Isn't it rich? Are they a pair? We got the Hare and the Air at the Super Bowl once more this year. Send in the shoes. Where are the shoes? Don't bother, it's clear.
It does say something about our new video culture when it becomes almost impossible to keep up with a Bugs Bunny commercial. I refer, of course, to this year's Nike Super Bowl techno-extravaganza. It seamlessly weaves in Bugs, Michael Jordan, and the little-known Looney Tunes bad guy, Marvin Martian, all at about 100 miles an hour.
It's so speedy and so jam-packed with floating, exploding imagery and split-second jokes that I felt nearly senile watching it for the first time. (Is this what THE KIDS like?)
But change is in the air, as we saw at the inaugural. And fittingly enough at this Super Bowl, we got the final MTVing of advertising. Advertisers have borrowed (stolen) from MTV for years, adapting its more graphic, experimental visual imagery and ironic-raised-on-TV sensibility to suit their mainstream needs. Just as CNN rose to power during the Gulf War, MTV came into its own as the alternative network during the presidential election and inaugural. On MTV, speed equals youth and slow equals old.
The sheer speed of the Nike spot works on several levels: It makes the viewer suspend disbelief about Michael Jordan hangin' out with Bugs in the first place, since you have to use all of your brain cells and energy to figure out what's going on. This is the cel sell, the new virtual unreality. You're not even aware that you're being sold because you're so loaded up with visual stimuli, rapidness of movement and smart inside jokes that you just want to watch.
We find our heroes on Mars (deep shoe cyber-space), where Marvin has snatched all the Air Jordans. Aerospace Jordan and Bugs arrive and try to get them back. After several endorser jokes, Jordan is presented with a cartoon check for a 'bazillian simoleons' from Nike.
Altogether, it's like running on a treadmill while listening to Nirvana on earphones and watching Ren & Stimpy.
Wieden & Kennedy isn't alone in presenting a freshness of approach to classic ad problems. BBDO (Pepsi) and Chiat/Day, N.Y. (Reebok) also managed to pull it off. Pepsi's new '90s sensibility seems to translate into 'Be Young, Wear Grunge, Drink Pepsi.'
My favorite Pepsi spot is 'That's Life,' which tracks a Doogie Howser-like kid through his whole future, up to the retirement move to Florida, where he's buying white shoes and complaining about the government full-time. Joe Pytka's directorial insights are perfect. That's also the case for the hilarious slowness of the wedding scene and the dead-on cheesiness ('70s beige sets, bad sound) of the two fake cable show openers.
'Smiling,' the spot that sets the tone for the new Pepsi campaign, intercuts a professor type talking about '90s moderation with shots of kids inhaling pizza and slam-dancing on a beach. But the juxtaposition is too obvious. It would have been more clever, as first planned, to use a voiceover and not the guy. But his delivery of the final line - 'A lot of research went into this' - is great.
In this new embrace of youth and speed, Pepsi seems to have retired 'Gotta Have It' for something lighter, less crude and more human. Similarly, Reebok has also lost the creepily aggressive 'Life's short, play hard' for the far more clever 'No slogans' ending of its 'Planet Reebok' spot. With this commercial, Reebok joins the already crowded Benetton nation of advertisers. Still, it's a clever synthesis and refinement of previous Reebok campaigns (the 'No winners, no losers' seemed to apply to the saga of Dan and Dave.) And this newer sensibility is much more inclusive - the parts about women especially come off better.
Meanwhile, we're watching as fast as we can.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)