Beer And A Lovesick Babe

Wieden + Kennedy London has done it again. Co-cds Tony Davidson and Kim Papworth and their team, which snagged the Grand Prix in Film last year with their beloved animated ode to Honda’s diesel engine, have produced another pair of spectacular ads. For the third year in a row, they’ve created envy-producing work that is sure to gun for gold in automotive—and perhaps even Grand Prix.

A two-minute spot follows a stunt-type on an all-terrain journey that includes a motorbike, speedboat and finally a hot air balloon to the soaring strains of “Impossible Dream.” The second is another feat of seemingly impossible proportions. A choir reenacts the experience of driving a Honda through sound. Though driven by the audio, it’s the kind of spot that makes you feel like you can’t blink or you’ll miss an amazing moment.

Those “Power of Dreams” executions won the top prize at the Clio Awards last month, but the Grand Lion will most likely allude the celebrated team this year. No matter how enthralling the new entries, comparisons will be made to “Grrr,” and that spot was just extraordinary.

There are many contenders that have a great chance at the Grand Prix this year, but the one most likely to win is Guinness’ “noitulovE” out of AMV BBDO, London, directed by Daniel Kleinman. It’s already won the top prizes at The Andy Awards and The One Show, and it won a D&AD pencil and multiple Clio Awards. So what’s so special about this commercial?

First of all, it is a lot of fun to watch. It opens on three beer drinkers at the bar, taking their first sip from their glasses of frothy Guinness. The action pauses, the music of Sweety Charity’s “Rhythm of Life” kicks in, and the friends are sped backwards in time, through the evolutionary process—from humans to cavemen, monkeys, dinosaurs and finally to three bug-eyed mudskippers on a river bank. With a flick of the tongue, one takes a sip of blackened muddy water and expresses his disdain with a disgusted “bleh.” Which leads us back to the famous tag, “Good things come to those who wait.” It’s a smart spot about the history of man in an elaborate production that rewards the heart and mind from beginning to end.

Yet my favorite work this year comes from Thailand: a soap opera-style series that follows the story of star-crossed adolescents whose lead looks for advice from a saleswoman with a recurring over-the-top product pitch for “Smooth E” facial cream. Maybe it’s because it still has that afterglow of recently discovered fresh work; I only saw it for the first time about a month ago. Or maybe the comedy feels different, probably because the overacting actually adds to the comedy, and the lack of special effects catches and holds the eye (fighting scenes freeze the action mid-combat using actors in still poses rather than computer effects). It’s probably funnier in Thai. And, finally, it uses TV commercials, a format that is at once being minimized in value and maximized in pop culture by the digital age, to do what they do best: provide an entertaining experience in the name of a brand and, through a media buy of several weeks, do what perhaps only the Super Bowl can do—create appointment TV for ads. Isn’t that what all the talk about “engagement” is all about?