AETNA RETIREMENT SERVICES
Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York
Aetna, Hartford, Conn.
Tom Nelson, Mark Johnson
Like bad opera singers, ads for retirement planning tend to have a limited emotional range. If an ad isn't menacing (You'll end up sleeping in the streets!), it's absurdly upbeat (You'll open a boutique, sail around the world and guest-conduct the New York Philharmonic!). Aetna's new campaign avoids such clichƒs, which is good. It sounds oddly melancholy, though, which is not good. Gimmicky though it may be, the fill-in-the-blanks ploy involves you in the ad. But the mood of the first-person text gets you musing about the unexpected (and, at times, unwelcome) turns life can take. When it ends with that vow to "get down to business," you feel you're hearing the wishful bravado of a Willy Loman. At gut level, the writing doesn't move you to take active steps (calling Aetna, say) to control your fate. Any such impetus wilts amid acknowledgment that life seldom pans out as expected.
UNITED AIR LINES
Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis
United Air Lines, Elk Grove Village, Ill.
You can take the boy out of the tree house, but can you turn the tree house into an airplane? This ad tries. "What was it about sitting way up there that cleared out the cobwebs and let you hear yourself think? There was no one to bother you. No chores to do. And from up there, problems started to look a little smaller." The ad suggests "you may rediscover this feeling" on your next United flight. Really? Since when do kids have "cobwebs" that need clearing away? They go up there to play, not to gain perspective. The text depicts tree-house denizens more as miniature adults than as real kids. It fares better when it drops the arboreal shtick. "Customers often tell us the hours they have aboard a plane are the only time they have to themselves anymore. So we're trying to make the place you have to spend it as comfortable as possible." This rings true, so it gives reason to believe United knows how to pamper you.
BBDO West, Los Angeles
L.A. Cellular, Cerritos, Calif.
David Lubars, Chris Robb
ASSOC. CREATIVE DIRECTOR
PRINT PRODUCTION MANAGER
If there was ever a time when consumers were excited about new phone services, it's history by now. This campaign sensibly avoids any display of techno-futurist enthusiasm and instead plays on our distaste for pay phones. In other words, it enlists Phone Hatred (which certainly does exist) rather than Phone Love (which probably doesn't). People may have their doubts about digital phones, but they know from bitter experience that pay phones are often a nuisance--because there's a line to use them, they gobble your last quarter without putting through a call, etc., etc. (Other executions in the campaign remind readers of such annoyances.) Owning a digital phone may not elevate you to a paradise of global communications, but the campaign plausibly suggests that it can spare you some of the petty aggravations of daily life.
Young & Rubicam, Detroit
Lincoln-Mercury division of Ford Motor Co., Detroit
EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR/COPYWRITER
GROUP CREATIVE/ART DIRECTOR, COPYWRITER
Tom Hillebrand, Hugh Broder
Tool of North America, Santa Monica, Calif.
As the spot opens, a voiceover intones: "This is Imagine TV." So, what's on Imagine today? From all appearances, it's a James Bond knockoff. To the accompaniment of Bondesque theme music, a man is seen driving through the countryside. Spies and hidden cameras monitor his movements as he nears a roadblock that's manned by thugs from central casting. When the car arrives, the chief thug signals it to stop and addresses the driver (whose face is now unseen by us), using the sort of accent taught at the Bad Guy School of Elocution: "We are looking for a man in a new Mercury Cougar, exactly like this one. He is a dangerous double agent and a master of disguise." Aren't villains supposed to play their cards closer to their black leather vests? Anyhow, we hear a female voice respond: "Haven't seen him." Despite what he's just said about disguise, that's good enough for Mr. Villain, who waves the car through the gate. Once the car is past the barrier, we see the driver's face in female disguise as his male voice adds, with a chuckle: "Haven't seen him anywhere." If you think this all sounds tedious, you're right. The bad guys seem more stupid than sinister, draining the vignette of the mock suspense that might enliven this umpteenth Bond parody. And the pretense that we're watching some sort of cable channel is more confusing than disarming.