Campaign Of The Year

Loretta Swit—a.k.a. Mash’s “Hot Lips”—helps a contestant win a $20,000 Pyramid game. Star Wars’ Mark Hamill describes what he sees as “The Future.” And two boys sip lemonade on a porch as they compare their movie-viewing experiences—the older one remembering a time when he had to go to the video store to rent movies.

These are just a few of the commercial standouts in Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ first branding effort for Comcast, which broke last October and carries the celebratory tag, “It’s Comcastic!” With a fresh, humorous take on the fast-changing communications world, the San Francisco agency created a multifaceted campaign that branded the Philadelphia-based company as the premiere content provider for all entertainment needs and did so with such strategic flair and style that it earned the work Best Spots’ Best Campaign of the Year.

However, Jamie Barrett and Mark Wenneker, Goodby co-creative directors on the account, promise the best is yet to come. “We’re only just getting started,” says Barrett.

The agency won the assignment last spring, but the win took some time. In April, when the nearly seven-month review for the creative portion of Comcast’s $50 million advertising account was finally over, co-chairman Rich Silverstein told Adweek it was “probably the longest pitch I’ve ever been a part of—yet every meeting was fantastic, energetic and challenging.”

The drawn-out review had begun the previous October and cut to finalists, including Deutsch/LA, Marina del Rey, Calif., and The Richards Group in Dallas, just a month later. However, the review stalled when changes were made to the company’s marketing department. The next February, Marvin Davis joined Comcast as svp of marketing, and the finalists where asked to repitch their final presentations.

Although members of the marketing team, which includes John Young, vp of advertising, had already determined their favorites, they didn’t share their recommendations with Davis so that he could get a fresh take on the agencies’ ideas. “I had to see them totally unbiased,” Davis says.

The challenge for the agencies was to create a platform for the fast-growing cable provider—which had never advertised its services with a national campaign—that gave the faceless brand a defining personality while emphasizing its cable, video-on-demand and high-speed Internet services. “We were looking for confident, fun, innovative personality for Comcast,” says Davis. “We are in an industry that doesn’t score high in likability. We wanted to address that.”

Goodby’s “It’s Comcastic!” idea proved the top choice a second time around. Yet the line, originally thrown out by Barrett as a joke during an agency discussion about how to make the cable company more likeable, turned out to be so memorable that the creative team couldn’t put it out of their minds during the following weekend. (Another line they were kicking around: “Beyond the Box.”)

“I said it, we half-laughed, and it was never mentioned again,” says Barrett. “Mark came in on Monday and said, ‘What about that Comcastic thing?'”

“It was one of those lines that could have been really awful or really great. It had to be played with,” explains Wenneker. “There was an outpouring of creative support around it. We knew we struck something.”

The co-creative directors asked the creative department to come up with “a thousand different ways” to illustrate the line, says Barrett. They considered wordplay, such as a spelling-bee scenario where kids would be asked to spell out the name, but decided the concept was too familiar to cut through.

The resulting effort included several 30- and 60-second executions; a vibrant Web site that let consumers play Comcastic! games; and live marketing efforts, such as actors walking around in select cities with makeup-enhanced faces distorted to look as though they’ve experienced the speed of Comcast. “They nailed it,” says Davis. “I thought there was a good mix of older- and younger-skewing ads. We have to appeal to the masses. That was critical.”

However, there was some initial hesitation about the “Comcastic!” concept, says Davis. “It was about whether we were ready to make that bold of a statement at that time,” he says. So the company took the spots to the consumers. After four to five weeks of running the spots in test markets, he says, the company affirmed it was on the right track with the advertising.

Many of the memorable TV executions, including the 60-second “Pyramid” commercial featuring archival game footage and a re-recorded voiceover by Loretta Swit, were presented in the pitch, either as rip-o-matics or as scripts. The pitch version was created in-house using Wenneker’s voice as the contestant. After the win, the agency tried to recast for the character, but Wenneker’s voice proved most fitting for the spot.

Finding the archival footage for the finished commercial proved more difficult. “Very sadly, 80 percent of the much-loved Pyramid episodes are gone,” says Barrett. “This one was one of those that was worth keeping.”

The spot takes viewers to the final round of the original ’70s Dick Clark-hosted game show, where Swit is providing clues to the contestant and the Pyramid squares turn with each correct answer. Rough dubbing and lip-synching customize the footage for Comcast. “High-definition TV. Amazing picture quality.” The answer: “Things that are good.” And in the end, “HDTV. High-speed Internet. Free on-demand movies.” The contestant answers, “Things that are Comcastic!” and jumps out of his seat to give Swit an elated hug.

A 60-second montage spot directed by Moxie Pictures’ Martin Granger features Star Wars’ Mark Hamill discussing the early arrival of “The Future” on a talk show. Created by art director Paul Foulkes and copywriter Tyler Hampton, the spot shows all sorts of characters, including UFO enthusiasts celebrating the arrival of the “Comcastic” future.

In another 60-second spot, two young boys sit on a sunlit porch and talk about their drastically different entertainment experiences, with the older boy telling of a time when he had to actually walk miles to rent a movie. The ad, directed by Anonymous Content’s Brett Morgan, is reminiscent of ad classics for Bartles & Jaymes and Country Time Lemonade.

All the executions combined, including funny 15-second quips highlighting specific product attributes such as speed (one spot shows a man asking his neighbor to marry him right after meeting; another features a real high school cup-stacking champion), present a new, fun face for Comcast. “By all our accounts, the campaign is meeting and exceeding expectations,” says Davis. “It’s been great.” Or should he say, “It’s Comcastic!”

Adweek editors sat down and combed through 1,300 submissions for Best Spots of the Year, along with about 1,200 spots that were reviewed throughout the year for Best Spots of the Month, in order to evaluate the Best Campaign of the Year. We looked at memorability (a must after reviewing so many spots), strategy and relevance of message, originality, creativity, category difficulty and craft, among other factors, to pick the 50 best spots and the best campaign. Some were shoe-ins; others sparked heated debate. Excellent one-off spots were more prevalent than solid campaigns this year, though there were several strong contenders for the “Best Campaign” crown.

In the end, we chose Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ Comcast work due to the breadth and depth of the creative.

But we also considered Wieden + Kennedy New York’s work for ESPN, which stood out by being remarkably consistent. Ads for Sportscenter to ESPN brand work range from funny to quirky to genuinely moving, but always hammer home the same “Without Sports” themeline and message. “Surf Camp,” about a camp that allows autistic children to surf, was touching, while “Believe” showcased novel animation to demonstrate the highs and lows of being a fan watching a game without saying a word.

Converse’s quirky short films by Butler, Shine, Stern and Partners in Sausalito, Calif., were also captivating. The second year of the Converse Gallery has a more put-together feel than last year, and resulted in memorable 30-second ads, including “Spin the Bottle,” shot from the bottle’s point of view, which we selected as a Best Spot of the Year. The ads continue to involve consumers, allowing them to create their own Converse-inspired short films.

Another standout from last year was the ethereal “Hello Tomorrow,” by TBWA\ Chiat\Day in San Francisco, featuring a dreamy tune by the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O and direction by Spike Jonze.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky scored high on our list with the quirky Burger King spots, including the over-the-top “Fantasy Ranch” (a warm-up for this year’s Super Bowl spot “America’s Choice,” perhaps?) and the King Kong tie-in “Kong Good.”

The winners’ list couldn’t fail to feature Dove. We chose Dove Lotions’ “Song,” but Ogilvy & Mather Chicago’s entire “Campaign for Real Beauty” spurred debate last year for its portrayal of “real” bodies.

And McCann Erickson’s long-running MasterCard “Priceless” campaign keeps itself fresh. This year, the shop finally revealed its voiceover talent, actor Billy Crudup, in a deadpan execution, “Cashier,” and crafted a heartwarming ad showing kids playing baseball all over the world. Priceless, indeed. —Mae Anderson