September's Best Spots were all about cars. Well, they should have been all about cars. Unfortunately, most of the car spots just melded together into one long montage of sheet metal and haughty voiceovers. We saw colorful kaleidoscope collages of cars, imposing factory assembly lines, video-game-style high-octane rides, fog-filled sets and curtain-draped, shiny new models, cars shopping at the mall and even statements like, "Don't just drive the car, be the car." Ugh. And a new hybrid is pitched as making nature happy—which is expected. But singing flowers and dancing frogs added to generic winding road footage doesn't automatically make a blockbuster winner, like Honda's award-winning "Grrr," just a tepid, 10th-generation, muddled imitation.
The few car spots that did cut through the clutter this month offered distinctive imagery, like Saturn's crashing walls and designer's sketch gone wild or Subaru's Flintstone foot-powered cars, or oddball humor to grab viewer attention, like Volkswagen's coliseum showdown between a Beetle and a pack of sardines, or a love story between a driver and her Sasquatch for Ford, and a Honda Element trading advice with a rabbit.
But when it comes to oddball humor, Eclipse did it best this month with new spots featuring actors dressed up as giant, odorous food choices. An onion falls asleep in front of the TV and is awakened by a phone call. "Dead onion says what?" asks the caller. "What?" says the frightened onion, as a pack of the breath-freshening gum slides in under the door and hits his foot, and he instantly combusts.
Even better is the Jimmy Dean series about the sun-as-suburban-dad, trying to manage his duties to light and heat the earth while also fulfilling his roles as father and husband. His wilted rays perk up only after he's had his Jimmy Dean breakfast. And once he's had his fill, he participates in family fun, like teasing the local rooster before he's officially out the door. In the spot "Why," he makes breakfast using Jimmy Dean's Skillets while trying to explain to his young daughter why he doesn't have time to chop up the vegetables himself—"Because I have to be at work early to light and heat the earth."
His "Girl in the Moon" counterpart for Miller High Life has a tougher job. With a whispery, ghost-like voiceover, she takes viewers through a minute-long freeze-frame journey through Miller's history. It's intriguing enough, but the girl in the moon should take a cue from the sun, and lighten up.
Charles Schwab tried to lighten up its serious financial pitch with animation over live-action. The technique gives the spot a bit of much-needed razzle-dazzle, but the everyman Schwab is trying to speak to can probably do without it.
Quaker Oats' "Blisters" feels more genuine, with a pre-teen boy band that performs its custom tune for the brand and squabbles about who did most of the writing. It doesn't have a grand idea or fancy film work, but it's charming. And sometimes that's all you need to stay memorable.