Embracing the new: Marie Devlin serves customers' passions at American Express

Robin D Schatz

Ok, guys, I'm back, I need a template of a template," a geek in oversize black glasses, a large bowtie, and slick-backed hair barks into a cell phone while licking an ice cream cone. Moments later, a tunic-clad sitar player calls out to her fellow musicians, "Only 164 measures to go!" Next, we meet a record nerd pawing over old albums, as she comes upon a find. "Oh, my gosh. I've never even seen this record. I've only read about it in books," she gushes, and then proceeds to take a bite out of it with an audible crunch.

These offbeat characters, all played by Carrie Brownstein, costar and cocreator of the hit IFC show Portlandia, appear in a TV commercial for American Express. The final line of the spot: "Membership has a card for every character." The campaign is a far cry from the company's memorable spots of the past featuring established, well-to-do celebrity card members — people like fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, comedian Tina Fey, actor Robert De Niro, and golfer Tiger Woods.