creative campaigns: Smarter Is Better

Wieden’s first AltaVista ads champion intelligence
Knowledge is power, and AltaVista hopes to be the premier source of information on the Web, with a new $120 million campaign from Wieden & Kennedy.
Tagged “Smart is beautiful,” the TV and print effort, the agency’s first for the 4-year-old Menlo Park, Calif., company, attempts to distinguish the Web portal from other established Web brands like Yahoo! and Lycos with the strategy, “smart is better than cool,” Trish Adams, account director for Portland, Ore.-based Wieden.
“The idea of championing intelligence is steeped in AltaVista’s heritage,” says co-creative director Rob Palmer.
Five of the seven national TV spots, all directed by Joe Pytka, have been in rotation since Oct. 25, when the campaign broke with a three-spot serial during Monday Night Football.
In one storyline, an attractive young woman is pulled over by state troopers, two of whom she befuddles with her knowledge of speed-gun radar systems and their potential for glitches, including the fact that the radar can cause testicular cancer. Predictably, she beats the rap.
In her third encounter, the trooper, who evidently also uses AltaVista, trumps her with a court case in which the speeder challenged the radar system and lost. This round, she takes the ticket. Another spot shows a boy stumping world chess master Garry Kasparov.
The campaign also introduces improved portal features, such as live video, a revamped finance section and shopping services.
One commercial shows a hip, young dude talking on his cell phone while at a urinal, until he accidentally drops it. The message: AltaVista can guide him to where he can buy a hands-free phone.
And in another spot, a boy rescues Pamela Anderson after accessing a live news story detailing how the actress was caught in a highway mudslide.
In another spot, a nursing-home resident explains to the manager why she’s leaving, citing the home’s appalling state record, which she accessed on AltaVista.
Palmer says the storylines, such as the state trooper sequence, suggest a sense of user empowerment.
Adams says that by casting the portal as “smart, thought-provoking and dynamic,” the agency sought to attract “results-oriented Web enthusiasts” to AltaVista, compared to the “newbies” who prefer Yahoo!
Much of the radar-gun spots is what Wieden presented in the new- business pitch, Adams says. The account was awarded the same July day the client viewed the prospective work.
The creative team derived inspiration from the film Good Will Hunting, says Palmer, especially the scene in which Matt Damon’s character engages in “an intellectual bar fight” and impresses a woman.
As for using Kasparov and Anderson, Palmer adds, “They bring diversity to the brand. The campaign is as deep as the Internet. The ideas can come from anywhere and should come from anywhere.” K
Wieden & Kennedy,
Portland, Ore.
Creative Directors
Bob Moore
Rob Palmer
Jim Riswold
Art Directors
Rob Palmer
Bill Karow
Tim Hanrahn
Jim Riswold
Bob Moore
Derek Barnes
Evelyn Monroe Neill
Henry Lu
Joe Pytka
Paul Norling
Tiffany Burchar

The Shoe Diaries Attraction
By Aaron Baar
Fallon tackles a female fetish for Nordstrom
TO CREATE THE agency’s first ad campaign for Nordstrom’s new online venture,, the men on Fallon McElligott’s creative team turned to the shoe experts in their lives: women.
“The women we talked to have a lot more shoes than we do,” says group creative head Peter McHugh. “Too much is never enough.”
Out of those conversations, which included the female-led account team and spouses and friends of the male creatives, one fact shone through: Women seem to enjoy shoes and shoe shopping with a passion perhaps unparalleled in the male universe.
“Once I understood that [women’s passion for shoes] was like my compact disc fetish, I could communicate that to the creative team,” says creative director David Lubars.
With $15 million in marketing support for the fourth quarter alone, the Seattle-based retailer plans to make sure everyone knows that is the place to go to satisfy a woman’s footwear needs.
Even though the Web site, touted as the “world’s largest shoe store,” offers men’s shoes as well as women’s, the ads focus primarily on female shoppers with the theme, “Make room for shoes.”
The campaign, which includes television, print, online and outdoor advertising, features women who have “accepted the importance of shoes in their lives,” McHugh says.
One TV spot, which broke Nov. 1, shows a young couple in a rented moving van. As they head down a busy freeway, the woman discards the couple’s belongings, from CDs to her husband’s motorcycle, so they’ll have more space for her shoes.
In a similarly themed commercial, a woman drops her sleeping husband off on a stranger’s doorstep so she can take over his half of the closet. Another ad shows a woman taking her husband’s antique car to a junkyard to be flattened, leaving her with more room in the garage.
Indeed, the car spot broke many hearts on the creative and production team, Lubars says. “It was a beautiful car,” he recalls. “You have to go through a lot of pain to create great spots.”
Regardless, the Minneapolis shop took care to ensure that the work not be “snarky” or demeaning in its tone by using bright colors and poppy music, McHugh says. “Burt Bacharach tends to lighten the tone,” he says, referring to the “Moving Van” spot.
The actors were also coached to keep the attitude light to ensure that the knowing humor of the campaign shone through, Lubars says.
“[The campaign’s] very loose and doesn’t take itself too seriously,” he says. “The humor takes the edge off those things that people tend to wring their hands about.”
Print executions mirror the situations in the TV spots. In one ad, a picture of a half-empty closet is accompanied by the copy, “How happily married are you?” Another ad shows a deserted dog house and the words, “What best friend?”
The campaign marks the retailer’s first national advertising effort. Future advertising is likely to take a similar, youth-oriented and hip attitude, Lubars says. K
Fallon McElligott,
Creative Director
David Lubars
Group Creative Director
Peter McHugh
Michael Burdick
Art Director
Scott O’Leary
Senior Producer
Rob Van deWeteringe Buys
Traktor, Los Angeles
Production Co.
Executive Producer
Ole Sanders
Post Production
Mad River Post/
The White House,
Los Angeles
Audio Post Production
Print Production
Tricia Savitt
Joe Packowski
(Ripsaw), John Clang (CMP Production)