The other weekend I was with a friend when the Elton John song, I
Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues, came on. He burst out yelling:
’I hate this song! He never does tell you why they call it the
That’s pretty much how I feel about most American advertising these days
- why do they call it advertising? The airwaves are cluttered with a
seemingly endless stream of dotcom spots, and they all use the same
brand of humour.
Generic. With a big bar code down the side. I don’t know what these
websites do, let alone remember what company it was for. It may be
funny, but it’s not advertising.
But one campaign that stands out in this category is TBWA/Chiat Day’s
work for onhealth.com. Each ad brings to life a single article on health
that you’ll find on the website. One execution shows a sick, elderly
woman in bed while her family moves a heavy bureau. She suddenly sits
up, a chair is knocked over, and then she passes out again. The chair
lands on an article called ’Feng Shui. Does it work?’ Another spot
involves a deadpan first-aid instructor telling jokes to the dummy, to
illustrate an article called ’Healing with humour’. Hysterical. Water
cooler-worthy. And most importantly, I know exactly what to expect from
Even harder than introducing a new brand, is reviving a formerly
brilliant one. That’s what makes Arnold Communications’ latest
Volkswagen Beetle work especially impressive. They tap into just enough
of the 60s equity, yet make it beautifully modern. There’s nothing
gratuitous about the executional elements - the use of white space, the
type, the music - it all comes right out of the brand. I love the spot
where the car flies around an atomic symbol while ethereal voices
describe the discovery of a new element called ’Turobonium’. Who says
you can’t do a great ad that shows the product the whole time?
Finally, it’s nice to be able to praise an athletic shoe company besides
Nike and really mean it. Every sneaker ad looks like a Nike campaign
from five or ten years ago. Leagas Delaney San Francisco’s ’long live
sport’ campaign for Adidas forgoes the angst we’ve come to associate
with athletics and instead reminds us that sport is supposed to be
Closest to my New York heart is a spot featuring an obnoxious
out-of-towner who climbs into a New York cab and bitches to the smiling
Indian driver about the Yankees baseball team. The driver eventually
deposits him at a deserted building in the meatpacking district. Enter
transvestite prostitute. I like the ads, I like Adidas for buying them.
I’m even considering introducing a pair of Adidas trainers into my
all-black shoe wardrobe.
And that’s why they call it advertising.