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AirTran "Gamer"

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This commercial reflects thinking so far outside the box that you may wonder whether there even is a box. Created by Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago and aimed at college students, its task is to promote an AirTran Airways contest in which 18-22-year-olds can win free air travel until they hit age 23. The obvious approach would be to show an eager college kid. This spot instead features a red-faced old coot who's manically thumbing the controls of a video game while shouting faux-hipster lingo at an unseen opponent--all in the service, apparently, of trying to pass as a college student who'd be eligible for the contest. An onscreen tagline explains his behavior, sort of, by noting that "Everyone will want to be college age." Some viewers will be offended on behalf of old folks, on the grounds that he spot is cruelly mocking our beloved senior citizens. However, the spot merits a not-guilty verdict on that charge. There's no shortage of mockery, but it's directed at the much narrower (and more deserving) target of old folks who try to act like young folks. The drawback to the spot, rather, is that it just isn't very pleasant to watch a deranged old man shouting and writhing like this. Granted, college students have a hearty appetite for weirdness, but this spot seems a bit too weird for its own good. On the other hand, AirTran wants to draw viewers to a Web site where they can enter the contest, so the spectacle of this raging geezer could prompt them to turn off the TV (quickly!) and turn on their computers.--Mark Dolliver