“Supar Tool”

These films for Old Navy by my former colleague, Jamie King and his creative partner, Roger Camp came out of nowhere. I didn’t even know Jamie and Roger had a thing going with Old Navy. When they started their new agency, Camp + King in San Francisco I assumed they’d have to start small and go from there. Old Navy is a lot of things but it ain’t small.

And neither is this startling campaign, which makes uproarious parody of fashion advertising, suggesting it’s time to “dress like a man…not that guy.”

In one film, “that guy” is an ass-clown in pleated khakis, ill-fitting polo shirt and a fetish for his smart phone. In other words, like every other guy you see at the airport. How are men like this ever let out of the house dressed like that? You’d think their wives would intervene. Being a guy myself, I mostly don’t give a shit. Regardless, it’s an ingenious send up of suburban males and their hopelessly outré wardrobes.

A second film, “Supar Tool” goes the other way, in a more expected (but no less entertaining) parody of those smarmy, effeminate fashion campaigns that play more like soft core porn than clothes advertising. Yes, we’ve seen these sorts of parodies before. Years ago, Saturday Night Live famously did one that still resonates. But so what? Adland has been copping ideas from SNL as long as I can remember. In my view, being derivative is only a sin if you do it poorly.

These spots, by Epoch Films’ director Greg Bell are wonderfully produced, delivering the concept in spades. Though made for the Web the films look like a million bucks, proving that making cheap video for the Internet is a decision not a mandatory.

Say what you will about Old Navy they always push the envelope. They are fearless. And while I didn’t like many of their previous campaigns from Crispin Porter & Bogusky, I respected the hell out of them. Rarely if ever have they resorted to posing models in contrived locations. In this latest effort they literally make fun of the convention. I don’t know if Old Navy can ever be a real man’s store but this is a hell of a way to find out.


images-2imagesTwo silver sleds but only one is a holiday classic.

Tis the season to be jolly… like it or not. That means we will be shot up with more Christmas commercials than Nikki Sixx was with heroin. Recession? Bah Humbug. No matter how perilously close to bankruptcy any given advertiser might be, they will not be able to resist the loss leader tactics run riot between Black Friday and New Year’s Day. Stories about companies scaling back for the recession are misleading. Most holiday campaigns were paid for and made during summer. Pulling out now is no solution to winter’s cold economic reality. Might as well bundle up and plow through. What choice do we have?

Will it be a “December to Remember” for Lexus? I hope not. Is there anything more annoying than a rich, white women subduing a shriek as her husband reveals a silver sedan posing in the driveway? Yes there is. The effen red bow on said sedan. That is more irritating. Add one patriarchal, waspish voice-over and you’ve given pretension a new standard. Wouldn’t it be funny if hubby bought wifey a Prius instead? She’d probably strangle him with that damn red ribbon.

Speaking of annoying people, what do you suppose Gap and Old Navy have in store for us? Plenty of cheap sweaters no doubt. But what about in terms of advertising? I’m guessing more of the same. Which means waves of hyper-smiling celebutants dolled up and dancing or, in Old Navy’s case, mugging in various campy scenarios. When both retailers began these respective campaigns, it was actually refreshing. Hip even. But then so was Bill Clinton playing a saxophone.

Do you think Radio Shack (how on earth do they survive?) will be trotting out more abysmal theater from Howie Long and his desperate housewife? Nothing says Christmas like Howie in a ski sweater. Yum!

And here’s to all the one-offs: cute kids setting out treats for Santa, bumbling dads stringing up lights, befuddled husbands holding up ties, shrieking girlfriends flashing new rings. And so on and on and on…

Maybe our children will come to regard these spots as holiday classics. When I was a boy I adored the Norelco Christmas commercials featuring Santa Claus zooming over the snow-covered hillside on an electric shaver with three floating heads. This TV spot first appeared in 1961 and has been updated through the years. Today it is one of the most fondly remembered Christmas commercials ever made. It’s like grandma’s fruitcake –wonderfully terrible, terribly wonderful. Christmas just wasn’t the same without it. For you youngsters, I’ve dug up a copy. Joy Norelco!

Fairness Warning! I’ve seen new creative from some of the above-mentioned advertisers. I do not want to be a bad reindeer so I offer an update, largely in their favor…

For 2008, Lexus has added a nostalgic twist to their “December to Remember.” Films imagine 30-somethings as kids, opening the “best gifts ever.” We then superimpose mom and dad now as they receive an updated vehicular version. It’s better creative for sure -save for the red bow and cloying music.

Radio Shack appears to have cut Howie from the Xmas team. They are now running generic ‘home for the holiday’ commercials. Forgettable but not hateful.

Old Navy is, once again, filling our lives with garish color, this time to the strains of “I want Candy.”

Several months ago I ripped Cadillac’s creative, calling it arrogant and off-putting. Their current holiday commercial, for the Escalade, is a beaut. A smug hunk recites all of Santa’s reindeer’s names as seven beautiful women hop into his “sleigh.” He closes the door on Blitzen, his buddy. “Sorry, I’ve only got room for eight.” Bro, that’s cold. Earlier in the spot (during the bootie call), when he says “Vixen,” I didn’t know whether to pump my fist or puke into it, such is the line they are walking.