Adwatch (Sept 28) - Top 20 recall: Birds Eye

Ad catches our attention by avoiding all the safe, cosy and familiar options.

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You might see the Birds Eye polar bear ad at the top of the Adwatch table and shrug. Him again, big deal. Everyone likes a cute character; what's new? This hammy, crowd-pleasing, Meerkat-lite malarkey adds little to the marketing debate.

This casual dismissal would be a mistake. Instead, we should all gather round, pause, observe and learn. The Birds Eye bear is a wonderful fable for the job that we are all supposed to be doing.

Above all, he could hardly be more misconceived. He shouldn't be a crappy white sock with a hand up it; he should be a cuddly, fuzzy, perfect polar cub, like the Attenborough ones, but with CG lip-synch. He shouldn't be sinisterly voiced by a US actor we can't quite place, but who doubtless still cost a fortune; he should probably be Felicity Kendall. Moreover, he absolutely shouldn't freak out his loyal, Birds Eye-buying mums and dads with sarcasm, threats and belittlement; he should be supportive of their tentative ways with dead, white fish.

Of course, all the right choices were ignored and here he is: an Adwatch-topping triumph, selling his own likeness alongside fish fingers. Probably with a bigger margin.

What do so many of us do on a daily basis? Strive for the bland, the familiar, the cosy, the known. We cast nice-looking people in nice-looking houses, with nary a hair out of place or a scuff on the skirting board. Yet our 'national treasure' archive is full of scruffy, ugly, awkward, borderline psychotic sods like Del Boy, Fawlty, Steptoe and Gervais.

These are the people the nation remembers and takes to its hearts, yet advertising is frequently discomforted in their company. When we spilled the 118 runners into the world, the rational voices asked: should not a modern, dynamic brand be represented by properly fit and clean-shaven athletes with a decent haircut?

Many years on, as another agency relaunches them back in their original, hirsute image, the questioning is less shrill.

The moral is clear. Whatever your job, your brand, your company, your agency, your title, your talent, it matters not. We are all in the same business, and it is called risk.

If you don't see that appellation as an exciting opportunity that drives your working day, allows you to outdo your competitors - often with less money - and demands that you laugh in the face of failure, accepting that it will occasionally laugh back, then you shouldn't be in marketing.

You should run a website selling cute, furry polar bears that bleat soothing platitudes when you give them a gentle squeeze. I won't be buying.

Adwatch (September 28): Top 20 recall
Latest Sep-21 Brand Agency/TV Buyer Recall
rank       %
1 (–) Birds Eye  Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO/Carat 40
2 (15=) Tesco  The Red Brick Road/Initiative 38
3 -8 Morrisons  DLKW Lowe/MEC 37
4 (–) Harveys  Velvet TV/MediaVest 31
5 (–) Garnier – Belle Color  Publicis/ZenithOptimedia 30
6= (–) Plusnet  Karmarama/Maxus 29
6= (–) Currys/PC World  M&C Saatchi/Walker Media 29
8 (–) Argos  CHI & Partners/Mindshare 28
9 (–) Kodak  Ogilvy & Mather/Neo@Ogilvy 26
10 (–) Comet  Euro RSCG London/ZenithOptimedia 25
11= (–) Lenor Infusions  Grey EMEA/Starcom 24
11= (–) Toyota Yaris  Saatchi & Saatchi/ZenithOptimedia 24
13 (–) Sainsbury's  Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO/PHD 23
14 (–) William Hill  Beattie McGuinness Bungay/the7stars 15
15= (–) Mecca Bingo  Gravity London/Boutique Media Communications 14
15= (–) British Red Cross  Brightstar/MediaCom 14
15= (–) Chrysler Delta  DCH/Maxus 14
18 (–) Brother  Grey London/Carat 13
19= (–) Bensons for Beds  Wand Agency/Rathbone Perception Media 12
19= (–) Halfords  DLKW Lowe/Walker Media 12