Best of 1991

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1 DIET PEPSI

When Ray Charles cut loose with "You've got the right one, baby -- uh-huh," his sizzling jingle became a catchphrase, a T shirt, an attitude and even a line on The Cosby Show. By portraying Diet Pepsi as the real thing, the ad may send Diet Coke ("Just for the taste of it") marketers back to the drawing board. Perhaps the highest compliment: word is that down in Atlanta, employees of Coca-Cola are forbidden to say "Uh-huh."

2. WENDY'S

Putting a campy spin on xenophobia, company founder Dave Thomas travels the world searching for new dishes to put on the Wendy's menu. Skeptically regarding a plate of sushi, he asks, "Got any catsup?" As he samples weird- looking cuisines, homesick Dave longs to tuck into a nice juicy hamburger. So do viewers.

3. EGOISTE

$ Chanel's tableau of jilted women shouting this epithet at an unseen cad was directed in the abrupt European style. Slamming hotel portals and Prokofiev blasting in the background blow the melodrama meter off the scale. But the campaign draws on an ancient Madison Avenue credo: make an irritating ad, and the product will walk off the shelf. Named for the guy who done them wrong, Egoiste quickly emerged in a crowded field as one of 1991's top new men's fragrances.

4. JOHN HANCOCK

A young girl mortified by a speech impediment finds her voice on a computer keyboard. "Nobody laughs when I write. I love words when I write!" she exults. This quiet ad for Hancock's college-funding program makes a powerful argument for dignity and the capacity to grow.

5. NISSAN

What a car! Everything goes right for Bob when he drives his Sentra, brilliantly marketed in the ad as the Everyman's dream car. Forget gridlock: he takes "Bob's Expressway" and encounters traffic signs reading YIELD TO BOB and NO PARKING EXCEPT FOR BOB. Says a traffic cop as he puts away his ticket book: "Oh, it's you, Bob."

6. TIMEX

Uh-oh. Why is that sumo wrestler battling it out with a Timex watch taped to his belly? Splat! What do you know? It really does take a licking and keep on ticking. Timex gives new life to the old slogan in a slapstick series of tales. Second best: everything made of glass -- even the Timex crystal -- shatters when the ugly woman walks into the room. But listen: tick, tick, tick. . .

7. SMIRNOFF

Just because you're down-scaling doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself. Smirnoff vodka switched from 1980s glitz to 1990s schmaltz with a casual and cozy series of ads portraying a young couple at home in a tiny city apartment, a spontaneous party, a Dalmatian surrounded by Dalmatian-spotted cats. The slogan: "Home Is Where You Find It."

. . . AND THE WORST

1 CALVIN KLEIN JEANS

The characters in Klein's ads live in a world of erotic obsession and pathetic illusion. Calvin's idea of a rock musician is a mincing model on a Harley- Davidson; sensuality is a statuesque nude male in the shower with a pair of jeans draped over his crotch. In the October Vanity Fair, Klein took a step over the line with a sleazily erotic 116-page magazine insert for his jeans. What difference does it make which brand they are if you never have them on?

2. OLD MILWAUKEE BEER

The Stroh brewing company portrayed guys engaging in heavy male-bonding activities like camping and canoeing with the tag line, "It just doesn't get any better than this." Then the voluptuous Swedish Bikini Team descends upon them bearing ice-cold beer. Get it? Playboy did, and featured the team on its January cover. Stroh's disingenuously explained that the commercial parodies tasteless beer ads. Talk about trying to have it both ways.

3. THE AMERICAN EGG BOARD

An ad aimed at children boasts that "eggs have as much protein as hot dogs." So what? An egg also has nine times as much cholesterol as a hot dog. And nutrition experts say most American children get more protein than they need.