Campaign Work, Thursday, 19 January 2012 10:53AM
I saw the new Weight Watchers ad over the Christmas holidays. It's a big, bold move to make a three-minute TV spot, but I actually thought it was an ad for sanitary towels. Lots of women singing - or should I say miming - the word "always" (which is a brand of sanitary towels) over and over again, confidently and proudly showing their active lives, wearing high heels and new clothes. Then there's a nearby pool with women confidently and proudly swimming. The whole cast appears to be having a great time and Alesha Dixon appears at the front of the crowd, which is swarming down Marshall Street in Soho. The whole thing is pretty naff.
I thought maybe it's because I'm a bloke that I hated this film. Do women really want to behave like that? Apparently not - most of the women I spoke to about it hate it as well. The media spend, we are told, is a hefty £24 million, so expect an uplift nonetheless. The endline is "Play Weight Watchers", with the addition of "Like the people in this film have". Which is a slightly pointless addition worthy of Ernie Wise. You can see interviews with the participants online talking about their weight-loss experiences, but the "making of" film is surely only of interest to the people who are actually in it.
Much more of interest is the British Heart Foundation ad, which opens with Vinnie Jones in gangster guise and two comical cronies standing behind him. Vinnie explains to us the procedure for resuscitating a collapsed person. No kissing, thank God. The film is made with humour and charm. The writing, the casting and the directional touches mean it's informative and entertaining at the same time. Vinnie's performance is pretty good and the Bee Gees' Staying Alive playing in the background is a light-hearted way of getting the message over. I enjoyed it.
Next up are two sale campaigns, which you'd expect in January.
The British Airways ads are neat and tidy, and get a retail message over in quite a stylish way. Ice sculptures of the Chrysler Building, a dolphin and an ice-cream illustrate the places you can go or the things you can do instead of putting up with a British winter. Maybe they're not quite as good as the "big sale" ads from last year, but still quite nice.
Next is Harvey Nichols, which has a heritage of producing award-winning print campaigns. However, I find these ads a bit dull and I don't actually understand them. They're split portraits showing people wearing different clothes on either side. It's not clear to me that the "NOW" is better than the "WAS", or why or what the visuals actually have to do with the Harvey Nichols sale. Not sure this campaign will have the success in the awards shows of some of its predecessors.
Next up is Asics. A slightly lesser-known sports brand that must be hoping to unseat Nike and Adidas as the sports darlings of the awards shows. It won't do it with this film. It's dull in the extreme. A dull voiceover, with very dull music, is layered over very ordinary visuals of people doing various sports. The female voiceover is trying to be profound, but just comes across as meaningless. Lines such as "I am made of belief, not barriers" or "I am everything to come, not just what has been" aren't going to convince anyone to shift out of their Nike LunarEclipses.
Lastly, another ad in the Aviva campaign, which continues with Paul Whitehouse playing a Brummie trout fisherman who's got a "bostin'" deal on his car insurance as opposed to a "stoatin'" deal in the last ad. Quite a formulaic structure for an ad, but quite amusing nonetheless. "I need a wee now" is a great line to end an ad with.
"The most severe test in decades." "The crisis will go on." "More sacrifice is required." "Not for the faint-hearted." Just a small selection of the cheery forecasts for 2012 from our European leaders. In response, I've decided to adopt a stance that could be labelled Canute, or possibly even ostrich-like - relentlessly cheerful, upbeat, focusing as much as possible on the positive.
So, Asics. A series of sporting vignettes that aim to capture the essence of sport and the importance of preparation and training. I could choose to mention that I've seen this ad quite a few times for other brands and even made it once myself (which is a shame as Asics is a genuinely differentiated brand), but instead ... the positives. Some nice lines - "sweat, not swagger" - and a good thought, "I am made of sport", which has room to get better as the campaign develops.
The British Heart Foundation. What to do if someone has a cardiac arrest: "hands-only CPR". This is easy. Vinnie Jones and a few of his mates put in excellent performances as Lock, Stock ... characters. The Bee Gees lend a hand with apposite lyrics (Staying Alive) and rhythm (correct beat for CPR). Well-cast, simple, witty, memorable and brilliantly PR'd. I saw it on all the national news channels and heard it on Radio 4 and 5 live.
British Airways. An ice sculpture of the Chrysler Building with the headline "The Goodbye Winter Sale". Clean and reasonably eyecatching and, continuing to plough my positive furrow, I will take the blame for not understanding what I, or they, are saying "goodbye" to. Can't be winter because it's a picture of ice, not a palm tree. Is it a pun? Too clever for me. To solve the puzzle, I looked online for other images that do, indeed, include a palm tree, and the campaign makes more sense.
Weight Watchers. Alesha Dixon was commissioned to write a song inspired by weight-loss. Successful Weight Watchers perform the song, some looking distinctly uncomfortable. Credit has to be given for an original approach that is being talked about. It looks like it was fun to make and be a part of. Which is more than can be said for watching it, as it goes on for three minutes and 15 seconds without anything interesting happening. But I have a sneaking suspicion the campaign will work because it takes a joyous rather than miserable approach to weight-loss.
Harvey Nichols. Another brand I am uniquely unqualified to comment on. Having said that, I did enjoy the "walk of shame" viral just before Christmas - it should make the male equivalent. This is a press ad for the Harvey Nichols sale. Affordable glamour, I suppose, is the message and it probably says more about me that I preferred the outfits on the left-hand side and didn't think the overall effect was particularly glamorous - a bit on the drab side. But to conclude on an upbeat note, I liked the too-posh-to-price approach in a sales ad: very much on-brand.
Aviva. Johnny Depp, no less, recently described Paul Whitehouse as the best actor in the world, and this series of commercials do show off his acting talent admirably. This time around, he's a Brummie fisherman flogging a third off when you insure your second car. I do now associate Paul almost as much with Aviva as I do with Harry Enfield, which is possibly a good thing for Aviva. I just wanted him to be funnier and I didn't get the offer until I repeat-viewed.
As you can see, my reservoir of goodwill is running dry and my resolve to focus on the positive is waning. Best to stop.
This article was first published on Campaign Work