MIXED BLESSINGS

Nonvirtual Strolling, An Omnipresent Past, Masterful Beer, Etc.
Amid all the gratuitous references to cyberculture one sees in ads these days, any sign of a backlash is more than welcome. So, let’s give three analog cheers for a new Cole-Haan ad that takes a drive-by shot at high-tech hype. “Sure, technology has its place in the world,” copy begins. “But words on a computer screen can’t hold a cursor to a firm handshake or sharing a little face time.” Unless you’re walking around on your hands, the human touch is going to entail the use of a little shoe leather. Since Cole-Haan shoes are mostly handmade by “real people,” copy continues, “they give you a feeling you can’t really put into words. Or e-mail, for that matter.” The Richards Group of Dallas created the ad.

Some brands struggle to escape obscurity. But others are so famous that they’ve taken on a life of their own, beyond the control of their owners. This can create problems of its own. In a typical year, chances are you see as many Cadillacs (always old ones) in ads for brands other than Cadillac as you do in General Motors’ own advertising for the marque. And, as is the case with the ad shown here for Hewlett-Packard’s color copiers (via Goodby, Silverstein & Partners of San Francisco), the vintage Cadillacs almost always look more fun than the ones GM is trying to sell today. The new models are superior cars, no doubt, but they don’t carry the aura of their predecessors. In effect, the brand’s glorious past has fallen into the public domain, where its frequent use as an icon offers an implicit reproach to the not-so-iconic Cadillacs of today. No wonder the brand has had trouble generating traction in the marketplace in recent years.

At last, a beer marketer has the moxie to restore scantily clad women to the category’s ads. So what if the woman in question is several centuries old? It’s a start. (Gearon Hoffman of Boston created the ad for Seagram Beverage Co., which imports Grolsch to the U.S.) Indeed, Grolsch should win praise from the people who usually object to advertisers’ pulchritudinous ploys, since it dares to employ a woman whose Rubenesque body type departs from the supermodel norm of so much current advertising.

While we’re on the subject of body types: The current issue of Prime Health & Fitness magazine runs a reproachful chart, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ranking cities by incidence of obesity in their populations. In a tribute to its famous cuisine, New Orleans tops the list, with 38 percent of its denizens classified as overweight. The runner-up, at 34 percent, is Norfolk, Va., with San Antonio, Texas, coming in third (33 percent). Denver, Minneapolis and San Diego are at the svelte end of the spectrum, each with a percentage in the low 20s. Among other major cities, Chicago ranks 17th, New York 18th and Los Angeles 25th.