Chicago Sun-Times

Originally Published: July 12, 2004

Cooper ad doesn't make the grade

Author: Lewis Lazare

Shock value has its place in advertising. After all, what better way to break through all that clutter and grab viewers' attention than to present them with an image or a situation -- or both -- that they couldn't imagine ever seeing.

Pepsi has done it at least once to great effect. Remember when Ozzie Osborne woke up in bed with Florence Henderson in that Pepsi Twist spot? Maybe, like us, you'd rather not remember. But it was a shocker of a sight, all right. And a lot of people did remember it. Even liked it. Which was great for the Pepsi Twist product the commercial supported.

Now, Martin/Williams in Minneapolis, in its swan song commercial as the agency of record for office supplies giant Staples, is giving viewers a new shocker of a scenario in a back-to-school commercial breaking in select markets on July 19. The shock value, in this instance, has to do with the appearance of rocker Alice Cooper.

The 30-second spot does a decent job of building suspense in the initial seconds as the camera tracks a pair of hands pushing along a shopping cart and picking up various items while a rather cranky looking young girl (a great little actress by the way) looks on with mounting disgust.

Finally, when the big revelation of the mystery shopper's identity can be withheld no longer, we see him to be Cooper, who stares out at us with his wildly disheveled long hair and spooky, mascara-framed eyes in the middle of a Staples store, of all places.

Moments later his daughter, the cranky one now unable to contain her displeasure, barks out a reference to Cooper's hit song "School's Out," in which she recollects him saying school was out forever. But Cooper promptly corrects her -- pointing out the song actually said school was out only for the summer. "Nice try, though," he adds, with just a hint of sarcasm.

After Cooper's done doing his schtick and providing the spot with a dose of shock value, a separate voiceover artist has to quickly remind us Staples is the place to go for school supplies.

And there's the rub for us with the shock thing. The lowly voiceover artist has to do all the heavy message lifting and do it in a hurry, while the otherwise gratuitous Cooper gets to hog the limelight and provide the shock value -- the only reason, really, we'd have to remember most of what this spot's message is supposed to be.

Lew's view: C