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Commercials mocking commercials

Commercials mocking commercials — Parody is all the rage in advertising. We look at three who do it best.

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Saturday Night Live does it. Mad TV does it. So why shouldn’t Madison Avenue do it too? Make fun of ads, that is. Though not a new strategy (MCI won a Clio for its wicked 1982 lampoon of AT&T’s weepy ”Joey Called” pitch), commercials that mock other commercials have, in these self-referential times, become trendier than Tommy Hilfiger underwear. A peek at three of the latest:

Product: Amigo, Isuzu’s new sport-utility vehicle.
Ad: A goof on the kitschy ’70s Slinky campaign, the spot features a car bumping down some stairs, a cast of smiling Brady Bunch look-alikes, and the coil toy’s creepily infectious ”It’s fun for a girl and a boy” theme. The idea, says Goodby, Silverstein & Partners senior art director David Gray, was to pitch the Amigo as a Gen-X-friendly ”funmobile…. We tried to replicate how poorly the Slinky ads were shot,” he says. ”The scene where everyone’s jumping and their timing is all off — that’s right out of an old Slinky ad.”
Response: Fun-loving Slinky gave Isuzu the song rights free. ”I like it,” says Betty James, president of James Industries, the toy’s maker. ”It’s publicity.”

Product: Power Macintosh G3 computer.
Ad: Mac gives a literal roasting to Intel’s overexposed spokesdancers. As ”Disco Inferno” blares, one of the foil-suited fellows’ feet bursts into flames. The spot — part of Mac’s campaign attacking Intel’s processors as molasses-slow — beat another idea: having the dancers unemployed, sitting at a bar. Apple exec Allen Olivio blasts the Intel ads as ”frivolous…. It’s what happens to advertisers when they don’t have anything to say.”
Response: Intel says it has nothing to say.

Product: Snickers bar.
Ad: A flip side to Nike’s stirring ”I Can” spots, this shows a novice basketball player attempting a dunk, only to end up dangling from the rim. ”I can’t get down,” he whines, as the voice-over suggests a Snickers break. ”There’s no way to do a serious basketball commercial anymore and not feel like an a–hole,” explains BBDO vice chairman Charlie Miesmer. ”How many drops of sweat can you see on Michael Jordan’s brow and not want to shoot yourself?”
Response:Though Nike recently pressured NBC into changing a satirical promo for Working (it featured an office worker boasting ”I can photocopy my face”), the company is taking Snickers’ snickering in stride. ”We’re not a bunch of Sour Patch Kids at Nike,” says spokesman Lee Weinstein. ”We’re not going out and buying Mounds bars.”

(Additional reporting by Shawna Malcom)