Loco AmEx Promo Takes Conan to India


By far, the best promo showed Conan driving an exploding Dodge Dart off a cliff, a metaphor almost too apt (and clever) for its own good. The whole amazing super-stunt, backed by an orchestra in the desert, ended with O'Brien emerging from the blown-out wreck, dusting himself off, swatting away some errant fire from his sleeve, and saying, "Well, that was expensive!"

Speaking of expensive, the Coco goes to India spot, by Ogilvy & Mather for American Express, blows away all that came before it. Of course, given the budget ($1 million or so to Mr. Coco, for starters) and the director (Bryan Buckley) it's like comparing having an old-time, well-paying job with lavish benefits to working for free on the Internet.

I imagine most of us are ready to go back to the former anytime. And what a visual treat it is. We see Conan traveling across Japuir, on among other conveyances, an elephant. And he really exercises his mock-heroic, Moses-like acting chops. Not only is it gorgeous to watch (with those deeply saturated colors, it seems hard to take a bad shot), but there's a real story with a payoff. We see our sad Funny Man bargaining in Hindi with the locals over spools of silk thread; once he is satisfied, he spins his own cloth, weaves it on a loom, stomps on berries to make his own red dye—it gets very Rumpelstiltskin-esque. The Survivor music underscoring his movement is funny, but also moving and poignant. I actually had no idea where it was going until the dye part.

Cut to the moment before the semi-starched, suited-up Conan steps out to his new show, standing before his hand-loomed, hand-dyed, hand-hung fabulous red silk stage curtain. "If you're really serious about entertainment, every detail counts," says the announcer, over the AmEx logo.

There's no real link to the American Express brand except all the great spots using comics and talk show hosts that came before it. That's pretty powerful.

This might be my favorite AmEx spot of all, and the timing, breaking the night of the premiere, is impeccable. You are no longer a stranger in a strange land: welcome home, Conan. May your stay be full of real, high-end advertising.