Guest Critic

Watching 25 ads strung together, I was struck by how much it was like watching television; a lot of ads from different categories. I don’t know if that was Adweek’s intention, to be so democratic, but it felt weird. Like, good grief, most of our work goes out there and looks just like this, doesn’t it? Visual noise. Some of the ads were OK. Some of them didn’t belong on the list. And as always, no matter how many ads you see, there are only a few that rise above the rest.

Notables include the FedEx chimney sweepers, a bunch of English chimney sweepers talking with soot coming out of their mouths, laughing at their own jokes. Another worth mentioning is—wait, I can’t mention that one because my company did it. OK then, proving once again that you can do an idea without a bunch of money, there’s the “Don’t hibernate this winter” spot for Minnesota tourism that has a guy in a bear suit trying to get close to a woman looking at a piece of art. Simple. Sweet. The Nationwide spot is worth mentioning, too, because you are really sold on the idea that you are watching a boring home-improvement spot when the fan they installed bursts into flames. It surprised me and showed a sense of story manipulation seldom embraced by conservative clients.

I wanted to like the Dr Pepper spot where Meat Loaf’s “I Would Do Anything For Love” is blaring throughout but could see the ending coming way too soon and was somewhat disappointed that they chose such an easy way out. The FedEx spot with the pirate only saying “Aaarrrgggh!” was a little telegraphic, too, and had no hook other than the character’s right hand.

Good ‘ole brand anthems seemed popular as well, but when it comes to comparing story lines to montage, for me, stories win nine times out of 10. But I’m sure people obsessed with children, dogs and design feel otherwise. The Purell “Can’t touch this” spot I won’t touch. Although having read and heard recently about all the bacteria left on shopping carts, you begin to wonder if they should come up with human baggies that we can slip on and off when we go out. P&G is already on it.

All in all, I found the work very predictable. Almost like we’ve found the seven ways to crack a brief with executions that are based on a collective advertising vernacular. Anthem, spoof, sketch gag, mocumentary, song as idea, someone gets hurt, character/ spokesperson.

The study of advertising has produced a well-traveled path that we continue to follow in hopes that we’ll get somewhere new and exciting. Watch TV programs. They are pretty formulaic, right? It seems we’ve done the same thing. And I’ve contributed my fair share, so I’m not indicting an industry that I haven’t played party to. But it just feels like, if any young person is reading this, now is the time to bring something new. Don’t adhere to the rules set by what has been done before. What can happen in that picture frame should be unpredictable and inspirational. The most persuasive ads are the ones we talk about the next day. The ones that made us jealous. The ones that when we get that next brief, make us think, let’s do something no one has tried before today.