Swiss Army Knife
Swiss Army Brands, Shelton, Conn.
Jim Garaventi, Greg Bokor
Unless you enlist in the Swiss Army, it's unlikely you'll ever use half the gadgets on this knife. So what's the point of owning it? As King Lear says to one of his ungrateful daughters, "Oh, reason not the need!" Sometimes the pleasure of owning an object consists of the distance it gives you from humdrum utility. Notwithstanding its facade of practicality, this brand is selling a fantasy. It lets you imagine all sorts of scenarios in which your cool-headed resourcefulness (plus the right blade) saves the day. If the price of a knife helps you view yourself as someone who can cope with any situation, it's worth every penny. Low-key copy adroitly taps into that wish. "Cutting a loose thread. Tightening a screw. Slicing a well-aged cheese to accompany wine. In Switzerland, it's natural to be equipped for the task at hand. And if someone here is found to be lacking the right tool, it only means he's a tourist." The emphasis on the brand's inimitable Swissness, meanwhile, discourages people from settling for a cheaper knock-off.
Deutsch LA, Santa Monica, Calif.
Mitsubishi Motors, Cypress, Calif.
What are they suggesting--that you drive like a bat out of hell even though your kid is strapped into the back seat? Well, you can see what the ad is getting at. As the concrete of adult responsibility hardens around their ankles, people do have twinges of longing for the footloose recklessness of younger days. (A TV spot in the campaign expresses that thought in a sequence of supers: "You have a family. You have a house. You have a dog. You have a pulse.") And plenty of us will appreciate a respite from the ostentatious domesticity of those "Baby on Board" signs. Apart from its visual novelty, the device of painting the ad's copy on the pavement also imposes a useful discipline on the copywriting: There's no room for the usual automotive blather. Still, the whole exercise feels defensively downbeat, making that baby seat seem even more of an encumbrance than need be. There's a sense here of people trying too hard to convince themselves they're having fun. It's telling that the print ads are shot in somber brown tones and the TV spots are black-and white. The notion that a car can help you stave off middle age seems less rather than more plausible once you've seen this campaign.
Dynamite Energy Drink
Waylon Ad, St. Louis
Dynamite Energy Group, Lake Forest, Ill.
With any luck, the erstwhile couch potato is now sprinting to the local home-furnishings store. One might argue that this brand is foolish to associate itself with lumpish layabouts. Shouldn't Dynamite surround itself with buffed bodies and upscale props? Not necessarily. Taking the beaten path, the brand (new to the American market) could easily get lost in a crowded category. Tacky furniture and all, this ad gives Dynamite an identity that nobody else owns. And as a matter of basic physics, aren't you impressed by an energy drink that can set a resting body in motion? That's far more difficult than sustaining the momentum of some hyperkinetic gym rat. The ad also skews Dynamite's appeal toward a larger (not to say paunchier) audience. Let's face it: For every person who's fixated on bettering his personal best, there are a dozen who'd be glad to start by rising above their personal worst.
Wargames Video Game
WongDoody, Los Angeles
MGM Interactive, Santa Monica, Calif..
James Brown, Dean Saling, Ben Wiener
OberLenz Films, Seattle
Unless you're a devotee of video games, does your heart not sink when one of that category's spots appears on TV? The humor is coarse; the voiceover sounds like it's hyperventilating; and the volume on your set seems to have turned itself up three notches. Moreover, TV footage of the games in action usually makes them look cheesy, since the games' visuals compare poorly with any kiddie cartoon. This spot for a new military game (based on the movie WarGames) avoids such pitfalls by embracing cheesiness on its own terms. It adopts the style of a used-car commercial as a huckster named Liberty Bill touts his inventory of "slightly pre-owned" military assault vehicles while holding a piglet in his arms. (Why a piglet? Why not a piglet?) As artillery shells explode around him, he asks: "Why keep up with the Joneses when you can blow 'em to kingdom come?" Small type at the bottom of the screen parodies the disclaimers endemic to automotive ads. Thus, the M1 tank is "not available in Iraq or Canada" and the Cobra helicopter gunship is "Not a suitable tree-trimming device." A deadpan voiceover sums things up as a few seconds of the game's action appear on screen: "Getting into a vehicle of mass destruction has never been easier." The spot is entertaining enough to leave you feeling the game might be fun, too.
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