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Pitch for laughs

Bay Area baseball has always had attitude and always demanded ad campaigns to match: a dose of magic, a little swagger, and drollery to spare. Back at the height of 1980s mascot madness, Giants commercials gave the finger to the craze with Crazy Crab. In one spot, the goggle-eyed crab gets booed while an official moans, “But they love it in Pittsburgh...” And in 2005, when Barry Zito was Oakland’s 26-year-old superstar, the A’s ad campaign had him polishing a ball and intoning koans with the studiousness of an aged Zen master. Now the Giants and A’s are again at a creative high point: The Giants’ “Together We’re Giant” campaign (baseball advertising’s “new champ,” according to HardballTalk) has center fielder Andres Torres giving himself a pedicure while he and Cody Ross coach a girl through her break-up speech, while the A’s “Green Collar Baseball” ads show pitcher Andrew Bailey closing games but also obsessively closing coolers, lockers, and jars of Icy Hot, only to be flummoxed by a revolving door. Behind the scenes, the two guys who manage the teams’ respective ad agencies are relishing the back-and-forth. The Giants’ agency of six years, Swirl, was founded by Martin Lauber; last season, Hub Strategy, an upstart run by one of his best friends, D.J. O’Neil, won the A’s business. O’Neil, who is hands-on directing his ads (Lauber says Swirl’s creative team and production shops generate the Giants’ ads), believes the Giants’ World Series win gave him and his younger firm extra fire in the belly. Lauber, meanwhile, claims that O’Neil harbors a secret love for the orange and black. “See, now Martin’s ribbing me,” O’Neil says. “Pretty tough to get back at him because of their last season. Geez.” hubstrategy.com and swirl.net