I was on the train a few weeks ago in a car plastered with ads from Ogilvy & Mather's American Express "My Life" campaign, the one where celebs including Martin Scorsese and Ellen DeGeneres share their personal stories with the aid of fill in the blanks. I was staring at nothing in particular when I focused in on DeGeneres'. "My childhood ambition," read one of the lines. "To work with animals." Hey, I thought, just like me. It made me smile to learn she and I shared a childhood dream, even if it is a common one. So I was particularly pleased to see her literally working with animals in her new TV commercial for AmEx. Penguin "executives" march through the office, a turtle makes a coffee run, a giraffe changes a lightbulb on the set and a raccoon puts (too much) makeup on her. It's another unexpected and charming personal portrait in a series that continues to impress.
Arnold and Crispin Porter + Bogusky continue their anti-smoking Truth campaign, which often feels more like performance pieces caught on film than advertising. The latest, "Singing Cowboy," is no exception. In this spot, a cowboy on horseback rides into New York City's Herald Square and joins his guitar-playing buddy in a campfire song. "You don't always die from tobacco," he sings in the robotic monotone coming from the voice box in his throat. Sometimes, he sings, "you lose a lung" or they "snip out your tongue." The camera closes in on the startled and then uncomfortable-looking faces in the crowd as they digest and react to the weighty reality of the message.
Now back to much, much lighter fare. Whimsical, :15 Claymation spots for Ben & Jerry's from Amalgamated spotlight the brand's uniquely named flavors. In "Chubby Hubby," a woman wakes up in the middle of the night to find her husband, barely clothed in sumo attire, face first in the refrigerator. "Should you be eating this late," she asks, to which he responds, "What? It's my job." It concludes with a quick cut to the product as the voiceover gives a description of the ice cream's main ingredients. Another, advertising "Phish Food," shows a man going for a swim in shark-infested waters. It's nice, imaginative play befitting the bright Ben & Jerry's spirit.
And finally I have to give kudos to our guest columnist and his shop, The Martin Agency, for making a caveman one of the most interesting ad characters of late. In the latest spot in Geico's "I get no respect" caveman chronicles, the frustrated Cro-Magnon is doing a live news interview about the "So easy a caveman can do it" controversy. "How can it be offensive if it's true?" asks the newsman. "First of all, I'm not 100 percent in love with your tone right now," he snaps back, reminding the interviewer that cavemen invented the wheel, discovered fire and laid "the foundation for all mankind. Sorry couldn't get you that sooner." But no one pays attention to the poor guy. Another guest quips, "Sounds like someone woke up on the wrong side of the rock." Don't know how long the joke can run, but I know I'm still laughing.