Guest Critic

It was probably a mistake to see Michel Gondry’s film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind right before viewing this month’s Best Spots. Everything about that film was perfect. The casting. The look of the film. The script. The editing. It was all about the power of love and memories. And I bought it. Hook, line, sinker.

A film that lovely and clever and meaningful kind of spoils you for a 30-second commercial where a bunch of pipes fall on a guy because he doesn’t like baseball. Or one with singing and dancing cheesy crackers.

I suppose it’s a lot to ask for 30 seconds to compete with a work 240 times longer. But if creative people don’t aim for some measure of art with their commerce, then aren’t we just account people who wear jeans and throw temper tantrums? (While I have no personal experience with such behavior, I have heard this does happen.)

Among this month’s Best Spots, there are some with surprising visuals, like Mountain Dew and Kia. Some with human insights, like Fidelity. Some that are just funny, like the new Netflix spot. But there are very few that people will be talking about in a couple years. And for me, none that combine insight and craft into something that approaches art—like the very, very best advertising does.

Here are my favorites.

Burger King: Tussle

Speaking of tantrums, co-workers fight over a new chicken sandwich in this reality-gone-awry commercial. The spot is the latest in a series about a group of co-workers who eat BK together at lunchtime. This one, like the others, makes the food the hero. And eating it in a group no doubt eases the guilt over a 1,500-calorie lunch. Ending with the animated wrapper and retro “Have it your way” tagline works well.

Citibank: Marquez Sisters

In this new commercial in the “Live Richly” series, two women give William Hung a run for his money in the off-tune-singing arena. The line is, “Friends don’t depreciate.” It’s sweet and touching, and gives a monolithic institution a soul.

Citibank Card: Chassis

I know this campaign will be a big winner in all the awards shows this year. This particular spot is well written and well shot. But for me, it’s just creepy. And when it’s over, I’m not sure if I should apply for a card from Citibank or cut up all the cards I own.

Yahoo!: Franken/Stein

This month’s sleeper. The spot opens on a split screen with Stein on one side and Franken on the other, discussing how Democrats and Republicans use the search engine. According to Stein, “Democrats use Yahoo! for hugging trees.” And Franken, speaking about Republicans, says, “A lot of them get their trophy wives on Yahoo!” Very timely. Very funny. In fact, this spot is probably the only thing funny about politics this month.

Nike: Evolution

This spot, in which a Nike sneaker evolves before our eyes like a lizard on steroids, is flawlessly produced. One viewing and you are convinced that these shoes are the next things to put on your feet. There’s not a single word of copy. Just one amazingly riveting visual. And that’s as close to art as we’re going to get this month.