Shore-to-shore salesmen

class=img_thumbleft>Watching the

British Television Advertising Awards

, it's easy to get lost in the foreignness of the whole thing--accents, unfamiliar logos, actors who, for all you know, might be famous in their part of the world. But then along comes an international brand like Pepsi and you find yourself asking, "Why do we get smiling celebs holding cola, while the Brits get a studiously choreographed kung fu scene where the opponents are literally hauled around like human puppets? Huh?" I can't say for certain that British advertisers are more clever or innovative because I don't know what America's top ad agencies have to offer (I refuse to watch the Super Bowl). But the BTAA has some pretty high standards; that super rad Pepsi commercial didn't even medal!

Other noticeable differences between us and them include their relaxed attitudes regarding g-strings and swearing, and a penchant for disturbing public service announcements. The handgun-free British have no problem dishing out violence to discourage drunk driving or the hiring of unlicensed cabs (an invitation to rape!). Among the few star-sightings in these commercials is Patrick Swayze taking a self-mocking turn and making a ridiculous pitch to movie execs. The Sgt. Pepper-inspired Honda ad that took first place has a Minnesota tie with voice work by Garrison Keillor. And Har Mar, who's bafflingly ubiquitous across the pond, makes a cameo in another ad, albeit very briefly and as a cartoon.

Whether a drawing of chubby guy in his underwear makes for a better commercial is all a matter of preference. I'd rather buy a car that's shown transforming into a dancing robot than the American version, which slides through mud during a slow-motion off-roading expedition (while telling me in tiny print not to attempt off-roading). Maybe it's not fair to pit our cookie-cutter ads against Britain's best-of-the-best. Still, one of the BTAA's lowlights reassures us that everyone's got their clunkers. You know those Coca-Cola commercials where a young woman sings about spreading peace and harmony via syrup and seltzer? They're annoying over there, too.

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