Former Madison Avenue pitch man John E. Neal, now a popular Fairfield University media-marketing professor, is out with his best TV commercials and print ads for 2011. A German automaker, Mexican brewer, and an American PC maker and a coffee retailer top his list.
Neal, a former Manhattan advertising executive at the one-time New York office of ad agency Campbell Mithun Esty , counts Audi, Corona Extra, Apple, and Starbucks as the best campaigns of 2011.
Neal, honored earlier this year by FU students with the school's Excellence in Teaching Award for his instruction in public relations and marketing, rates his picks.
Audi -- The automobile maker, he says, hit its stride with a campaign that places Audis ahead of the most elite -- and expensive -- cars.
"Audi has always been second tier to Mercedes and Lexus but no more," Neal said. "A current campaign shows a Mercedes in front of an old, fuddy-duddy house and an Audi in front of a sleek, modern house. It tells a great story about who you are if you own an Audi, and it's no surprise that Audis are all over the place now."
Corona Extra -- Neal says he loves the beer maker's ads that place a couple side by side in beach chairs, with Coronas in hand and a placid ocean at their feet.
"The company's 'Find Your Beach' campaign is the anti-beer commercial," Neal said. "It tells you that not everyone who drinks beer is out partying or with a bunch of guys getting drunk. I love campaigns that are singular -- a can of Bud or Miller Lite wouldn't work in this one."
Apple -- The fun and hypnotic iPad advertisements, he says, are just the latest in a long line of winning Apple TV and print campaigns.
"You want people salivating for your product even if it's not food," Neal said. "You want people saying, 'I've got to have it.' Apple's marketing and their stores accomplish that."
Starbucks -- The coffee retailer's "Help U.S. Jobs, Get an Indivisible Wristband'' campaign, he said, is well-timed and is just the sort of project that will resonate with young Americans. (The wristband, which costs $5, is an avenue for supporting job creation in the U.S.)
"People want to support companies that do good," Neal said. "I think young people today especially want to support socially responsible or environmentally aware companies and products. It gives customers an extra reason to choose you."
Neal's least favorites?
Miller Lite Beer -- They have consistently run sophomoric ad campaigns for the past eight years, effectively ruining what was a great brand years ago.
The new Fiat campaign with Jennifer Lopez -- I didn't realize the campaign was by Fiat the first three times I saw it. By the way, do you think J-Lo really drives a Fiat? A classic case of a celebrity overpowering a brand's message.
Michael Jordan for Hanes -- Jordan's been out of the game for years, and the other actors are lame, so the brand message doesn't work as an aspirational campaign these days.
Lexus's "red bow" Christmas campaign -- The campaign showing wealthy younger baby boomers in these irritating ads has become a cliche. When your competition starts to run commercials making fun of your smug campaign, its time to fold the tent.