SBJ/October 22 - 28, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

‘NFL This Morning’ ads spotlight comedian, Esiason as co-hosts

A famous fragrance ad once featured the memorable line "If you want someone to pay attention, just whisper."

The latest ads for Fox TV's "NFL This Morning" take off on that idea: If you want someone to pay attention, just have comedian Jay Mohr look at him silently as if he were the stupidest being ever to walk the earth.

In this case, the object of Mohr's incredulity is none other than his "NFL This Morning" co-host, Boomer Esiason. Fox's five 30-second TV spots featuring the two of them are silly and childish and say nothing about the NFL. But I love them.

The spots were all shot in a coffee shop in Los Angeles. Esaison and Mohr are dining together. Jay is trying to read his newspaper. Boomer is doing everything except crying for a diaper change, and amusing himself to no end as he tries to get a chuckle out of Jay. The message is delivered in graphics superimposed at the conclusion of the commercial: "Jay gets football. Boomer gets football. Jay gets laughs. Boomer gets football."

In one spot, Boomer responds to the waitress's request for his order wearing Halloween teeth and in an intellectually challenged voice: "I'll have a Spanish omelet and hash browns." As Jay and the waitress stare at him with a combination of discomfort, anger, patience for this troubled man and a bit of sadness at how oblivious Boomer is to how lame his comedy truly is, she deadpans, "I'll come back."

In a second spot, Boomer unsuccessfully attempts "arm farting." In a third, he nearly chokes on an orange wedge he's using as fake teeth. In a fourth spot, Boomer has semi-unscrewed the top of a dispenser (so that Jay will dump the lid and a quarter pound of sugar into his coffee). And in the last spot, Boomer squirts a packet of ketchup on Jay and loudly calls for a doctor to treat his bleeding friend. In each case, silent Jay says nothing. In each case, Boomer cracks himself up. The result is truly funny.

I am ordinarily not a fan of anti-advertising (that is, advertising that breaks convention to make fun of the medium). It is generally the product of self-indulgent agency creative departments and clients that lack the savvy or backbone to understand their own brands. (For reference, think Miller Lite's ill-fated "Dick" campaign of a few years back.) This campaign is positioned as anti-advertising, but it's really not.

The promise of the "NFL This Morning" show comes through loud and clear. Esiason doesn't need football credentials. As an ex-NFL quarterback, the credentials are built in. Similarly Mohr, a former MTV and "Saturday Night Live" comic actor (best known for his portrayal of the sleazy sports agent Bob Sugar in the film "Jerry Maguire"), doesn't need comedy credentials. But the odd pairing of Boomer acting goofy and Jay acting like an adult promises a show that is credible, insightful and fun to watch.

The spots were created for Fox Sports by its agency, Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York. Earlier this year, Freeman's campaign for Fox's "Regional Sports Report" won the coveted Grand Prix as the best work at the Cannes International Advertising Festival. Just as the Wieden & Kennedy agency has brought a consistently high level of comedy to some of ESPN's advertising work, Cliff Freeman's whacked-out sense of humor is adding real personality to the Fox Sports products.


Client: Fox Sports Net
Product: “NFL This Morning”
Executive vice president, marketing: Neil Tiles
Agency: Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York
Creative director: Eric Silver
Copywriter: Adam Chasnow
Art director: William Gelner
Producer: Bridgette Whisnant
Account supervisor: Cathy Goldman
Account executive: Sandy Murray
Production company: @radical.media, New York
Directors: Rick LeMoine, Steve Miller
Director of photography: Scott Henrikson
Executive producer: Frank Sherma
Editor: Dick Gordon, Mad River, New York
Sound mix: Lower East Side, New York
Engineer: Bobby G

The advertising of the sports network titans is shaping up to be as interesting as the Coke vs. Pepsi cola wars. And however the fight develops, it's clear that viewers, who get to see commercials that are often more entertaining than the sports or sports highlights they advertise, win big.

James H. Harris (jim@thoughtstep.com) is CEO of the Chicago-based strategic marketing consultancy ThoughtStep Inc.

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