Feature

BIGging up British - Press

Press ads get bad press. If you believe everything you read (yes, in the press), they are on the decline.

They're not fashionable. Nobody reads them anymore. The media agency has dropped them down the league table. (When was the last time you were asked to do a DPS?) You can't even double-click on the buggers.

So far, no good.

But guess what? Nothing's changed as far as the idea on the page is concerned. The rules are still the same. If something's original, people will look at it. If it's plain-looking, done-before and saying nothing new, they won't.

I digress. The title of this piece is BIGging up British press.

And there lies the glimmer of hope. There's nothing the British love more than an underdog. We get behind them and support them no matter how hopeless the cause. Rio's out, but we still believe we can win it. And remember Eddie the Eagle?

Imagine a soggy, cold press ad, wearing big goggles and strapped to a pair of rainbow-coloured titanium skis. Leaning slightly forward, it hurtles down a ski jump at speeds of up to 90mph. With a final push, it launches itself into the clear-blue skies. Imagine it in slow-motion and projected on to a big screen and beamed all round the world. Go on, son! We're rooting for you. Ah, a British press ad. A British press ad that'd get talked about all over the world. Now isn't that something to be proud about?

Of course, the cynics would say that the creative community only write ads to win awards: aimed at our peers in other agencies, not the real target market. While I would agree there seems to be some truth in this, I also think that the very best juries can smell scam-poo a mile off and judge accordingly.

What I'm looking for, and will encourage my jury to do, is have lively debate around these issues. After all, we will be judged by the work we choose. None of us wants the tag Jeremy Sinclair once gave the D&AD judges after getting it so wrong: " I find the jury guilty."

So back to Eddie the Eagle and the great British underdog. If you can write a press ad that gets talked about, you can transform a brand. The art of the art director and copywriter have perhaps never been more important. And with David Abbott out of the picture, everyone's in with a chance.

Another thing about underdogs is that they are often reframed. Take John Sergeant, on Strictly Come Dancing. Couldn't dance to save his life. Bullied by the judges. Yet the British public saw him differently. They were voting for his entertainment value, not his dancing skills. Every week, John moved ever closer to the final, causing him to resign as he said "winning would be a joke too far".

So press ads can be used in new ways. In Japan, a few years back, IBM developed an invisible ink that produced invisible barcodes. If you held your camera-phone over the page, it took you to a site that gave you a stack of data. Sounds like the forward-looking art director's dream, no?

If technology carries on the way it's going, then the press ad will take on new forms and play new roles. And with the appearance of the iPad, and more people reading the papers online, very soon the question "When is a press ad not a press ad?" will be raised.

So whether that's good news or bad news, hey, at least press ads are being talked about.

- For more info and to enter the BIG awards, visit campaignbigawards.com.

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