By Stuart Elliott
N.Y. Times News Service
NEW YORK _ All too often during 1992, advertising agencies chose derivativity over creativity, producing work that shamelessly recycled the tried-and-true, like celebrity endorsements, uplifting jingles or special effects.
A Burger King campaign by D'Arcy Masius Benton Bowles, for example, borrows a personality from MTV, Dan Cortese, and a theme from Goodby, Berlin Silverstein, turning the latter's slogan for National Basketball Association commercials ("I love this game!") into "I love this place!" In Pizza Hut spots introduced last week by BBDO New York, the theme, "Sometimes you gotta stop and smell the pizza," echoes that agency's Pepsi-Cola slogan, while the soundtrack features the rock song "Louie, Louie," which has not been heard in a commercial since, oh, let's see, a week ago Tuesday.
So applaud those all-too-few instances when agencies stretched and produced fresh, innovative, even risky, output. Like the campaign from Cotton Inc., in which America's cotton growers infused their heretofore relentlessly upbeat image campaign, with serious, even tough, vignettes, like a woman banging on the door of a closed savings and loan, or a gang member's funeral. If cotton is "the fabric of our lives," as the ads proclaim, it makes sense to present all aspects of life. Agency: Ogilvy Mather New York.
How much stronger that seemed than the Reebok campaign, which from January through August, at a cost of $30 million, asked which of two American decathletes, Dan O'Brien or Dave Johnson, would win the gold medal at the Summer Olympics and thereby be certified as "the world's greatest athlete."
The monstrous conceit that winning the decathlon would, ipso facto, decide that issue was the campaign's downfall, as both men lost. Had the ads simply, and less self-importantly, set up a friendly rivalry between the photogenic pair, Reebok would have left Barcelona golden rather than red-faced. Agency: Chiat-Day.
Following is a review of other high and low points in advertising creativity, in alphabetic order. First, the highs: Chrysler _ Lee A. Iacocca's swan song _ his 61st, and final, television commercial for Chrysler Corp., coinciding with his retirement as chairman _ was music to motorists' ears. "I have to tell you," he concluded in the smoothly confident spot, for Chrysler's new LH line of family sedans, "when it's your last turn at bat, it sure is nice to hit a home run." Indeed. Agency: Bozell Inc. Bill Clinton _ Though none of Clinton's campaign commercials are likely to be voted into a Political Advertising Hall of Fame, they did bolster his bid for the White House _ a novelty for a Democratic presidential contender. Agency: Clinton-Gore Creative Team. The Gap _ Print ads and store posters for the retailer, featuring the cast of the Fox series "Melrose Place," seemed no different from other television tie-in campaigns. Yet they were a first. One character _ Matt the social worker, portrayed by the actor Doug Savant _ is gay. The Gap's small step was emblematic of a series of similar decisions during the year by mainstream advertisers like CBS, the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Philip Morris. Agency: Inhouse. Calvin Klein _ The young rap singer Marky Mark somehow projected a childlike innocence in commercials, print ads and posters for Calvin Klein's underwear and jeans, despite a penchant for constantly undressing. His vitality and insouciance accomplished everything that Klein utterly failed to achieve last year with his pretentious ad supplement that passed off smug models as rock stars. Agency: In-house. Lee Jeans _ Though tight pants are usually no laughing matter, commercials for Lee Easy Riders jeans used humor to dramatize the pitfalls of clothes that cut off circulation. …