Versus ad doesn't quite do the trick
BY LEWIS LAZARE firstname.lastname@example.org
The final shot of the "Hats Off" ad is sure to resonate with hockey fanatics.
In recent years, there has been a big push to establish cable channel Versus as the outlet where hockey is a preeminent attraction. Those efforts were especially evident to Chicago hockey fans last season as the Blackhawks became a real contender for the Stanley Cup, and several Hawks playoff games were broadcast only on Versus.
Now, with the Hawks the reigning Stanley Cup champions, Versus has made the team a centerpiece in this season's new hockey-centric advertising campaign, which carries the tagline "Hockey Lives On. Versus."
Developed in-house, a new Versus television commercial called "Hats Off," which debuts tonight, uses the Hawks, a fan of the team and the hockey hat trick to promote the sport on Versus. For those unfamiliar with a term that dates back about 70 years, the hat trick refers to the rare feat of one player scoring three goals in a game. On those infrequent occasions when a hat trick occurs, fans traditionally show their admiration by tossing their hats onto the ice. Sometimes fans have worn and cherished those hats for years.
In "Hats Off," we watch a young boy grow to manhood -- never seeming to have his Denis Savard-autographed Hawks hat off his head for long as he progresses from the youthful pleasures of playing street hockey to the daily grind of working in a factory. In the spot's final scenes, we are at a Hawks game where, per the game announcer, we hear that Patrick Kane has accomplished a hat trick. We see a sea of hats come flying down onto the ice, as well as a closeup of the one particular hat we've been following -- still in the hands of its owner. Though we don't see the man's face at that moment, it seems as if he is -- at least for a second -- weighing whether he's really ready to part with his Hawks hat.
But tradition is a strong pull, and the final shot we see is a closeup of the by-now-familiar hat -- emblazoned with the Savard signature and the Hawks logo-- resting on the ice along with scores of others. "Hats Off" surely will resonate with hockey fanatics, but it lacks the full emotional punch because we do not see the man at that pivotal moment when he has his hat in his hands at the game. That's probably because the commercial's central conceit required using several different actors to play the main character. Too bad. "Hats Off" would have been ever so much stronger had the commercial's creators found a way around that sticking point.
Lew's view: B-