Oscar commercials have to adhere to a different standard than the low-brow, frat-boy humor of the Super Bowl. And with the bar set so high, it’s easier to fail—it’s as though every creative director of a commercial running on the Oscars is excruciatingly aware that Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg might be watching. As an advertiser, one way to get around this is to simply hand over the task to one of their peers, which is what American Express did with one of its Oscar ads—a creepy two-minute film from M. Night Shyamalan. Set in a brasserie, it’s unsettling from the first frame, and gets stranger as a series of disturbing vignettes unfold. A waitress drops a wine glass, a man starts to choke while his wife looks on impassively, an unattended baby carriage rolls by on its own power—as Shyamalan, seated alone at a table, observes. We’re never sure what these “My Life. My Card.” spots are exactly supposed to do in terms of making you want to use American Express, but this commercial at least, had us sucked in from the very beginning.
—Posted by Catharine P. Taylor