I’ve been given the honor of doing this month’s

I’ve been given the honor of doing this month’s Best Spots critique. I try to stay away from critiques, because I don’t like knocking other people’s work. Let’s face it, it’s hard to sell great work, and there are about a hundred things that conspire to screw up every spot you create. That said, I watched the 14 spots they wanted me to judge. Twice. I knew I shouldn’t have done this.

The Nextel ad was the only real bright spot in a pretty disappointing lineup—a great production that was fun to watch and that made one (one) simple point that highlighted the advantage of having a Nextel push-to-talk cell phone. This is a stylized, heavily choreographed monster of a 60-second spot with an exaggerated construction site and hundreds of workers performing superhuman feats of perfectly synchronized building (in other words, the opposite of any construction project any of us have been involved in). The super says, “Nextel helps groups get things done.” Perfecto.

I also watched spots for Bud Light, which had a guy (“Rusty”) fitted with a shock collar to keep him from the beer; for ESPN, which showed how much a football fan was going to miss the pizza delivery guy because the football season was ending; and for Pepto Bismol—an ad which gave me diarrhea. To say these spots are uninspired would be kind. And I want to be kind.

I liked two other spots. One was for PBS and brought together PBS celebs like Charlie Rose and several others, from actresses to correspondents, to read a bedtime story to a little girl to demonstrate how PBS gives you more than one side of the story. The spot is well conceived, well acted and nicely shot. And there was a cool spot for Target—cool graphics, cool music and a pretty cool edit, too. I don’t remember exactly what it was about, but I know it was cool, and that’s what Target is.

The other seven spots I looked at—for Barnesandnoble.com, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Corona, Dairy Queen, ESPN Outdoors and Stolichnaya—ran the gamut from lame to boring to derivative to been-there-done-that. Maybe this year an improved economy will prove less threatening to people’s livelihoods and will move us into a more adventurous mind-set.

With apologies to all, here’s to a better 2005.