Nike Rides Runner’s High

What motivates you to run? That was the question Crispin Porter + Bogusky asked in its first big brand spot for Nike+. And it sure is a big production, chock-full of chase scenes from ancient Roman times to today. It is an engrossing commercial to watch, mostly because you have no idea what’s going on, and well-produced action scenes always pull you in.

The 60-second spot opens with a caveman in motion and seamlessly morphs into various running scenes through the ages, including an armor-clattering battle scene, a Native American woman hunting a deer and a police chase, until finally the chain brings us to a lone runner winding down his workout on a gym treadmill and the question “Need motivation?” Violin strains switch to amped-up rock ‘n’ roll, and a pack of runners suddenly comes crashing through the gym window out onto the street, where they continue to run while Nike+ monitoring spurs them on.

It’s an interesting take on the sport. Even if you’re not running for your life, food or freedom, you can run like you are. Still, something about the ending of the spot feels off to me. The transition from the epic “historical” scenes to the modern moment feels jerky, even though it’s supposed to be. And the final running scene feels almost too normal when compared to the cinematic sprints that came before it. Following Wieden + Kennedy’s phenomenal history on the business can’t be easy, but this spot signals a promising start. Let’s see if Crispin can keep it up.

Crispin’s first crack at Domino’s played with the pizza chain’s old 30-minute delivery promise, reinventing the idea without bringing back the guarantee by instead focusing on what people can do with the time they have while waiting. The spot with two friends lamenting the fact that the time went by so fast is entertaining enough, showing the goofy ways the teens passed the time-crashing through a pyramid of empty cans, jumping over a firecracker, dancing-backed by Cinderella’s “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone),” a musical selection that heightens the humor.

Dell has been making interesting musical choices in its spots of late, first with Devo and now with a haunting, stripped- and slowed-down version of Doris Day’s “Que Sera Sera,” performed by singer/songwriter Jennifer Terran that backs a medley of mayhem. Clunky PCs are smashed with a wrecking ball, crash to pieces as they fall from above frame and explode in slow motion, sending remnants flying all over the white room that houses them. As the spot centers on the sleek new XPS, the tagline reveals, “Dell. Now available in beautiful.” The white environment reminds that Apple isn’t the only choice for good-looking computers.

And since we are talking about Apple, the best holiday-themed spot last month came from the “PC vs. Mac” campaign. The humorous spot features the familiar Mac and PC guys as stop-motion figures modeled after the characters in classic Christmas cartoons. It opens with the animated PC and Mac guys bookending Santa, who leads the pair in a sing-along with his harmonica. PC, of course, can’t put aside his competitive streak, even for the holiday season, and crams his pitch into the tune of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” When Santa and Mac stop singing, he retorts, “What? I thought those were the lyrics. I mean, that’s the way I learned it.” The animation captures the physical traits and expressions we’ve become familiar with in the live-action campaign, and seeing the pair outside of their usual environment is an unexpected, refreshing treat.

My most surprising pick comes from a catogory that rarely “speaks” to me, but this AT&T spot always makes me smile. It is about a father who stays connected with his young daughter via cell phone while on a business trip by sending her pictures of her stuffed monkey wherever he is. The spot ends with her racing out to the door to greet her returning dad, after she receives a pic of the monkey outside their home. It’s a sweet spot. And sometimes that’s all we need.