Mistaken Identity

Did winning a gold Lion at Cannes for his Jeep work corrupt Gary Topolewski to the point where, like a junkie chasing his fix, he now has to enter student ad con tests and crush the compe tition like the bugs they are?

Well, no. But you’d be excused for thinking so. That’s because another Gary Topolewski, this one a Michigan high school senior, recently won an ad contest sponsored by McCann-Erickson in Troy—the same town where Gary the ad guy works at D’Arcy.

Both Garys are soft-spoken, humble and droll. One has a beard; the other doesn’t. One takes his kid to hockey practice each morning while the other is still sleeping. One gets big bucks; the other gets $3,000 from McCann to try to become the next Steven Spielberg.

As part of McCann’s Courageous Persuaders program, Gary’s 30-second anti-drunk driving spot will be made into a commercial to air in Michigan. His creative instincts were basic: “I decided to do a couple of shots of a car to put the text on so it wouldn’t be boring. I put a funky little font on it and did a voiceover.” Of the ad’s drunk-driving statistics, the tagline says, “Let’s get these down to zero.”

Younger Gary learned of elder Gary only recently, in an article about the famous “Hockeytown” tag the latter created for the Red Wings while at Bozell in the mid-’90s. “Maybe someone will get confused and send a check or two my way,” says younger Gary.

Elder Gary was shocked at the coincidence. “It’s wild,” he says. “Maybe I should use a lowercase ‘t’ to differentiate myself.”