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Some Spots Swing While Others Crash-Land

In 1998, simple ads with strong images worked while forced cleverness and preachiness did not. Here are our choices for the best and worst ads of the year.

BEST

* Gap: Gap’s understated commercials, produced in-house, celebrate youthfulness, self-confidence and style. And consumers see those traits in themselves. In our favorite spot, spirited swing dancers enhance the brand’s trendiness. And with each step, the dancers demonstrate the comfort of Gap’s khaki pants.

* Volkswagen Beetle: Drive it? Hug it? Sparse ads for the company’s New Beetle evoked 1960s nostalgia while showing an adorable car with none of the bugs of its predecessor. The ads from Boston-based Arnold Communications delivered the drivers Volkswagen wanted.

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* Jack-in-the-Box: Foodmaker deserves a nod for keeping its ongoing sendup of corporate America fresh. The 4-year-old ad campaign took an outrageous twist when the clown who heads Jack-in-the-Box restaurants ran for political office. The commercial from Santa Monica-based Kowloon Wholesale Seafood Co. spoofed every cliche of political advertising and pitched a hamburger meal.

WORST

* Nike: Nike’s short-lived “I Can” campaign from Portland, Ore.-based Wieden & Kennedy nudged kids to fearlessly defy their parents. Evidently the sneaker marketer forgot who buys the shoes.

* Air New Zealand and Gillette: Let’s welcome Air New Zealand and Gillette to the last millennium for their views on women. Air New Zealand used double-entendre to tout the cheeriness of its female flight attendants. “What was she on?” an ad from El Segundo-based Team One asked. Meanwhile, Gillette--in ads created by New York-based BBDO--implied that “soft, smooth legs” were an ingredient for success.


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