- Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012
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- LOS ANGELES
With the winner of the primetime commercial Emmy Award scheduled to be announced and honored during the Creative Arts ceremony next month in Los Angeles, SHOOT continues its annual tradition of sounding out John Leverence, sr. VP, awards of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, for his perspective on the field of nominees which this year consists of: two Volkswagen spots, "The Bark Side" and "The Dog Strikes Back," both from Deutsch LA; and three out of Wieden+Kennedy--Chrysler's "It's Halftime in America," and Procter & Gamble's "Best Job" from W+K, Portland, Ore., and Target's "Color Changes Everything" out of W+K, New York. "The Bark Side" was directed by Keith Schofield of Caviar. Lance Acord of Park Pictures helmed "The Dog Strikes Back." David Gordon Green of Chelsea directed "It's Halftime in America." Filip Engstrom of Smuggler was the director on "Color Changes Everything." And "Best Job" was directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu of Anonymous Content. Both "It's Halftime in America" and "The Dog Strikes Back" debuted on this year's Super Bowl.
Leverence paralleled Wieden+Kennedy, a perennial Emmy nominee--and for that matter, winner of the last three spot Emmy Awards--to Mad Men, another regular in the Emmy nominations and winners' circle. "Wieden is kind of an Academy voters' favorite who returns year after year--not quite the same as Mad Men and 30 Rock but there's a look and feel to the Wieden work that appeals to voters again and again.
That look and feel, though, spans a wide range as evidenced in this year's trio of nominated commercials. While it takes what Leverence described as a "lateral" move since it's cut from the same cloth as its predecessor spot from the 2011 Super Bowl [the Emmy-winning "Born of Fire"], the follow-up anthem "It's Halftime of America" nonetheless is quite risk taking. "In this case halftime is real-time, the actual halftime of the Super Bowl game and there's a shifting of gears to it being 'halftime in America' where we hear about people who are hurting economically, who are scared, families who have almost lost everything--discord, division, blame, losing our way. For a TV commercial--particularly in the middle of the Super Bowl, which is a great American celebration--these are very alien terms and concepts," noted Leverence. "It's a very frank sort of catching of the current zeitgeist with people in various levels of despair."
But then the spot moves to "one of the most enduring of all narrative motifs--being on the road," continued Leverence. "From people coming west on Conestoga wagons, to the allure of being on Route 66 or on the road with Jack Kerouac. The road is a motif of searching, changing and redemption. This is where the connection to Detroit kicks in--we see various vignettes on the road, all very touching, all moving towards a brighter future with people coming together. And then Clint Eastwood, the right choice for this, tells us the world will again hear America's 'engines roar.' Again its Wieden's strong sense of American cultural phenomena and being able to use it quite nicely and brilliantly--all beautifully shot and edited."
Contrast this with Target's "Color Changes Everything" in which a colorful, energetic, and sprightly group of characters arrives in a bright, bold hot air balloon, spilling out and bringing their magic touch to a town and its outlying neighborhoods. As they jump, dive, cannonball, sprint, and flip, they transform the town into a more lively version of itself, bringing with them the colors of spring and the Target collection spanning a series of products.
"It all unfolds to 'Alouette,' a French Canadian's children's ditty--a song about a pretty little bird, a lark," said Leverence. "The song is appropriate for this commercial which itself is a lark and a romp. It's a fantasy where these acrobatic people infuse color and life into a drab town, bringing it all kinds of products sold at Target--a lamp, makeup, dishes, fashion. These merry pranksters are lovely and charming while selling products. It's a great display of products while equating a feeling of ease and fluidity to the experience of shopping at Target."
Next we have "Best Job" which too shows products--but only a flurry of them at the conclusion as an incidental end tag. "What P&G is really selling is very domestic and nurturing," related Leverence.
"Best Job" shows us different moms around the world getting their youngsters up in the early a.m. for training in their respective sports and follows each through the years until their moments of competitive Olympics glory. We see these kids transition to young athletes in competition at the Summer Games, while moms do everything they do all so well to comfort and support them. A supered message reads, "the hardest job in the world is the best job in the world. Thank you, Mom."
"At the end, we see a mother lean out of the stands to hug her winning athlete, almost in the same posture we saw at the beginning of the commercial when she rouses that athlete as a little kid out of bed," observed Leverence. "It brings you full circle. It's a branding commercial that brings tears to your eyes--so moving, emotional and wonderful. There are these little moments--mom wraps a bandage around her young son's injury. It's emotionally powerful. I also love the transitions. A girl is doing a flip and suddenly she's grown and flipping in the Olympics. A boy runs and suddenly he's on the track running his heart out at the Olympics. This along with Chrysler and Target make for an eclectic and diverse mix of Emmy-nominated work from Wieden."
Like Wieden with its Super Bowl encore for Chrysler, Deutsch LA had a tough act to follow for client Volkswagen in the Big Game. "The Dog Strikes Back" is the return engagement after last year's lauded VW spot "The Force."
To generate buzz and audience anticipation for "The Dog Strikes Back," Deutsch came up with a teaser VW spot, "The Bark Side," which features dogs barking in chorus, crooning a canine rendition of "The Imperial March," otherwise known as "Darth Vader's Theme." Scoring the spot was music/sound house Endless Noise.
"The Bark Side" was a deft foreshadowing promo for "The Dog Strikes Back" in which a dog needs to slim down so he can get through his doggy door and chase the new VW Beetle in the great outdoors. A nod to the prior year's "The Force" comes at the end when patrons at the Star Wars cantina bar give the new spot a thumbs up--with a little prodding from Darth Vader.
"Academy members must be dog lovers," quipped Leverence as partial rationale for both VW spots gaining nominations. In a more serious vein, he noted that the silliness of the barking/singing dogs spot charmed viewers, and "The Dog Strikes Back" was "very cute" while deploying towards the end a narrative device that brings an extra dimension--the discovery that all the action is being watched at the Star Wars cantina. "Suddenly and unexpectedly this commercial becomes a story within a story with the kind of framing you find in a dramatic narrative. The skillful use of this kind of framing seems to appeal annually to Emmy voters."
Adding a resonant entertainment dynamic is the tie-in to the Star Wars franchise for both "The Bark Side" and "The Dog Strikes Back." After all, entertainment value is a major factor in Emmy criteria.
The winner of the primetime commercial Emmy will be revealed during the Creative Arts Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Saturday, Sept. 15. The Governors of the Television Academy's Commercials Branch are Sheila Manning, president of Sheila Manning Casting, and Frank Scherma, president of @radical.media.
For more on this year's Emmy-nominated spots and to view them, Click here to read The Road To Emmy, Part 2.