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Online Exclusive: Countdown to the Big Game, Continued

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Honda Ridgeline, RPA in Los Angeles

To give the launch of Honda's first pickup truck a muscular edge, two introductory spots for the Ridgeline running on the Super Bowl have to do some heavy lifting.

"It was straight-forward, meat-and-potatoes creative, no fooling around," says Bill Hagelstein, evp and COO at Honda's agency RPA in Santa Monica, Calif. "We haven't been afforded the luxury of 25 seconds with frogs or monkeys to make the USA Today laugh meter move."

The creative brief hung on a three-point hitch, according to Honda's senior manager of national advertising, Tom Peyton. "Honda is now in the truck business; this is a tough truck; and it's a truck with a lot of innovation."

Expect tropical beauty, however, some macho hauling, and cross-promoting cargo. Both spots were directed by Tool's Erich Joiner in Hawaii, who took advantage of Hawaii's picturesque "volcanic and earthen" terrain, including the Parker Ranch's cinder mine and quarry. "We didn't go over there for it to look like Hawaii, but for it to look like anywhere," says Gary Paticoff, svp and executive producer, whose Super Bowl spots include the 1996 Honda CRV commercial in which the car came alive in the pages of USA Today, the last time Honda used the Super Bowl for a launch.

The first-quarter spot, "Peaks," introduces the Ridgeline, referring to the line formed by the peaks of a mountain range. "The first spot's a bold statement on why the name makes sense," says David Smith, svp and creative director. "It's the next level of pickup truck, and the Ridgeline is at the top. This led to a visually interesting way to play off the new name." Computer-generated imagery intermixes with plate photography, but Paticoff says the final effect is more realistic than fantastic.

Smith says it was vitally important that Honda "credential-ize itself, right out of the gate" as having a serious truck. "If you go too quickly to the innovation, you can too easily bypass the toughness and ruggedness."

The second spot, "Buckles," will run in the third quarter and highlights one Ridgeline innovation, the in-bed trunk that Peyton calls a first-in-the-industry innovation.

At one point, the running footage will show the Ridgeline hauling Honda generators and motorbikes, Peyton says. Both spots end with copy that drives prospects to Honda's Web site, developed by RPA's interactive division.

The game spots comprise the first two of three spots of the campaign for the truck launching officially in March. The creative team expected no tagline to be associated with the vehicle in the ads. "We hope the first spot will have people saying 'Wow, Honda has a truck' and the second will have them saying, 'Honda not only has a truck, it's a truck with unique functionality,'" says Peyton.

— Gregory Solman

McIlhenny Co.'s Tabasco, DDB in Dallas

It may be hard for DDB's Dallas office to top the 1998 Tabasco spot "Mosquito," but the creatives are promising similar impact with this year's Super Bowl spot, called "Tan Lines."

McIlhenny Co.'s first Super Bowl appearance in seven years, the new spot makes an imaginative leap from suntan lotion to hot sauce. It depicts a sunbathing woman who mixes Tabasco with her lotion, in an effort to portray the product as "a hot brand in a cool environment," says managing director Janet Bustin.

Like "Mosquito," the "Tan Lines" spot is short on words. "Mosquito," which aired in spot markets during the 1997 Super Bowl and nationally in 1998, showed a man sitting on his porch eating pizza. As he sprinkles Tabasco sauce on his pie, a mosquito buzzes around, then lands on him and begins to draw blood. Just as the mosquito flies away, it explodes. "The brand imagery exceeds words," says Bustin.

DDB got the new Tabasco assignment last summer and began brainstorming with the expectation that the spot would run during the Super Bowl, Bustin says.

The agency got a break in terms of the production's timing. The spot, directed by Kein Rose, with Craig Cooper as executive creative director, was shot outdoors in Southern California in mid-December. Shortly after the shoot, California was inundated with thunderstorms and mudslides.

The spot will air early in the third quarter of the Super Bowl. After the game, the spot will run extensively on major cable channels throughout 2005. DDB also expects to follow the commercial with a print campaign.

—Richard Williamson

CIBA Vision, Grey in New York

Six months ago, Novartis CIBA Vision executives approached Grey with a weighty assignment: the launch of the new O2optix contact lenses.

The success of CIBA's entire year would hinge on the product, so the advertising had to be top notch.

By the time the shop developed the 30-second spot now on air, it had tapped a total of 10 creative teams to develop an execution that could run in every global market, says North America chief creative officer Tim Mellors.

After several months, three concepts went into test. One idea contained repeated references to "my O2s," rather than "my lenses" to reinforce the brand name. Another had people talking about what irritated them about traditional contacts.

Among the peeves they described was that you can't sleep in them, a common complaint among the 20-something target. Since 02s are up to five times more "breathable" than other brands, you can sleep in them without consequence. That idea used the line "Don't change your life, change your lenses."

However, the client and agency didn't want to suggest "lens abuse," says Grey New York ecd Mark Schwatka. The line "Lenses you can live in" was discarded for the same reason.

Another idea celebrated the notion of "breathable" by suspending one of the lenses in the sky. That idea evolved into the 30-second spot directed by Jim Sonzero of Believe Media that began running on January 17.

People are shown walking in a modernistic building, "engulfed" in separate 02 lenses and giving each other knowing, flirtatious glances as an information-laden voiceover tells viewers about the product.

When Mellors was reviewing the final script two weeks before Christmas with art director Fran Sheff-Mauer and copywriter Elaine McCormick, the Grey New York team that came up with the winning idea, he thought it needed some tweaking if it were to run on the big game.

He suggested scrapping the "talky" narration, which is running now, in favor of the sound of someone breathing, played to the images.

The client wanted the narration for clearance and compliance purposes but once Grey persuaded the client to also buy time on the Super Bowl, Mellors says the spot "would have to be a bit simpler to stand out. The spot has to focus on the essential benefit of the product. The Super Bowl cut is the strategic essence of the product."

Less than a week before the game, agency and client were still deliberating which cut would run on Feb. 6. The client thought too much information was lost in the game cut, but Grey creatives were able to prevail.

—Kathleen Sampey

Olympus, The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.

Olympus and The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., decided a year ago that they would introduce the company's new digital music player and camera, m:robe 500, on the Super Bowl.

This year will mark Olympus' first Super Bowl appearance since 1981. "There's nothing like it and what better place than the Super Bowl to get it out there," says Mark Huggins, director of brand development for Olympus. "It's all about high impact."

Kicking of a $10 million national broadcast and print campaign with two 30-second spots, one in the first quarter and one in the third, the campaign will continue with a four-page spread in Sports Illustrated and two spots on the upcoming Grammy Awards.

All the ads will have the same look and sound and feature the tagline, "Let your pictures groove."

The IPG shop in Richmond, Va., began working on the campaign almost a year ago, says Sean Riley, creative director at the shop. He assigned several teams to present concepts that focused on mixing music and videos.

The strategy for the campaign was easily determined, Riley says. Because no other digital player on the market incorporates video, the ads had to focus on that distinction, he said. The key was choosing the right music and dance steps for the ads, directed by Dave Meyers of @radical.media, to give it to the appearance of a music video. Most of the work was done in post production, crafting video shot in Toronto during the first week of December into finished ads.

The dancing in the ads, which incorporates several different styles, was designed by Hihat, who has worked with recording artists Missy Elliot, Mary J. Blige, Jay Z, No Doubt and Destiny's Child.

"It's a cool illustration of what the product does," says Riley. "Our goal is for people to get up and dance," Huggins adds.

Olympus considered running a single 60-second ad on the game before deciding to split the buy into two spots, which lessens the chances of a viewer missing the ad, says Huggins.

Olympus' 1981 Super Bowl ad introduced its OM2 series of cameras with supermodel Cheryl Tiegs acting as spokesperson.

—Jim Lovel

Subway, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco

Subway will launch its "Fresh Toasted Subs" campaign with a Super Bowl spot created by Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco.

The ad presents a humorous outdoor scene, with the heat of a toasted sub providing the joke, says Mack Bridenbaker, a representative for Subway. "It's communicating that the fresh toasted subs have arrived," he says.

Goodby completed four executions to introduce the toasted subs, one of which will run during the fourth quarter of the game.

The 30-second spot, directed by Paul Gay of Omaha Pictures, was chosen because it best fit into that media environment.

"It made us all laugh more." Bridenbaker said. The Milford, Conn.-based client has been running 10-second teasers about the toasted subs this week during NFL playoff games showing people's wide-eyed reactions to the subs.

Goodby took over the account late last year. To date, just one of its spots for Subway has aired. The commercial took the form of a workplace vignette in which a security guard deliberates lunch options with his co-workers. He decides on Subway, for a sandwich he dubs "total happiness."

The tagline, "Eat fresh," will continue with the new campaign.

—Celeste Ward