Barbara Lippert’s Critique

Roused to the hip-hop music of Cypress Hill and eating junk food, he’s behind the wheel of his vehicle, moving fast. He’s also the man who fell to earth. In this case, it’s California, where he wedges his flying saucer into a crowded freeway and makes his way to a college campus.

Blue man parks the thing and stands on the grass wearing a T-shirt and cargo pants, his Sony memory stick around his neck. And though he is small, fuzzy and indigo, with an enormous head, digital blips for eyes and ears the size of Abe Lincoln’s on Mount Rushmore, he’s a winsome presence. As he studies his freshman-class schedule, he seems no odder than the rest of his fellow students, who are also nervous.

It is this unlikely but delightful über-humanity that makes these Sony spots so clever and fresh.

Introduced in 1980, the Sony Walkman is imitated by an infinite number of brands, as sexy as a microwave and older than any kid applying to college. This campaign needed to make Sony’s Walkman exciting and new—and it succeeded.

Blue man sets down on campus in the first spot, the literal interpretation of the campaign’s tagline, “The Sony has landed.” And he’s quick to make himself at home.

By the second spot, we see him in his dorm coming back from the bathroom, wearing only a towel with his Sony clipped on. He walks into his room—an incredible transformation from dorm to fantasy bachelor pad, all white and ’70s futuristic, with the decor cleverly echoing the orbital shape of our alien hero’s head. The music is cool bossa nova.

There’s someone in his bed, but our man is such a calm player that he sits at his computer, downloading his favorite music into his Sony Walkman. Meanwhile, the young woman gets dressed and tentatively strokes his freshly showered fur to get his attention. Her awkward, morning- after acting is dead-on. He hands her a disc entitled “The Audrey Sessions,” ostensibly the sound track to their time together. The third spot is also hilarious—promoting the Walkman’s no-skip features.

Now Blue is a sensitive guy, sunning himself in the middle of campus, reading Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. A Frisbee-playing dog grabs his Sony Discman and won’t stop shaking, but his music (Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”) remains undisturbed. The same can’t be said for the smiling coed across the way, who seems to have a burning love for Blue.

I happened on these commercials out of concern for the fact that my 10-year-old constantly switches the television to MTV—and these spots only run on MTV.

That cable network is about as old as the Walkman, but its demographics seem to be getting younger and younger. The network no longer runs a selection of music videos, but has its own wall-to-wall programming, catering to the Britney Spears and ‘N Sync set. (Conversely, VH-1’s audience will only get older as baby boomers age. They’ll have to change “Behind the Music” to “Behind the Metamucil.”)

Given that he watches MTV, my son has seen about 900 reruns of The Real World, the Big Brother predecessor that places a number of 20somethings with wildly conflicting personalities in a house and tapes their interaction for a couple of months.

By now, it’s become so formulaic that you know each house will have the virgin, the alcoholic, the ambitious rocker/comic, the whiner.

But I have just the cast member to freshen up the next one. How about a fuzzy guy, with a magnetic presence, strangely shaped head and a tremendous music collection? He never speaks, but he’s an awesome listener. Sony Walkman


Young & Rubicam

New York

Creative Directors

Randy Van Kleeck

Nelson Martinez


Matt Aselton

Darren Wright

Art Directors

Dave Skinner

Hunter Williams

Agency Producer

Kim Lowell


Phil Morrison/

Epoch Productions