Barbara Lippert's Critique | Adweek Barbara Lippert's Critique | Adweek
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Barbara Lippert's Critique

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Spread-eagled on chairs and rotating over flames while eating bull testicles! Oh, wait, I'm conflating TV extravaganzas. Said bunnies will be contestants on a special cleavage edition of Fear Factor, NBC's Super Bowl-halftime counterprogramming move. The chairs-over-flames stuff belongs to a different show, Fox's The Chamber. But what a combo they would make.

As for the Big Game itself and the ad-o-rama surrounding it, no Roman Coliseum-style elements are necessary. I think viewers will be happy if the thing goes off without a hitch and the spots are half as beguiling as the E*Trade chimp.

Levi's is certainly in tune with the cautious times. What better way to cop some extra publicity, and at the same time allay blame or responsibility, than by having we the people decide which spot runs in the second quarter? Last year's melancholy Super Bowl entry (a sick boy receives a pair of "donor" jeans) was an edgy near-disaster; this year the company is hedging its bets.

Democracy spoke via Supervote, a Web microsite done in conjunction with Yahoo! that let surfers choose among three commercials—two never before seen and one a crowd pleaser that's run for the past few months. (The beleaguered jeansmaker actually parted ways with TBWA\Chiat\Day this month, consolidating the business with Bartle Bogle Hegarty.)

At press time, "Crazy Legs" was slightly ahead (voting ended on Sunday), and it's the clear winner of the bunch. Funny, upbeat and visually magnetic, it's all the things that last year's bleak donor story was not. Also, with its eye-popping, laugh-out-loud special effects, it's the kind of spot that does well with screaming drunk people choking on pretzels.

For starters, the Mexico City location is intensely cool, with its wide, sun-bleached streets and oddly colored Volkswagen bugs from the '60s. Director Spike Jonze has an unerring eye, following a Hispanic guy wearing headphones (the music we hear is by Control Machete, a Mexican hip-hop band), a white T-shirt and baggy jeans. He lopes along until his legs go all Gumby rubbery, doing wild, many-jointed moves that are completely separate from the rest of his body (one person's torso and another guy's legs were digitally combined). It's diverse in a completely effortless way. It works.

That said, if the second spot is there to get "the women's vote," it could not be more wrongheaded. One of the big problems with the artfully named "Up and Down" is that the women appear to be beheaded, and all we see is a bunch of disembodied crotches, which is always fun. The point is that various women are trying on the same pair of SuperLow Stretch jeans (though the bodies seem to vary in size). There's something really gross about the way they take off and then pass along the same pair of jeans—like some teen male fantasy out of Porky's. This is a turnaround for dungarees, from cinema derrière to Delta of Jeanus. But so far, even the teen boys who are voting prefer the other two.

The third spot, "Bull," reverses the scene in Urban Cowboy with Debra Winger atop the mechan ical thing, which was all about sex. Here, our Levi's guy wimpily falls off within seconds—but he's still gracious enough to wave to the crowd. It's delightful and unexpected, but it's been out for a while, so "Crazy Legs" seems like the more exciting Super Bowl choice.

The Internet-voting idea isn't a novel one, but it ups the exposure for Levi's single-spot buy. Regardless of the outcome, this is one of the few cases where buying the election really works.