The sun rises in the East. Birds sing. Walker Art Center programs another great slate of award-winning British TV ads.
The 2012 British Arrows show is a cornucopia of creativity, demonstrating just how innovative, entertaining and even inspirational commercial messages can be.
The popular 24-year-old holiday tradition kicks off Friday with 7 and 9:30 screenings hosted by British Arrows board member Mark Benson, head of the London visual effects firm MPC, whose work runs the gamut from Ikea TV spots to "Skyfall." They and their peers created this wonderland where troubled young men age backward to become frightened little boys, cats develop opposable thumbs and organize a milk-stealing revolution, and angels fall from the skies for men wearing Axe body spray.
This year's 72-minute slate is a collection of ads well worth paying to see. Whereas American car commercials focus on beauty shots of shimmering sheet metal and winding coastal highways, the Brits favor indirection. Audi offers a pair of stunningly art-directed plugs for its brand. One features an adorable mechanical hummingbird flitting across a forest of road-cone flowers and stop signal trees, showing us the liberating feel of unlimited mobility without the thumping literalism of smiling models with wind-blown hair. Its partner is a black-and-white fantasia of floating figures, thumping rock power chords and a single shot of a blood-red minicar.
Longtime lovers of the series look forward to the offerings by Pot Noodle, the snack-cup soup that flaunts its low-effort, unhealthy, junk cuisine image. This time around the spokesmodel is a burly man in gaudy gowns and a towering wig who found the easy way to a life of comfort was to marry a soccer star. Now his life is a blur of lounging, relaxing, lolling, touring the mansion by Segway and sunbathing, with the occasional gobble of Pot Noodle. As the tagline so reasonably asks, "Why Try Harder?"
British ads are comfortable dealing with social issues that would petrify U.S. agencies, even when the link between the message and the product is indirect. American sex-advice author Dan Savage and a host of other gay and gay-friendly commenters appear on behalf of the "It Gets Better" campaign, an anti-suicide initiative of volunteers posting messages of support for troubled gay youngsters via social media. The sponsor? The Google Chrome Internet browser.
Some of the more UK-centric entries benefit from a working knowledge of culture across the pond. It helps if you recognize tough-guy movie star Vinnie Jones as the bruiser offering tips for hands-only CPR. David Attenborough, the master of BBC nature documentaries, sing-speaks the lyrics to the Louis Armstrong oldie "What a Wonderful World" over gorgeous wildlife vignettes. And royal look-alikes do a crazy wedding dance on behalf of T-Mobile, although I'm not sure why.
My favorite would work on any continent in any language. It's a montage of women in rumpled hootchie-mama party dresses doing the morning-after walk of shame. If only they were in sensible Harvey Nichols women's wear, the spot suggests, they could face the neighborhood letter carrier without embarrassment.
In keeping with the event, the Walker restaurant Gather by D'Amico will serve a British pub menu in addition to its usual offerings.
Colin Covert • 612-673-7186
2012 BRITISH ARROWS
What: Prize-winning TV ads from Great Britain.
When: Thursdays-Sundays, through Dec. 30.
Where: Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.
Tickets: $10, 612-375-7600 or www.walkerart.org.