Zombie Enlivens Starburst Spot

There’s something inherently funny about a zombie riding a city bus. For starters, it’s a slowly dying mode of public transportation. Plus, there’s a whole lot to like about this particular harried commuter zombie. The reanimated creature is up early and seems to be a good ghoul: he’s got the tie loosened underneath his rubble-covered suit, and he’s trying to read The Wall Street Journal with his hideously scary white button eyes.

But the big surprise in this killer spot from TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, is the dude’s speaking voice: what he says is not only unexpected, but he’s also got a crisp, remarkably smooth delivery. He’s so smooth, in fact, that it’s the dawn of the deadpan.

“Boring!” he interjects, as a couple of seats in front of him sits the Starburst contradictions guy. A Scottish/Korean character (first introduced last year), in his signature kilt, tam and carrying bagpipes, he goes on and on, in his deep brogue, to a Scottish/Korean, bagpipe-carrying kid about the qualities inherent in the candy. “It’s a solid,” he says, “yet juicy like a liquid.” Before the kilt-man can explain once again that it’s a “contradiction,” Dead Man is all over him.

“Living dead. That’s a contradiction!” he says, and the guy has a point. “You are boring me to death! And I am already dead! You are boring me back to death!” he says.

What a brilliant, built-in way to critique the campaign while bringing attention to it. The format allows the Scot to state the product attributes and repeat the brand name endlessly (although with the Sean Connery brogue, it sounds like “Starbucks.”) And zombie-man reacts the way a typical consumer would when presented with such endless repetition.

This is far and away the best spot to come out of the juicy-solid “Contradictions” campaign. It was always amusing, but also slightly off. For example, while the Scottish-Korean thing is funny, it’s not really a contradiction; it’s more of an oddball combination. In our increasingly intermarrying, Benetton global world, the half and half thing is actually fairly commonplace (although the guy’s makeup and outfit are funny.)

Previous spots never achieved this zomboid perfection — a skinny sumo skateboarder is an interesting sight gag, but a bit overworked. And ditto the idea of the “Screaming Mime.”  I found his screaming terribly forced — and mimes are scary to begin with, far more scary than your average zombie.

So I would give this spot a solid A. The writing, pacing, production and direction are all delightful and lively; and it reinvigorates the Scottish-Korean theme while offering a juicy role to the zombie. In his present incarnation, he’s the most interesting bus-riding zombie in the world. Stay thirsty, my friend.