When people say of TV that the commercials are better than the programs, they don't know the half of it: Production costs on national-brand spots have risen so high that a slick 30-second ad can cost twice as much, pro rata, as a costly Hollywood blockbuster. Glossy production values, once the mark of a relative handful of brand marketers, are now a commodity -- putting even more of a premium on a strong, arresting idea. That's why the New Balance athletic-shoe spots created by the infelicitously named Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners agency, which will run on national cable television through next month, are so appealing (and, by projection, effective).
One of the executions, "Thunderstorm," like so many other current ads, is gorgeous to look at and boasts its share of nice production tricks. Most notably, this includes the advancing storm, which evokes viewers' primal memories of Oz, just as for the hipness-obsessed ad industry, the advancing protagonist evokes more contemporary reflections of the cult flick Run Lola Run. But the joyful deliberateness with which the hard-charging Lola triumphs over the tempest -- and the understated admixture of athleticism and eroticism in her sinewy strides -- illustrate the commercial's thematic line, "What keeps you running?" The spot's subtle playfulness also contrasts with the humorlessness that has long dogged the women's segment in the competitive athletic-shoe category.