Toy soldiers get a new look for FedEx
˜Combat Rangers!” bellows a testosterone-rich voiceover in what appears to be a Saturday morning toy ad. ˜They›re rough. They›re tough …” And they›re wearing skirts!
BBDO›s latest effort for FedEx is a hilarious gender-bending spot within a spot. Breaking this week on college football bowl games, it begins as a typical low-budget toy promo with bad lighting, tacky props and towheaded kids. But instead of GI Joe-like fatigues, the action figures sport tutus and skirts, wear teddies and use blow-dryers as weapons.
˜When there is a battle to be done, Combat Rangers get the job done,” says the voiceover, as a toy soldier in a leopard-skin midriff and matching spandex pants bonks a fellow in a satin blue tank top over the head with a pocketbook.
The camera then reverses to show three businessmen staring dumfounded at a TV screen. ˜Tell me, why are they wearing dresses?” asks one. The answer: The military uniforms didn›t arrive in time because the toy company didn›t use FedEx, ˜The only U.S. express shipper with direct routes to China.”
The ad is the latest installment in FedEx›s 2-year-old ˜Be absolutely sure” campaign, which pokes fun at the unreliable competition. The company spent $22 million on advertising in 1998, boosting that to $32 million through the first three quarters of ›99.
˜FedEx is perceived as the gold standard,” says Michael Patti, executive creative director at BBDO, New York, the agency for FedEx since 1989. ˜You can make the brand sexy not by showing FedEx delivering packages,” says Patti, who has been in charge of FedEx creative since ›98, ˜but by showing the screwups that can happen by not using FedEx.”
One 1998 spot featured a pool cleaner whose Harvard scholarship arrives 20 years late. In another, the Stanley Cup, bound for Detroit, winds up in a mountain town in Bolivia.
Last year, the campaign tackled e-commerce with a series of spots featuring e-entrepreneurs interviewing outlandish Web site builders. The point: ˜Who designs your Web site is up to you. Hooking it up and delivering the goods, leave that up to us.”
The e-commerce and Combat Rangers spots were directed by Bryan Buckley of Hungry Man. According to the creative team, the Rangers production was tricky. ˜Those actions scenes were not hand-to-hand combat,” says art director Ted Shaine. ˜They were really handbag-to-handbag.”
There was also rigorous prop testing. ˜The guys parachuting from the helicopters, we had to test the various dresses to see which ones would fly up around their ears,” says copywriter Tom Darbyshire.
The agency ended up with 30- and 45-second versions of the spot. The longer one ends with the suit asking, ˜Is that a thong?” The lackey pipes in, ˜That could double as a holster.”
Will the theme ruffle conservative feathers? ˜This is an age-old comic device,” says Shaine. ˜There›s Tootsie and, recently, Shakespeare in Love. It›s just funny.”
˜Advertising is not a conservative game,” adds Steve Pacheco, FedEx advertising manager. ˜This is ground that›s been plowed before. Some Like It Hot dates back to the ›50s.”
Because brand-name toys could not be used, the Combat Rangers were designed and manufactured with original molds. They are now on display, in full couture, in a glass case at FedEx headquarters in Memphis.
˜We own the rights to them,” says Pacheco. ˜Now we can have some fun with them.” K
Agency: BBDO New York
Chief Creative Director: Ted Sann
Executive Creative Director: Michael Patti
Sr. CD/Art Director: Ted Shaine
Sr. CD/Copywriter: Tom Darbyshire
Producer: Hyatt Choate Production Co. Hungry Man
Director: Bryan Buckley