When I agreed to critique the “Best Spots” for

When I agreed to critique the “Best Spots” for April, I had no idea I would be writing the review from a bathroom in Croatia. It’s a long story—not unlike the stories behind every ad. Every assignment begins with the desire to come up with a great idea. No creative I know runs the ad gauntlet without the best intentions of producing a piece of work that is breakthrough. But creative advertising is fragile. From the strategy to the final edit, debates, compromises, good intentions, strong beliefs, time, money—all come into play. Reality and creativity are often at odds. So when we are fortunate enough to see an ad that makes it from concept to execution and is great, we recognize and reward it. Because advertising is hard. Period. As I was watching these best spots, I could see efforts being made to create something better than good. Three spots that did best this month were Citibank, Gatorade and Target.

Citibank: A guy working late is surrounded by family photos. The photos are actually real family members filling in for missing. The pacing is nice. The forced smile on the bride becomes even funnier when we realize it’s actually an expression of pain from crouching all day. I also like the casting of the spot. It is interesting without being odd, except for the grandparents, who are over the top, because the joke has to go somewhere. The wife dressed in bridal attire up top and jeans on the bottom is a great detail. The photos coming to life is well handled.

Gatorade: Athletes pushing the limit go too far and turn into gravel. This spot works. Intellectually, the effect perfectly demonstrates how drained the body becomes and how important it is to replace fluids. Viscerally, it makes me thirsty. After watching this, I wanted to buy the product and just run to catch subways. An example of how good work can be done, even when the voiceover is talking from :01 to :30.

Target: Dogs act like their owners. Owners act like their dogs. And dogs really act. Great music. Nicely paced editorially. I especially like the vignette of the dog and umbrella shaking at the same time. Heart-warming advertising. Nothing heady. Just Target indulgently rewarding a viewer for watching. Thanks, Target.

Here are some others that deserve recognition:

ESPN: Golfer tees off and experiences all the advice he has garnered a la special effects. Love the garden-hose effect.

Fox SportsNet: Mariner fans don the rally cap for good luck. Good variation on the toupee.

Geico: Speed Racer cartoon turns into a 15 percent savings message from Geico. Nice nod from the monkey.

Home Paramount Pest Control: People in bug costumes in emergency rooms are told they are going to die. Like the casting of the deadpan bug doctor.

MasterCard: Priceless V.O. tries to talk as man uses loud hedge clippers. Good use of sound design.

Pedigree: A celebration of little dogs that have big hearts, big egos … but little mouths. Fine example of classic writing.

Pella: Two women discuss the window element as the husband wreaks havoc outside with a grill. Nice demo.

Scope: Eskimos rub noses in the tundra until they get Scope, and then it’s full-on kissing. First-rate film and art direction.

Subway: Talking hamburger convinces guy to try lean Subway to save his own bun. Good job integrating food footage.

The bathroom phone just rang. Time to go talk advertising over a few Ozujskos.