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Commercial breaks turn breakneck

Mountain Dew, Taco Bell, Reebok, and more air high-pace advertisements to catch viewers’ attention

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Since when did commercial breaks turn breakneck? It seems every other TV ad these days puts sky surfers, street lugers, and their equally sport-maniacal cousins in your face. While shying away from the actual word, advertisers — from NYNEX’s ”Xtreme Dialing” commercials to Snickers’ ”Extremely Nuts” promotion — all want to co-opt the energetic, individualistic attitude of extreme and attract the X market, with its estimated $150 billion in purchasing power. Among the ads pushing the boundaries:

Reebok Missy Giove, a 24-year-old lesbian mountain biker known for wearing a dead piranha around her neck, made her Reebok ad debut in 1994, but those spots were targeted at outdoor athletes. In January, Giove became one of the first extreme-sports athletes to cross over to ads aimed at the everyday customer. The only thing missing from her spot was the E-word. ”It’s a perfect descriptor,” says Reebok spokeswoman Maya Elisayeff, ”but the community does not accept that terminology.” And who needs to spell it out when the endorser is painted silver?

Mountain Dew Mountain Dew hurled itself into extreme-sports advertising back in 1993 and hasn’t slowed down since. Its commercials have featured an actor outfitted as James Bond snowboarding, Andre Agassi bungee jumping, and Mel Torme free-falling from the top of a Vegas hotel. ”Not many of our consumers regularly sky-surf,” says Dave Burwick, marketing director of Mountain Dew. ”It’s more of an aspirational thing.”

Taco Bell Extreme sells cheese. In Taco Bell’s new ad, two Bill and Ted types are hanging out on a cliff when one starts to fall off but manages to grab hold of the other’s burrito. Fortunately, there’s so much cheese inside that it becomes a lifesaving bungee cord. ”The commercial conveys the individual attitude of Taco Bell consumers who say they want more out of life,” says spokeswoman Amy Sherwood, ”and it portrays the product in a way that plays up the incredible amount of cheese in every bite.”

Bell Helmets With a throttling ad that could double as a David Cronenberg wet dream, Bell Helmets splices shots of motorcycle, car, and bike crashes with the tag line ”Human beings are the only species with the ability to reason — and sometimes we even use it.” The spot furthers the perception that extremists are borderline psychotic. ”If you’re using your whole brain,” says Brian Hurley, account director at Bell’s agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, ”you are probably not going to be doing this stuff.”