Panto, pageantry, pomp and—oh, yes, advertising—at the Olympics

logo for 2012 London Olympics

Citius, altius, fortius

Opening weekend at the London Olympics. Like everyone else on the planet, I spent quite a bit of time watching the 30th Olympiad. Not because I was especially interested in the parade of nations, the athletic equivalent of the Red Carpet (Who are you wearing? Ralph Lauren! Stella McCartney!) or the opening ceremony itself (overwhelming and often twee) but because I wanted to see who would go “citius, altius, fortius” (faster, higher, stronger) in the creativity competition.

Like other destination TV events (e.g. the Academy Awards, Super Bowl), this is a time when marketers put forth their best effort. After all, just like the athletes, they’ve been training for years to make their name at this very moment in this very arena. And just like the athletes, some of them reach new heights and others fall with a thud.

Herewith, my totally idiosyncratic list of advertising medal winners and losers (for the first weekend anyway). My criteria: did they touch my heart? Did I remember the advertiser’s name or commercial the next day? Did the production values advance the story? Did they tell me something I knew but in a whole new way? Did I want to watch it again (and again and again)?

Gold: GE on the amazing human spirit. (Biotech gets me every time.)

Silver: Amazing bodies doing amazing things in Fruit of the Loom

Bronze (tie): The lifesavers at Apple’s Genius Bar and Dad and lad brave the great outdoors (their backyard) with the new Google tablet.

Lead: the Romney and Obama campaign ads. Both, nicely done (I admit it, I liked Obama’s better) but still…bad timing. (I don’t care how big the audience is.) The Olympics are supposed to celebrate peace and harmony. Give it a rest, guys. (You too, Karl Rove.) There’s plenty of time for hand-to-hand-in-velvet-glove combat after the games are over.

Honorable mention: The tribute to the National Health Service in the “Celebrating the Isles” production. Think we’ll be celebrating the Affordable Care Act 66 years from now?

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