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Creative Best Spots

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You know the review of new spots in July is going to be an "interesting" viewing experience when one of the first you see stars a Gabe Kotter type conducting taste tests in tighty whities that he's adorned with plastic fruit hanging all over them. It's a spot for Altoids Sours. When it began, I wanted to like it for all its oddball sensibilities, the casting, the styling, the dialogue, but it quickly slid into that "uh-no" zone when the taste tester, who has blindfolded his subject, asks, "Can you taste anything fruity?" and proceeds to dance behind him, gyrating and shaking his dangling fruit at him. I love the Sours, but this "Challenge" is one that I'd gladly bypass, and hope that by the next time I have a craving for them, that disturbing image doesn't derail my candy time.

The experience didn't get any better when Capital One's "Pillage People" stormed a stage to win a battle of the bands. The name gave us a chuckle, but we've had enough of their rehabilitation antics. And The Gap tried to get its groove back with a spot of dancers against its familiar white backdrop. To advertise its jeans, it added blue waves of animation to pump up the party. But it just feels like forced revelry.

Enough about the misses of the month. The best new effort is from a brand that we've come to love for its charming mascot, but the Geico gecko is absent in the insurance carrier's latest spots. Geico instead enlists the help of "celebrities" like Charo, Little Richard and Burt Bacharach to translate the experiences of real customers. Sitting next to the entertainers, they share car crash experiences while the celebs offer their unique translations. I'm bored of Charo's schtick, but Little Richard's "Look out!" warning and his "Help me! Help me!" reenactment are just laugh-out-loud funny, as is Bacarach's translation of being "hit in the rear." "Lizard licks his eyeball," croons the singer, as he helps explain a customer's Geico experience. Usually I miss the critter, but not here.

Another Best Spot is Levi's "Straight Walk Girl." The spot, for Skinny Jeans, follows a woman as she walks a straight line through all sorts of obstacles until she gets to her love, at the center of a traffic-jammed intersection. Her journey--which feels dreamy and intense in part because of her fixed, determined gaze and her straight line walk---is backed by a cover of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line." This version features female vocals, while a second spot, the perspective from the man's "walk," uses male. In each, there is no grand greeting when they meet; they stand face to face and lock stares. The spots feel right for the brand, and they are sexy and magnetic.

Finally, I usually hate spots hooked on family fights. But in a new Cingular spot, the "Battle" becomes interesting when a mother and daughter duke it out. We're so used to seeing this scene that it takes a few seconds to hear they are actually praising each other rather than hating each other ("You never hated me and you never will!). It's no fun hearing people shout at each other, but the aggression turns to attention when you hone in on the dialogue to figure out what's going on. Despite my aversion to teen drama, this one cut through. And that says a lot.