I Love You, Tomorrow

I really like this Intel “Sponsors of Tomorrow” campaign, the first work from Venables Bell & Partners since winning the account in January.

The strategy of focusing on the geniuses who work at the company, rather than on that complicated thing inside your computer, is fresh and dead-on. Featuring lines like, “Our rock stars aren’t like your rock stars,” the setup supplies a new take on the old Rolling Stone magazine “Perception/Reality” campaign. It allows for a lot of humor, humanity and flexibility.

What I like most of all (and sadly, it could be considered a brave, counterintuitive move these days) is the way it flat-out celebrates intelligence and the importance of scientific innovation. Never mind sponsoring tomorrow; without R&D, there may be no tomorrow.

The first spot broke in May
, and it’s already a classic. An Indian man in a sweater vest and tie, ID tag flapping around his neck, walks into an employee break room. We see it in slow motion, which heightens the reaction. As he pours himself coffee, he’s greeted like Mick Jagger-asked to autograph a laptop and generally screamed at by his fans, one of whom has his image burned on his T-shirt. Identified by an on-screen graphic as “Ajay Bhatt, co-inventor of USB,” he shoots his admirers a wave. “Our rock stars aren’t like your rock stars,” the title card says.

Really, the guy did co-invent the USB. He deserves to be carried around on a sedan chair. The commercial comes across as big and entertaining, as well as memorable and plain smart.

There’s one thing I’ve been wrestling with, however, and that’s the lofty production values and the use of actors instead of the actual employees. Certainly, I realize it’s more fun and attention-getting this way: The set is so futuristic looking that the action could be taking place in the next century. But I think I’d rather see the actual cubicles and gamy habitrails of the Santa Clara, Calif., offices.

On the upside, the real techies are presumably busy working and wouldn’t want to do 40 takes pouring coffee. And the actors are well cast-it’s not like they brought in a McSteamy type and tried to tell us he’s a physicist because he wears glasses.

Still, it’s a little disappointing knowing it’s all been prettied up. I’m gullible, I guess. I got all excited when I saw “Volunteer,” the spot that broke during the Emmys, which features an actor playing robotics engineer Louis LeGrand, sitting nervously in an all-white room, getting shaved by a robot as part of an experiment. (“Our team players aren’t like your team players.”)

It looks beautiful, with a laser marking off portions of the guy’s head as the steel blade swipes his cheek. I was a bit deflated to learn that the blade was not operated by robots but by puppets. (More info on the people being portrayed appears at SponsorsOfTomorrow.com, which helps.)

A new round of spots breaks in the next few weeks, and they too are cool and amusing.

In “Cake Anyone?” two geeky guys stand over a sheet cake with a top layer that’s a perfect reproduction of a circuit board. They’re stymied as to how to cut it, because every area is key — nothing is disposable. “Power management!” one guy cries when his friend is about to make a cut. “Are you serious?” Then another guy pushes his way through and lops off a piece. “Our parties aren’t like your parties,” reads the copy.

With shows like The Big Bang Theory, we’re seeing more geek chic in the culture, but it’s still pretty much depicted as a nerd fraternity, with pitifully few women in the ranks. So, I was happy to see “Massage,” a spot featuring a female robotics programmer. The actress sits at her computer, with a robot behind her kneading her shoulder in the same way that George Bush approached Angela Merkel at the G8 conference in Russia.