Whatever happened to all of the great Olympics commercials? Every four years a new batch shows up. Some made you laugh, some made you proud and some tugged at your heartstrings and brought a tear to your eye. Well, I guess times have changed because this month's Best Spots, the Olympics month, includes only one Olympics sponsorship ad. It's for Allstate, and I think it's pretty good, but not great, which is what I think of most of the spots on this month's reel.
There are a few I like a lot, though, and one I don't at all. Here goes:
California Milk Processor Board I love this spot. It's hard to keep a great campaign great, but this ad and the "Birthday" spot last year do just that. The Pillsbury Doughboy, that irrepressibly cheery Amer-ican advertising icon, pops up on a Russian family's bleak dinner table, as they slog through their gruel, and squeals, "How about some fresh-baked cookies?" Incred-ibly, they recognize him and dance the dance of freedom and delight as they devour the cookies. Alas, they've got no milk, the party's over and they are plunged back into despair. I particularly like the heartbroken look on the doughboy's face at the end; that's quite a performance by the old pro.
USA Today This is a funny spot. I certainly didn't know where this was going, but how can you not watch one of everyone's worst travel nightmares—getting locked out of a hotel room naked. The guy covers up with the ubiquitous USA Today. But the nation's most widely circulated, I guess, newspaper is just too interesting; you've got to read it no matter what. This was a fresh take on a simple idea—USA Today is never dull, that's why so many people read it.
Hewlett-Packard There were two good spots this month about taking pictures. One by us for Kodak, which I'm not supposed to comment on, and one for Hewlett-Packard, which I will. Taking pictures is a simple enough idea, but this Hewlett-Packard spot is done in such an original, elegant and joyous way that it really does celebrate that point. I've never seen this visual trick before, which is also true of the Hewlett-Packard spot that did so well in all the shows this year. I love the music, The Kinks; it's a perfect track. Everything about this spot is intriguing; it's just plain cool.
Gap For the past few years, I think The Gap has done some of the best commercials using celebrities. They all had a simple honesty about them. They were always fresh and fun, always surprising and cool, and always in service of the brand. Not true of this one, in my opinion. I don't buy it as a music video. It feels slick and self-conscious—I hate the use of the sticks—it's more about Sarah Jessica Parker and Lenny Kravitz than The Gap. It just feels indulgent, and that's too bad.