Friday, July 31, 1998
RAZOR AD WHETS CADETS' INTEREST
NORELCO PLAYS ON NEED TO 'HAVE A CLOSE SHAVE ALL OF THE TIME.'
By MATT CHITTUM
No respectable honor-bound cadet would fib about liking the razor, but the $450-a-day pay might help his zeal.
Virginia Military Institute's storied "ratline" has been testing the mettle of young men - and of late, women - for nearly 160 years. This summer, some VMI men put a new Norelco electric razor to the VMI test, and landed themselves a spot in a new national commercial for the product.
The commercial is being filmed at VMI over three days this week. The 45-second spot, featuring 19 cadets, should begin airing in early September.
The idea for the ad campaign for the Norelco Advantage razor was "who's got to have a close shave all of the time," said executive producer Gail Zeltman.
The clean-shaven, inspection-dreading cadets of America's military schools, of course.
Zeltman's advertising firm, DMB&B Inc. of New York, went to VMI's rival institute first, but The Citadel turned down the chance.
So Madison Avenue came to VMI.
For 21 days this summer, several cadets were asked to use the new razor, which emits a shaving gel for a wet shave. They were paid $75 and allowed to keep the razors.
Although 23 women completed the ratline last year, none of them was invited to participate in the commercial. Unlike VMI, the Norelco Advantage is just for men.
The cadets were interviewed afterward, and four who liked the razor were picked to star in the TV spot.
Now, no respectable honor-bound cadet would fib about liking the razor, but the $450 a day the four stars are receiving might serve to turn up their zeal a notch. The extras make $75 a day, and VMI gets $12,500 for providing the location.
The premise of the commercial is to re-create three weeks in a cadet's life. The result is a campy incarnation of cadet life.
"It is a little corny, I know," Zeltman said.
The commercial begins with the initial skepticism of the cadets. "This isn't going to work. We're going to go down," one cadet tells another.
But slowly, they come to love their Norelco Advantage.
In one scene filmed Thursday, Scott McInnis, a 21-year-old sophomore economics major from Hampton, is wrestling in a muddy pit with some fellow cadets when the realization hits him.
He pauses in the knee-deep mud and rubs his face with an expression that says, rather melodramatically, "My, this is a close shave."
The revelation hits Dan Schindler, 19 of Lineboro, Md., while on military maneuvers in some woods made hazy by some noisy smoke machines. As he smears on more camouflage makeup, the smoothness of his jaw pleasantly surprises him.
A little corny? Ahem.
Marine Corps ROTC instructor Jim Armstrong gets to scream at a poorly shaven cadet in one scene, who of course pleases Armstrong later with the shave from his new razor.
"Come on, baby face," Armstrong shouts to the cadet in a later scene. "Move your butt."
The scenes play on the old military stereotype of the screaming drill instructor, Armstrong admitted, "and that bothers me."
What about that $450 a day?
"It doesn't bother me that much."
Matt Chittum can be reached at 981-3331 or firstname.lastname@example.org