THE FIRST 100 YEARS OF JWT & UNILEVER 1902-2002: Private View 1990s

By ADRIAN HOLMES, the chief creative officer at Lowe Worldwide, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 22 November 2002 12:00AM

Do you remember something called the JWT Copy Test? It was full of questions that were well known for being so much cleverer than the answers could ever hope to be. My memories of it are particularly vivid, since I sat the damn thing and failed.

Now the chaps at 40 Berkeley Square were probably quite justified in sending the young Holmes a polite letter of rejection. But I thought it only fair to use this opportunity to arrange something of a return match.

A Copy Test, if you like, for JWT. So here goes.

Q1. Devise an unusual poster campaign for a leading detergent.

Well, this Persil work gets us off to a splendid start. Mrs Gauguin's and Mrs Van Gogh's washing, as depicted by their respective hubbies. Two lovely posters in anyone's book (and I certainly wish they were in mine).

"Excellent, but it'll do," as we say in this part of Knightsbridge.

Q2. Create a commercial for a dishwashing liquid that doesn't involve viewers instinctively reaching for their gun.

Another very agreeable piece of work for Persil. The counter-intuitive casting of Robbie Coltrane pays off delightfully.

I also like this print ad for the same product. It's a textbook example of the headline having a very constructive argument with the picture.

And why don't we see art direction like this any more?

Q3. Create an ad that encourages people to experiment with Oxo in their kitchen.

Well, something's clearly gone terribly wrong with this experiment.

What I can only describe as The Thing appears to be extruding itself via a mincer, its maggoty tendrils sucking the life out of a defenceless Oxo cube before slithering off to terrorise the neighbourhood. Rule one in food advertising: it's got to look yum, not yuck.

Q4. OK, just do another of those nice cuddly Oxo family commercials.

Ah, now we're safely back on home ground. "Remember Preston?" is surely the definitive spot in this deservedly much-loved campaign. And what exactly did happen in Preston, we all wondered? Personally I think she's referring to the time they visited the Lancashire Museum of Steam.

Q5. Devise an ironic pastiche of the very worst of US beauty soap advertising.

You've got to hand it to this Lux ad. It's a masterful parody of the genre, uncannily accurate in every detail.

Q6. Create a mnemonic device to launch a range of chicken cook-in-sauces.

Yes, it's none other than "I Feel Like Chicken Tonight", featuring the entire population of America flapping their arms to camera like so many headless consumers. I'm sure this campaign was wonderfully effective for the brand ... but sorry, no.

Q7. Launch a pasta sauce called Ragu, using imagery to emphasise its "thick and hearty" nature.

Here's where this Private View gets very private indeed, as I'm probably the only person in the entire country to have seen this US commercial.

If I just tell you that it intercuts between product shots, men in Roman chariots and a guy who was on a light pencil for the Gillette spot murmuring "Mmm ... rich ... robust", then I think you get the picture.

Q8. Launch a shampoo called Organics that actually nourishes the hair roots.

Well this is a stylish enough piece, part Dali, part De Chirico in its visual inspiration. I rather like the waving plumes of hair, and it's a differentiating proposition, too. The trouble is, where do you go from here? Rinse and repeat?

OK, time's up. So how did our candidate fare? Well, I think it's safe to say that JWT could comfortably start at JWT on Monday. But there are several shockers here that frankly deserve a letter not unlike the one they sent me.

That said, Happy Centennial to one and all.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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