Action Figures

Brand: 
Federal Express
Business Category: 
Services
Agency: 
BBDO Worldwide

The World Trade Center towers make a background appearance in this humorous ad set in downtown Manhattan.

Starting off as a parody of a kid's toy commercial, a narrator shouts like gunfire, "Combat Rangers--they're rough, they're tough, they're battle tested."

Clearly, things are not as they should be, because these toy soldiers are wearing pink dresses, bridal gowns, tutus, pearls, and feather boas with matching handbags.

"The Combat Rangers, they're lean, mean fighting machines. When there's a battle to be won, Combat Rangers get the job done." A soldier bangs another over the head with his purse.

"Combat Rangers, making backyards safe for democracy."

The camera pulls out from the television as three executives in an office watch in amazement (downtown Manhattan in the background, along with the former World Trade Center towers). Containing himself, the boss calmly asks, "Now, tell me why they're wearing dresses...?"

"The commander uniforms didn't arrive from China," answers one of the nervous executives. "Because you picked the wrong shipping company," chimes in the other.

The announcer says, "Next time, use the only US shipper with direct routes from China. FedEx -- be absolutely sure."

"Is that a thong?" asks the boss. "We thought it could double as a holster," replies the exec.

In the closing zinger, the faux-commercial finishes with an image of a soldier in a bride's dress. The narrator says, "Matching handbag, heels and Night Vision Tiara sold separately."

Despite the completely over-the-top melodrama of the soldier dolls in dresses, the boss handles the news very well, keeping the mood and message of cross-dressing neutral. One could imagine the same reaction from any other type of mistake, such as no clothes at all.

The ad was nominated for an Emmy in 2000 in the "Outstanding Commercial" category, but it did not win.

BBDO tested the ad with consumers to see if anyone would take offense. But the majority laughed. The agency also shot the dolls naked with carefully placed props, then decided the Milton Berle/Tootsie/Mrs.Doubtfire look was funnier.

"It's an old-fashioned gimmick," says Tom Darbyshire, senior creative director at BBDO, about the gender twist. "But Shakespeare made a pretty good career off it. Probably half of Shakespeare's plays have people dressed in the wrong clothes."

According to the USA Today Ad Track Index, the ad was well liked by general audiences. Of those familiar with the spots, 25% liked them "a lot" vs. Ad Track's average of 22%.

Still, the percentage of respondents who disliked the commercial is a bit above average, too: 18% vs. Ad Track's average of 13%. But having macho action dolls find their inner Barbie might be behind another interesting Ad Track result. More women than men liked the spot, 28% vs. 22%.

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