Ads that reward

By Johnny Diaz
Globe Staff / December 30, 2010

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The advertising industry breathed easier in 2010, a rebound year after a bleak 2009, when the recession forced many brands to scale back on marketing.

In Boston, agencies produced ads that centered on themes of hope and the rewards of small luxuries like travel, dining, and sporting events. Campaigns sold McDonald’s coffee with wicked New England trivia, showed Jonathan Papelbon standing taller than Dustin Pedroia for rival Dunkin’ Donuts, and proffered a rare television pitch from local public radio.

“The ads are saying, ‘We’re coming out of this hole, and things are good again,’ ’’ said Kathy Kiely, president of The Ad Club of Boston.

Several brands also featured everyday people.

“Agencies were looking to put the audience in the commercial and having the viewer relate to that event, rather than having a viewer being spoken to,’’ said Geoff Klapisch, a Boston University ad professor. “Social media has given consumers a real voice and real power. Good ‘creative’ embraces this newfound voice and puts people in real-life situations that consumers can relate to.’’ Here’s a look at the year’s 10 most memorable local ads — in no particular order — based on observations and feedback from advertising analysts.

1. McDonald’s coffee, Arnold Worldwide

What: Two men standing on a dock in Weymouth quiz each other to establish their townie credentials before sharing Newman’s Own Organics coffee. Among the questions: “Blizzard of?’’ (the answer: ’78) and “Jimmies or sprinkles?’’

Why: The ads served as trivia questions for viewers. They stirred debates about what it means to be a New Englander, and they illustrated how a national brand can effectively localize its marketing. “People will replay those messages to their friends, because they are so nuanced and unique,’’ said Klapisch. “Arnold hit a home run with it.’’

2. Boston Bruins, Mullen

What: A man in a suit leaves a Bruins hockey game early. As he descends an escalator at TD Garden, a seven-foot bear waits below. The bear grabs the man and tosses him through a glass panel. The commercial ends with, “Never leave early to beat traffic.’’

Why: The quirky ad is part of a continuing campaign with a giant bear enforcing the rules for being a good Bruins fan. “What better threat to the nonfan than this big bear stalking the Garden?’’ Kiely said. “It’s hysterical.’’

3. WBUR-FM (90.9 FM), Allen & Gerritsen

What: Bostonians hang out in local establishments such as Out of Town News and J.P. Lick’s ice cream. Viewers see phrases such as “UR smarter than they think’’ and “UR taking it all in’’ — “UR’’ being loyal listeners of WBUR.

Why: It’s rare for a public radio station to advertise on TV. The local flavor makes the viewer feel like a Boston insider. The ads featured local residents who donated their time. “We want people to think, ‘Hey — this is a radio station for me, because they think like me,’ ’’ said Peter Alemian, senior vice president of consumer marketing at Allen & Gerritsen.

4. Dunkin’ Donuts, Hill Holliday

What: Boston Red Sox second-baseman Dustin Pedroia jumps for his glove high on a locker room shelf, until pitcher Jonathan Papelbon, holding a cool caramel iced coffee, simply reaches for it. The guys then toast with their iced coffees.

Why: The ad, called “Teamwork,’’ playfully reminds viewers that the company makes the official iced coffee for the Red Sox. “It’s fun to watch and to see Dustin Pedroia not mind a self-inflicted height joke,’’ said Steve Conroy, a Boston publicist.

5. Progressive Insurance, Arnold Worldwide

What: A bubbly clerk named Flo rattles off discounts to potential insurance customers as she perches on a motorcycle.

Why: The Flo character stands out amid other insurance company ambassadors. Flo is fun to watch, and she’s on Facebook. “You can relate to her,’’ said John Verret, another BU ad professor. “She is pointing out that you can create whatever [insurance] package you want. She is perky and chipper. You wish everybody was that friendly.’’

6.Tufts Health Plan, Connelly Partners

What: A husband plays the role of a doctor, doling out incorrect prescription information to his wife for her sore throat. She almost ends up taking cat medicine. The spot ends with the line, “Everyone likes to think they’re a doctor,’’ followed by the company’s theme: “Working together to keep you healthy.’’

Why: It’s one of four ads by Connelly Partners asserting that Tufts is not just there as a plan, but as a partner. The scene hits a chord with anyone who has heard or offered amateur medical advice. “In the health care industry, there is so much serious subject matter that a little humor definitely goes a long way,’’ said Alyssa Toro, creative director at Connelly Partners.

7. Planet Fitness, Mullen

What: A body builder fills out a gym membership while grunting “Pow!’’ and “Bang, bang, bang!’’ and flexing his pecs. The tagline promises: “Not his planet . . . yours.’’

Why: We’ve all seen this musclehead at the gym, and it’s hard to ignore the sound effects. “The goal of any good creative is to be disruptive,’’ said Klapisch of BU, ’’ and that spot certainly makes the viewer stop and pay attention.’’

8. Liberty Mutual, Hill Holliday

What: A father and son wash their damaged car in their driveway. As a narrator explains the importance of responsibility and insurance, the car morphs back to brand-new condition.

Why: The ad uses a simple scene to remind folks that this insurer will take care of its customers. “People wish that there was somebody there who understood how horrible it is to be in an accident, and can make the problem go away,’’ said Verret. “Liberty Mutual comes in and says, ‘All right, we’ll handle this.’ They make the insurance company accessible.’’

9. Boston Celtics, Allen & Gerritsen

What: Dramatic images of Celtics players are intercut with a series of flashing words, such as “recharged,’’ “rebuilt,’’ and “reloaded.’’

Why: The ad shows how the Celtics succeed through team effort. The pound-pound of the beat commands your attention. The ad revs fans up for the season. “It’s always tough to sell a team brand without becoming a cliche,’’ said Conroy, the publicist. “Allen & Gerritsen does it so well, with still photos and a commercial that keeps you riveted to the screen.’’

10. Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., Arnold Worldwide

What: Growers Justin and Henry stand in a cranberry bog. The younger man deflects volleyballs to demonstrate how the cranberry juice cocktail helps to strengthen the immune system.

Why: The duo have become popular and friendly staples of the brand, which represents cooperative cranberry growers. “The two guys infuse a good sense of humor with it,’’ said Kiely. “They get a simple message across, and they are memorable.’’

Johnny Diaz can be reached at