Few would admit it, but many of us have a favorite ad or two at any given time--a spot we wait and hope will come up again during the next break, and when it does, we trail off midsentence for 30 seconds to give the thing our undivided attention. As often as not, I suspect, we're trying to figure out what the hell it is that we find so mesmerizing. I happen to be a big fan of some of Target's advertising. The company has run a series of extremely striking print ads that riff on the Target logo to produce various Op Art-flavored images. That visual style has carried over into two TV spots that juxtapose various products sold at the store.
The Ads: The two spots are pretty close to being pure visual plays. In each, the idea is to show a workaday product along with something more fashionable, and let the viewer connect the dots. The first spot cuts back and forth between images of LifeSavers rolls and a blond lifeguard. (Attractive young women figure rather prominently in the spots.) There's a driving, guitar-heavy soundtrack with minimal lyrics that involve frequent repetition of the word "together." The images are soaked in Pop Art colors, and divide, appear as negatives, and so on, in a series of fast and aggressive edits. Words pop on and off the screen in succession: "Surf Shorts." "LifeSavers." "Together." Then the same set of tricks repeats, this time featuring images of a brunette, apparently bouncing on a trampoline, alternating with the bright Bounce fabric-softener box. "Bounce. Stretch Pants. Together."
The second ad plays much the same way, featuring the midriff of a woman in a bathing suit played against Tums. ("Two Piece." "Tums." "Together.") And finally, the immortal Tide logo plays off yet another pretty young thing dancing in trendy jeans: "Flood Pants. Tide. Together."
What They're Trying To Say: Target has positioned itself as an "upscale discounter," which sounds like an oxymoron. The idea is to suggest that there is, after all, a really cool place to buy low-glamour staple products like Tide. The chain has famously laced its offerings with various objects (such as tea kettles) from name designers such as Michael Graves, obviously at prices well below what those designers' wares would cost you in a boutique. These two ads hammer away at that stylish-yet-sensible theme: You can find bargain-priced clothes that are perfectly in sync with current fashion, and you can save money on the stuff you simply have to buy. You have class, and yet you are not a sucker who pays too much. Somehow it's all very cutting edge, not middle class or embarrassing like Wal-Mart or Kmart.
Why They Work: All of this is ridiculous, of course, but then brand images are often ridiculous. And they can still work. These ads are themselves very stylish and tasteful, an absolute riot of color and motion and arresting graphic imagery; the song is catchy, too. Something about that Flood Pants-Tide segment is particularly mesmerizing. It leaves you feeling that maybe Target really isn't so much a big-box department store as ... a nightclub!
The Grade: Obviously I love the ads. If only there were a Target within 100 miles of my home, I'd go there and buy some detergent. Anyway, I give the spots a solid A.