Pubdate: Mon, 23 Dec 2002
Source: ABC News (US Web)
Copyright: 2002 ABC News

The Year In Ads


It has been a weird and wonderful year in advertising, and one in which the
industry was called upon to promote some unusual messages, like instructing
Americans on the meaning of freedom, and discouraging drug use on the
grounds of anti-terrorism.

Advertisements That Stirred Us Up in 2001

Patriotic Ads Stir Some Controversy

For the first time in years, Bob Garfield of Advertising Age magazine has
given out three four-star awards to commercials. He spoke to Good Morning
America about the year in advertisements.

One of his favorite commercials of the year was for Saturn, a car ad
without cars.

"In six month's time, this will have a basket full of trophies," Garfield
said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.

"It just shows how this company makes the claim that it builds its cars not
with the sheet metal in mind but you," Garfield said.

"When we design cars, we don't see sheet metal," the voice-over says. "We
see the people who may someday drive them. Introducing the re-designed
L-series, the Vue and the all-new Ion. It's different in a Saturn"

Garfield's other four-star ads this year were Nike's "Tag" commercial,
which captured the world's biggest-ever game of tag in the streets of
Toronto, and Pepsi's Super Bowl advertisement featuring pop queen Britney
Spears in a 1950s glam look.

Selling Saudi Arabia?

The year 2002 also saw some ad blunders.

One of the worst commercials of the year, according to Garfield, was
created to "sell" a very strange product: Saudi Arabia. The commercial
focuses on Saudi Arabia's role as an ally to the United States against

"In the war on terrorism we all have a part to play. One country has been
an ally for over 60 years. A global leader donating more foreign aid per
capita than any other nation. A partner in investigating more than 150
suspected terrorist accounts. And a force for stabilizing oil prices during
this time of war," the commercial said.

The screen reads: "The People of Saudi Arabia, Allies Against Terrorism."

Garfield said he found the ad to be deceitful and obnoxious, given reports
that the Saudi royal family has been financing radical Islam abroad as a
way to keep the peace at home.

Linking Drugs And Terrorism

The third category of advertisements this year could either be called
patriotic, or propaganda, depending on your viewpoint.

"It was a weird year, because year in which the industry was asked to
accomplish things advertising has seldom -- at least in this society --
been called upon to do," Garfield said. The list included mending
Saudi-U.S. relations, instruct Americans on the meaning of freedom,
discouraging drug use on the grounds of anti-terrorism and making all of
the Islamic world love America.

One of the more controversial ads, which came from the White House Drug
Office, and ran during the Super Bowl, linked casual drug use to the
funding of terrorism. Here is the text of the commercial.

Boy #1: I helped murder families in Columbia

Boy #2: It was just innocent fun

Girl #1: I helped kidnap people's dads

Girl #2: Hey -- some harmless fun

Boy #3: I help kids learn how to kill

Boy #1: I was just having some fun -- ya know

Boy #4: I help kill policemen

Girl #3: I was just having fun

Boy #1: I helped the bomber get a fake passport

Girl #4: All the kids do it

Girl #5: I helped kill a judge

Girl #6: I help blow up buildings

Girl #7: My life -- My body

"Drug money supports terror,' the screen said. "If you buy drugs, you might

Next, we hear another voice over: "It's not like I was hurting anybody else."

Garfield said he thought the ad was pretty good, but many would disagree.
Some argue that the evidence linking drugs and terrorism is a bit thin
(especially concerning marijuana), while those supporting the legalization
of certain drugs observe that removing recreational drugs from the black
market would end drug crime virtually overnight.

"The spot, and the rest of the campaign that followed, introduced a
legitimate and compelling argument: as long as drug use is a crime, it is
not a victimless one," Garfield said. "There are ugly consequences up and
down the supply chain."

Creepy Commercial

Another strange ad this year came from the Freedom Campaign and Ad Council.
The setting for the ad was a library, where federal agents shadowed a man
who was looking for books.

Here's the text:

Young Man: Excuse me -- I can't seem to find these anywhere.

Librarian: Hmm (types something into computer) These books are no longer

Young Man: I didn't know.

Librarian: May I have your name please?

Young Man: Why? (walks away, confronted by two men wearing suits)

Two men in suits: Excuse me.

Young Man: What did I do?

One of the suited men: We just have a couple of questions; easy, easy.

The screen reads, "What if America wasn't America? Freedom. Appreciate it.
Cherish it. Protect it."

Garfield says the commercial is designed to remind Americans of the
importance of freedom.

"It's a campaign about what it would be like without American democracy,
and it's very chilling, very twilight zone," Garfield said.
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