Kellogg’s ‘Swimmer’ best in Olympic ad competition

Hundreds of hours and seemingly thousands of television commercials later, the 2012 London Summer Olympics are now winding down.  As psyched as we were to experience both the Games and the advertising when it all began nearly two weeks ago with a dreary slog of an opening ceremonies, we must confess Olympics fatigue is setting in.

The track and field events, which have consumed much of this last week of competition just don’t have the inherent drama of swimming and gymnastics, so the proceedings have begun to drag more than a bit.

Plus, we’ve been surprisingly disappointed by some aspects of NBC’s coverage. What was near totally absent early on was any of the color reportage that made the network’s coverage of previous Olympic Games so special.  Only in the last few days has Mary Carillo, that oddball of a host, materialized in prime time to present a few, well-done sidebars on some fascinating aspects of life in — and the culture of — England.

And oh yes.  How could we forget all those commercials we have dutifully watched online and on the telly since the London Olympics started.  Truth be told, we thought we’d be thoroughly disgusted with them by this point. But taken as a whole, the spots that have inserted themselves into the 30th Olympiad weren’t a total disaster. 

Many advertisers wisely opted to tailor spots with an Olympic theme, which made them seem less intrusive than might have been the case otherwise.

So we couldn’t let these London Olympics end with the closing ceremonies on Sunday (which we fervently hope will be better than the opening festivities) without presenting our selective list of winners and losers among the 2012 London Olympic Games TV spots:

Visa, always a winner in taste; AT&T, missed on Lochte

From Visa’s spot with Michael Phelps Winner:  Visa.  One of several longtime Olympic sponsors, this global credit card behemoth has always taken the high road in its Olympic advertising. And 2012 was no different.  Always august in tone, Visa Olympic commercials proudly evince what this grandest of sporting events is all about. 

The credit card giant also was quick to add a spot to the mix to celebrate the Olympic achievement, of Michael Phelps, now the most decorated Olympian of all time.

Loser:  AT&T. This high-profile telecommunications giant was one of several Olympic advertisers (Gillette, too) high on Ryan Lochte.  Now no one likes to dump on any Olympian, but let’s be honest:  Lochte is probably the biggest bust of an American athlete that these Olympic Games produced. 

The publicity surrounding Lochte seemed endless going into the Games. He was, by all accounts, the anointed. The new Phelps. The megastar.  Sure, Lochte — he of the shiny, bejeweled mouth guard — won a medal or two.  But he was nothing like the hype suggested he would be. 

And we really were infuriated by that AT&T commercial that, in portentous tones, showed Lochte swimming toward the London skyline while talking about the great effort it took to turn him into a swimming superman. 

Moral of the story:  Better not to count chickens before they’ve hatched.

Chevvy’s theme impressive; P&G promotes itself, why?

Winner: Chevrolet.  We can say two things with absolute certainty:  Chevy runs deep; and Chevy sure loves to run advertising.  Man, this iconic American auto brand had the Olympics covered. Top to bottom.  Backwards and forwards.  Too much advertising, probably. But by the time the curtain comes down on these Olympics, the viewing public sure will know what Chevy is all about.

The Chevy spot that really stood out, of course, talked about how great companies stand behind their products. And then the commercial promptly promised that dissatisfied Chevy new car owners could return their vehicles.  The spot, alas, didn’t go into the fine print about that offer. 

And every time we heard it, we couldn’t help but think this promise is too good to be true.  Still, the fact Chevy was willing to make it had to impress a lot of viewers.

Loser:  Procter & Gamble.  Now here we have another big American company — one that makes scores of products that many people may not realize are part of the P&G family.  And there’s the rub.  P&G made a major push during these Olympics to position itself as a proud sponsor of moms.  A lovely thought.  And a lovely way to tie the theme into the Olympics. But. And it’s a big but. Why spend so many millions to promote P&G?  It’s just a parent corporation. Not the products. 

But we shouldn’t gripe too much.  We’ve complained in the past that too many companies don’t engage in pure brand building.  P&G at least spent big bucks to do just that.

Kellogg’s ‘Swimmer’ best yet from Leo Burnett

Susan Credle, Burnett’s CCOWinner: Kellogg’s.  Let’s hear it for sentiment.  The big winner in the 2012 London Olympic advertising pool is a commercial simply titled “Swimmer.”  It’s easily the best thing Leo Burnett/Chicago’s creative department under chief creative officer Susan Credle has done in a long, long time. 

This spot doesn’t celebrate the obvious Olympic theme — winning.  Rather it cleverly and oh so emotionally offers a tip of the hat to great beginnings, without which, “Swimmer” argues, there can be no winning finishes. 

Lushly visual, the spot, most of all, is a triumphant mesh of exquisite music and spot-on copywriting.  We love the way it keeps one under its thrall by keeping one guessing about where the spot will end up. A fabulous Olympic entry.

And it gets our vote as the top gold medal winner among advertisers in these 2012 London Olympic Games.

You can see the winning spot here.

Leo Burnett credits:  Campaign: 2012 Olympics “From Great Starts Come Great Things.”  CCO, Susan Credle; global creative director, Graham Woodall; creative director, Eduardo Tua and senior AD Bruno Pieroni (Lapiz); executive producer, Mary Cheney.

Production credits:
Production company, Rattling Stick, London; director, Ivan Bird, DP Ivan Bird/Don King (underwater DP). 

VFX/SPX, The Moving Picture Company, London.  Editorial: Beast Editorial, editor, Paul Norling (L.A.).  Music: Slogan Music, L.A. Sound design/mix: John Binder, Another Country, Chicago.

Contact Lewis Lazare at