It’s quick, it’s tight, it chews exactly what it bites off.

Finally, I loved the FedEx cavemen spot.

A prehistoric man ties a package to a pterosaur he’s trained to carry messages, but some big dino comes in just after takeoff and breakfasts on the winged lizard. Our hero gets fired for not using FedEx before it’s been invented.

Just for bravery, I’d give points to anyone who casts a spot with Neanderthals after Geico blew up the genre with the “I’ll have the duck with mango salsa” line.

They’ve been doing the “Next time use FedEx” campaign for 100 years, but this one is as whacked-out an idea and as perfectly shot and acted as if it were their first.

Plenty of people, watching the same 157 spots I did, would argue there isn’t much difference between what I loved and what I didn’t.

I agree.

What separates work anyone can do from work almost no one can is the weight of the moon’s shadow.