A trio of lip-synching communists won the advertising industry's top prize yesterday for serving as unwitting mouthpieces in a series of beer commercials.
Commercials for Stroh Brewing Co.'s Stroh Light won the national campaign trophy in the Clio Awards, the ad industry's version of the Oscars. The three humorous ads combined news footage of Cuba's Fidel Castro, the late Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union and defeated Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega with ingeniously dubbed voice-overs.
In one commercial, a wildly gesticulating Khrushchev is heard saying, "Bye, bye vodka. Hello Stroh's." In another, Castro leans into the camera and says, "We're only 90 miles away and we can't even get a decent beer."
Meanwhile, "Art Gallery," an ad for Honda that shows its Accord sedan displayed on -- and then driven off of -- a gallery wall, won three Clios, making it the single most honored commercial of the annual competition.
The Honda ad, which was created by a small Los Angeles agency, Rubin Postaer & Associates, won awards for special effects, original music and best in the automotive category.
But the Clios belonged mostly to Detroit-based Stroh's, the nation's fourth-largest brewer. A commercial called "Package Intro," for the company's new bottle labeling, was chosen the top spot in the alcoholic beverage category and also won the best copywriting award.
And Stroh's humorous "Alex the Dog" commercial, starring the company's answer to Lassie, was chosen as a "hall of fame" classic.
The critically acclaimed advertising, however, apparently isn't doing much to sell beer. Stroh's sales dropped nearly 10 percent in 1989 and have fallen another 10 percent so far this year, according to Beer Marketer's Insights, a trade publication. Stroh's Light has been especially hard hit, with sales dropping 37 percent last year, according to the publication.
The Stroh's Light commercials, which were made on a shoestring budget, may have been the best ads most people never saw. The series ran for a few months last fall only in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis, and they have since been taken off the air.
Paul Mimiaga, who wrote the spots and did the voice-overs for Stroh's San Francisco ad agency, Hal Riney & Partners, said the series was a test campaign. He was uncertain if the spots would air again.
The awards contained one major surprise: Pepsi Cola's "Make a Wish" commercial, starring Madonna, won a Clio in the international soft drink category.
The commercial aired only twice in the United States last year after Pepsi decided consumers were confusing it with a Madonna music video featuring the same theme music. Pepsi yanked the ad rather than face a boycott by several Christian organizations that considered the music video sacrilegious.
The Pepsi award was one of six won by the big ad agency BBDO of New York, which also produced winning spots for Apple Computer, General Electric, Diet Pepsi and Pizza Hut.
The award winners were selected by a panel of advertising professionals from among 9,749 broadcast and cable TV entries.