The Cat Is Back

May 16 1997 3:30 AM

The Cat Is Back

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Sound02 - jag.avi or Sound03 - jag.mov; download time, 3.50 minutes at 56K Sound01 - VR-Jaguar.asf; for sound only

Mischief, produced by Jonathan Shipman of Ogilvy & Mather Inc. for Jaguar.

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Music makes Mischief, the Ogilvy & Mather spot that introduces the Jaguar XJ6. Pointedly abandoning the formulaic, this 30-second spot dispenses with such staples as the narrative voice, choosing to rely on the soundtrack to present its subject as polyphonic, versatile.

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"We had to tell a story about three distinct personalities of this car," says Sherman Foote, creative director of Big Foote Communications Ltd. The firm, which composed the music and designed the sound for Mischief, counts BMW, Pepsi, and Ocean Spray among its clients. This ad was especially challenging. "There is no voice-over, so the music has to be the emotional voice for each car." The copy is spare, and distills to a few simple lines: "It has its mother's eyes ... its father's stature ... and its brother's appetite for mischief." The message is simple, bound to appeal to high-end car buyers weighing their options: No trade-offs necessary.

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A female voice, sinuous, wordless, oddly comforting; the thrum of reverse guitars and synthesizer pads; and the first set of images: two headlights, then four. Panels aglow; pedigree unimpeachable. Long-range shots of the classic hood ornament, and of the car in profile--the stately rhythms hold. Close-ups of the cat, crouched, feral, and of a glinting hubcap--the beat quickens. Distorted lo-fi drum loops and a blues guitar, the promise of trouble. This spot isn't about summer picnics in bee-loud glades. Night has fallen, and Mischief opts for flinty grays and blacks, the city-slickness and palpable sexuality of Cronenberg's Crash and Verhoeven's Basic Instinct. Clever camera work tilts the asphalt, giving the spot some depth and visual interest. And through it all, the music: rounded plops, stretchy roars, sibilant hisses. As the car zips away, picking up speed till the tail lights are pinpoints in the distance, a single line of text reinforces the point. This is a "new breed of Jaguar." You can smell the leather and feel the sweat: The XJ6 may be a classic, but make no mistake--it is a beast of the future.

--Robert Shrum

Robert Shrum is a leading Democratic political consultant.

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