The Best of ’04 and the Worst

THE BEST

1
Spot “The Band”
Client Apple
Agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, Playa del Rey, Calif.

Turn it up loud, captain! If there were any doubt left about Apple becoming the biggest thing rocking the music world with its iPod and iTunes digital music products, this ubiquitous spot featuring U2 should’ve convinced those non-believers. Giving its silhouette campaign an explosive kick with the band performing “Vertigo,” Apple took co-branding to new heights with a marketing deal that included a special-edition U2 iPod and a digital box set.

2
Spot “Picture Book”
Client Hewlett-Packard
Agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco

A catchy tune and captivating visuals make HP’s digital photo products accessible and fun. To the Kinks’ “Picture Book,” director Francois Vogel brings the joy of flipping through a photo album to the digital world (and stars as the guy hanging picture frames around his neck). It’s a picture party we all want to join.

3
Spot “Subservient Chicken”
Client Burger King
Agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami

Who would’ve thought a man in a chicken suit would become a symbol of innovation? BK’s “Subservient Chicken” Web site created an instant sensation with its chicken in garters, ready to obey almost any command. The funky chicken drew close to 400 million hits worldwide and gave BK’s image a saucy edge.

4
Spot “The Adventures of Seinfeld and Superman”
Client American Express
Agency Ogilvy & Mather, New York

Seinfeld fans pining for the days of yada, yada, yada got a treat from American Express in a witty online film series starring the comedian and the Man of Steel. The best of the prime-time-worthy shorts, co-written by Seinfeld and directed by Barry Levinson, included the show-tune send-up, “Oh Yes, Wyoming!”

5
Spot “Call Center”
Client Target
Agency Mother, New York

Sidestepping its familiar, music-driven product bonanzas, Target created a novel promotion to spur post-Thanksgiving sales, inviting customers to sign up online for wake-up calls on Black Friday. Offering 10 different recorded messages to wake up to—from “Lord Vader” and Ice-T to “Dennis” the rooster or “Mini Diva”—the effort was a standout in the price-driven retail deluge.

6
Spot “Laila”
Client Adidas
Agency 180/TBWA, San Francisco

What could have been super-schmaltzy—an imagined boxing match between a young Muhammad Ali and his daughter—came off as touching and human, even humorous. The spot, directed by Lance Acord, seamlessly married old and new.

7
Spot “Meet the Lucky Ones”
Client Mercury
Agency Young & Rubicam/ Wunderman, Detroit

With help from Mother and Ali G writer Ed Herbstman, this engrossing Web series, created by Kirt Gunn, provided compelling content and the authentic quirkiness of an indie film without over-pushing product.

8
Spot “Interview”
Client United
Agency Fallon, Minneapolis

Elegant, understated animation by Acme Filmworks shows how an interviewee benefits by flying United. The commercial was a breath of fresh air in an uninspired category. Instead of going for cheap, easy yuks, Fallon created more art than advertising.

9
Spot “What If?”
Client Nike
Agency Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

Nike conjured a mesmerizing alternate universe in this 90-second spot, where pro athletes swap sports with ease. New and stock footage blended by snazzy compositing gave us Lance Armstrong as a boxer, Serena Williams as a volleyball pro, etc.

10
Spot “Born a Donkey”
Client Budweiser
Agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco

During a Super Bowl full of ads of questionable humor (some by this client, in fact), this feel-good spot managed to inject some sweetness into the mix, telling the story of a donkey who wants to be a Clydesdale.

THE WORST

1
Spot “Snap”
Client Charmin Agency Publicis, New York

P&G’s much-anticipated Super Bowl debut turned out to be a flusher. A football game stalls when a player is distracted by a towel switched with the “softest, strongest” toilet paper. He caresses it, and the sideline announcer notes, “Whatever he’s doing, he sure seems to like it.” After a highly touted Cannes trip the prior year to boost creativity, P&G felt ready for the Big Game—but it looks like more trips may be in order. P&G plans to pass this year.

2
Spot “We Love the Subs”
Client Quiznos
Agency The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.

OK, the jangly jingle sung by these bizarre “Spongmonkeys” was hard to forget, but so were their disfigured faces—perhaps not the best visual for an ad about lunch. Looking more like roadkill than spokescritters, these homely characters first found fame singing about their love of the moon on British animator Joel Veitch’s Web site. Thankfully, their spot stardom was short-lived.

3
Spot “Angels With Dylan”
Client Victoria’s Secret
Agency in-house

Some promises shouldn’t be kept. In his 20s, Bob Dylan, asked at a press conference about selling out, said that “women’s garments” would be his commercial interest of choice. However, seeing the 63-year-old legend in a Victoria’s Secret ad—his first appearance in a TV spot—looking more like a lecherous villain leering at an “angel” than a lovelorn artist, was creepy, not sexy.

4
Spot “Car Wash”
Client Panasonic
Agency The Kaplan Thaler Group, New York

The spot starts out quietly enough. A couple drive into a car wash. He puts the convertible top down, she takes off her pantyhose, and the ride becomes the sudsy setting for a romantic interlude involving, yes, wet/dry razors. It’s one of the most absurd product demos we’ve seen. Plus, the copy “Wetter is better” leads into Panasonic’s “Ideas for life” tag. Whose life is this?

5
Spot “Chanel No. 5”
Client Chanel
Agency in-house

What a waste. Top Hollywood talent and a budget to match couldn’t save this stinker of a perfume ad. With Nicole Kidman as leading lady and Moulin Rouge’s Baz Luhrmann as director, Chanel created such a dispassionate love story that even an estimated $60 million couldn’t heat it up. The dialogue was so ham-handed, the two-minute overindulgence made for torturous TV.

6
Spot “Rip, Slip”
Client Oral-B Brush-Ups
Agency BBDO, New York

This spot screams parody, but isn’t one. Twentysomethings sing and dance around the subway to demo Oral-B’s new product, a glove-like finger brush for cleaning your teeth when you don’t have a real toothbrush. Odd product, even odder spot.

7
Spot “Sleigh Ride”
Client Bud Light
Agency DDB, Chicago

In a tasteless Super Bowl, this spot upped the “Eww!” factor, which is saying a lot. Dumb jokes can be funny, but horse flatulence combined with setting someone’s face on fire created a new low standard for juvenile humor on the Big Game.

8
Spot “Football Stadium”
Client Capital One
Agency McCann Erickson, N.Y.

Sure, interest rates are brutal, but enough already with the Huns! Capital One has also added “No” to its grating ad vocabulary with a new David Spade series—only slightly better than seeing these warriors plunder credit-card charges.

9
Spot “Tongue”
Client Mike’s Hard Lemonade/Lime
Agency Ad Store, N.Y.

A man at a bar licks his Mike’s Hard Lemonade bottle clean with a super-long reptilian-like tongue, and a woman watching is considerably impressed. She’s the only one. This spot turns Mike’s trademark silliness into the truly tasteless. Gross.

10
Spot “Wild Thing”
Client Viagra
Agency McCann Erickson, New York

Creating clever erectile dysfunction drug ads can’t be easy. While this spot, pulled for making unsubstantiated claims, does push past the usual sex metaphors, it offers a new one: a pair of blue horns that sprout on the “wild”-again husband. Ugh.