By Nat Whitten
JUST AS THERE ARE ALLEGEDLY
only seven plot devices that are the backbone of every novel, play or film, so too can commercials be placed in somewhat tidy categories. Watching about 50 spots from Adweek's March screening reel reinforced that fact to me. So, rather than pick my six favorite spots without regard to the method behind their madness, I've chosen one commercial from each category, labeled below.
The 'Take a Competitor's Strength and Turn It Into a Weakness' Assault. There isn't a man, woman or child alive who doesn't love the Nissan 'Toys' spot. Acura, knowing this, decided to make a superiority claim about its brand while having a real Acura automobile run over the Nissan toy car. Crushing a cute little toy couple in a cute little toy car could be considered demonic and evil, but if you're going to go that route, this is a memorable way to do it.
The 'Somewhat Effective Use of Celebrity' Shill. Hiring Tom Jones to talk about ladies' undergarments is an inspired choice when you consider how many bras and panties the man's had thrown at him through the years. So Victoria's Secret (above, left) gets the nod here, even though its use of models and dialogue was a little on the, shall we say, 'flimsy' side.
The 'We Know It's Advertising and You Could Give a Damn' Approach. Realizing that the opening of another Target store may not be the type of news that everyone would get all hot and bothered about, this acerbic commercial uses real New Yorkers (at least I think they were real) and says to them, 'We know that you don't really care about this opening, but we have to tell you about it anyway.' Few spots come across as honestly as this one does.
The 'How Did They Get That Past the Client' Campaign. By now, everyone's seen the 'Miller Time' ads for Miller Lite. And by now, everyone has an opinion, pro or con. The one I just saw has an old guy at the local watering hole trying to impress a much younger female by trying to catch beer nuts in his dentures. Does it sell beer? Is it just for guys named Dick? Who knows, but it does provide a few moments of odd viewing pleasure.
The 'Pretty Cool Ad From a Big Corporation' Spot. This one for Kodak is a neat story about how a kid with a FunSaver camera gets her own art gallery show when some Upper East Side snob sees her snapshots. It makes fun of pop culture while enticing viewers to get out and make some art of their own.
The 'OK, What Great Thing Has Wieden & Kennedy Done This Month' Acknowledgment. As usual, Adweek's reel contained several spots for ESPN and Nike, and all of them were good. My favorite was a Nike campaign called 'Support Group' (above, right), which has former Saturday Night Live comedienne Jan Hooks leading a recovery group for people who are too fast, like Gail Devers and Michael Johnson. It's a clever way to showcase Nike's latest breakthrough in running shoes.
The only category I've not chosen a spot from is the 'Tug on Their Heartstrings Until They Bleed' Epic, since these rarely work despite their extravagant budgets. At least, they don't work for me.
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