Advertising and the Kentucky Derby: a match made in television heaven


Horse racing may be called the sport of kings, but our Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Pimlico Stakes, Belmont Stakes) is the quintessentially American blend of plebian commercialism (“Today’s race is brought to you by Yum Brands.”) and Thoroughbred tradition. Three days a year when the 1% and 99% come together in equine fandom and semi-drunken revelry (and not just in the infield.)

And like other destination TV events, it has come to showcase some great creative that, to me, is every bit as thrilling as the races themselves. Here are the spots that earned my call for win-place-show.

Longines, the official timekeeper of the event, celebrates horses and horlogerie (watchmaking) in a beautifully shot montage of cavorting mares and foals, hard-riding jockeys and heart-pounding suspense. Just as “every second counts” in horse racing, so too does every frame in this well-made story. Those tight close-ups of the horses’ faces get me every time.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas hotel continues on its delightfully transgressive path of “just the right amount of wrong” with a hallucinogenic new spot called “Twilite Spedball” (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) that touches on just about every fetish while keeping its sense of humor on full display.

Finally, Chrylser’s Ram Trucks align themselves with the “hard work, determination and guts” that used to be in every American’s bloodline and is still “what brings us great things.”

Which brings us to a truly great thing, the winner of the Derby, California Chrome, owned by the improbably named “Dumb Ass Partnership” (hence the silhouette of the mule on the jockey’s silks).  A Cinderella horse with a fairy tale ending whose owners never lost faith and proved the rich guys wrong.

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