The Spots of September

NEW YORK Great work requires not only an infinite amount of talent, but perseverance and will. There are the obstacles one endures, the internal battles one bobs and weaves around in order to protect the idea. The strategy needs to be succinct, the execution flawless.

Let’s not leave out the endless testing, the overthinking by the overthinkers and the countless criticisms deflected by individuals dedicated to preserving the idea in its original form. No one ever considers the degree of difficulty in convincing a client who absolutely doesn’t get it, never has and never will, that they need to trust their millions of dollars to an unfamiliar idea if they want to turn heads and, ultimately, turn profits. Kudos to those who braved the elements.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s rip some work.

First up, Heinz ketchup. Do I really have to tell you how wrong it is to see an animated bottle of ketchup running around at a baseball park? I didn’t think so.

Next up, Doritos. I like Missy Elliot. I like Doritos. I like how the guy in the recording studio evolves into a guy in chaps and how a campfire appears. I like the idea of two types of chips in one bag. I also like picking up hitchhikers, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.

My list of targets also includes a spot from Guinness, which looks like the alcoholic sibling of Coke’s “Happiness Factory” spot. It’s well executed, but still all too familiar.

Over the years, IBM has created some incredibly memorable advertising. It has carved out a unique and ownable marketing niche for its products and services by making big, boring business solutions tolerable. Unfortunately, this one, in which some company employees play bingo during a large meeting, substituting the speaker’s cliches for letters and numbers, misses the mark. The spot is as boring as the product it’s selling—even the cast looks like they would rather be selling something else.

In the Campbell’s execution, we see a chef pondering how to create a tasty, low-sodium soup. It’s beautifully shot and well cast, but the button that wraps up the spot looks like it came from 1982 and, as we all know, things from 1982 don’t quite fit anymore.

Then there’s the Burger King ninja chicken, in which a martial arts master teaches a chicken to have less “kick” in his kick. Again, an idea that feels very familiar. Even if they turn it into a video game, it won’t sell chicken. But if it does, you can kick me.

At first glance, I thought the Stein Mart commercial was an ad for Steinway, as it features a man playing a piano in a fancy-looking store. At first I was amused by it, but then I thought, why would Steinway have to advertise? Everyone knows it’s the best piano out there. The further my mind wandered, the more it begged for a simple answer: What is Stein Mart, and what the hell does it sell?

Which brings me to the last commercial, which is for Xbox Halo 3. As hard as I tried to rip this one, I just can’t. The haunting combination of a stark piano track and the slow camera move through a replicated battlefield caught me like an enemy target in a sniper’s scope. I watched it over and over again. Even though I don’t play video games, it made me want to find out more about the product. And that’s what great advertising should do. So I went online and became even more mesmerized as I watched the making-of video, which isn’t what I’d expect. This spot turns a video game into a spectacular experience.

So that’s my take on September’s Best Spots. You may not agree with me, but hey, it’s not like your work hasn’t been through the ringer already.