Fashion advertisers have nerve, if nothing else. They sell their wares as talismans of individuality, hoping no one will notice it's mass-produced, one-size-fits-all individuality. Often, it works: You can't walk through town without seeing scads of people clad in one of several familiar uniforms. The charm of this contrarian ad is that it sheds all pretense the client's jeans will mark you as unique. These inductees will don Nautica jeans as part of their regulation gear. Thus, the ad comes across as a wry sendup of the regimentation fashion imposes. The stenciled typography sustains the army-issue theme. By tacitly conceding its jeans won't make you a distinctive individual, the ad leaves open the flattering possibility that you're already one of those. You don't need jeans to make you special; you just need them to cover your underwear. In its odd way, that's an ingratiating message.
Toth Brand Imaging, New York and
Nautica, New York
Pity the poor bureaucrats at the Social Security Administration. Everybody thinks they're running a pyramid scheme, one doomed to collapse as soon as boomers stop paying and start collecting. As such, Social Security is a useful villain in a teaser ad that aims to jar people out of their improvident ways. (The client, as later ads will make clear, is a Web site offering advice on investing in mutual funds.) We wouldn't enjoy being told we're fools if we haven't been saving. But we'll accept some prodding if it's couched in terms of an attack on Social Security for letting us down. This way, the ad gets the considerable benefit of scare tactics without inviting the antipathy such tactics can provoke. It's all Social Security's fault, and the 401k Forum is here to help bail us out. That's a smart way for the client to introduce itself.
SCHWINN EXERCISE GEAR
Would you rather buy exercise equipment from a company that has a well-rounded view of life or from a company that thinks exercise is life? This ad proceeds as if we'd pick Option A, and my hunch is that it's mistaken. "Anyone who exercises for the sake of exercise might have their priorities a little out of whack," begins the copy. "We like to think people do it to make life better. To get in on the fun stuff." That's a thoroughly reasonable point of view. Still, lots of us will feel we'd get better gear from people who think of nothing but exercise--just as we buy wine or cars or computers from people who think each of those is the most important thing on earth. What we have here, in short, may be a case study in the limitations of a sensible, likable sales pitch. In shunning the viewpoint of the obsessive gym-rat, the ad will also excite the suspicions of readers who say to themselves, "Schwinn is a bicycle company, not an exercise-gear company."
Reece and Co.,
Tom Van Ness
There's a simple reason why Audi's new spots are more interesting than most automotive ads: They don't talk about cars. Instead, they talk about life. There's the aging boomer who says, "I'm not going to become one of those old men who sit in lawn chairs on driveways and regret adventures I never took." And the young woman who'll speak her mind and "whistle at all the cute boys in their pickups." Audi's name is left unspoken. Rather, visuals show the car as an indispensable part of these lives. Annotated road signs (Stop Postponing Life, Do Not Pass Joy) give the moral. It's a catchy way of giving an identity to a brand that needs one. But it works only if the characters are appealing. Some are--especially the young owner of an old dog. "In my car, my dog is no longer fat and slow. He is a god. A fast, beautiful, drooling god." One is less taken with the guy who intones, "One life isn't enough. I need two, maybe three, for all I want to do." We expect car ads to say banal things about cars. When they say banal things about Life with a capital L, we won't be so forgiving.
McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C.
Audi of America, Auburn Hills, Mich.
Exec. Creative Director
Bruce Dowad & Assocs., Los Angeles