OPINION: BEALE ON ... HONDA

I'm confused. Twice. First culprit is the new Sky Plus campaign. You know, the ads with Ronnie Corbett and Alice Cooper cosying up to enjoy an evening of The Simpsons over a plate or two of gammon, or Noddy Holder snuggling up in bed with Simon Callow. Deliciously bizzare.

It's not a bad campaign, some lovely lines, though why do all three ads in the series have about as much colour tone as an old pair of last-resort Y-fronts? Anyway, the campaign hangs together nicely and I'm starting to get the message. But then, blow me, another Sky Plus ad pops up, and it's totally different. And there are more. Two different campaigns and strategies, same product. Running at the same time. On the same medium.

Can there possibly be a logical, consumer-focused reason for this mess?

Second source of confusion is the new Orange work. Now I reckon I saw Dylan and his damn training academy more times this year than I've seen my partner; it was certainly one of the most visible and consistent campaigns. So why, after months of Dylan drilling, has Orange taken such a different line for its new TV work? The answer is an international one. This is pan-European work, and as such is actually a triumph. But sofa slumpers won't know that. They'll just see an Orange ad, wonder what happened to Dylan, think of that troubling poster campaign, and, I'd bet, end up rather confused about what exactly Orange is, what it stands for and what it's trying to say.

But, ah, Honda. What a relief to see the new Civic ad tucked among these strategic fouls.

Honda's "cog" was undoubtedly one of the finest ads of 2003. So fine, in fact, it would almost have been excusable to cop out when the next brief came in and try something totally different. Wieden & Kennedy hasn't. The new work takes the best of what made "cog" brilliant and builds on it. Civic is another triumph.

Now, the Civic is not the sort of marque to get car fetishists slavering, but it prides itself on its practical engineering advantages and it's had a bit of a redesign, so time for an ad. If the loving attention to detail and passion for style and design that is betrayed in the ad bears any relation to the care and skill that went into the new model design, this is definitely a car to reconsider.

Even more beautifully crafted than "cog" and certainly as much of a visual feast, the subtlety and sureness of the domino-effect award-winner has been translated into a luscious romp through objects that punctuate a (male) Civic driver's day. The shots are all tight on the buttons, pen-nib, ignition key, windscreen wiper and corkscrew that the driver touches, all those mundane little objects that oil our lives. The ad is a paean to the practical, a celebration of the functional. Pity they felt the ad needed propping up with that increasingly ubiquitous add-on: the public vote, this time for Britain's favourite everyday object (so now you know what's been pre-occupying everyone these past few weeks ... oooh, the toaster or the electric toothbrush?). Although advertising and PR can be incredibly powerful allies, this smacks of a bit of tokenistic puffery that adds nothing to the actual advertising campaign.

The ad stands perfectly well by itself. It's a terrifically tactile, sensual, intriguing work, an absolute visual joy that rewards many viewings.

And they've kept the wonderful toffee drawl of Garrison Keillor (an absolute find as a voiceover merchant and a damn fine novelist, too) and a lovely simple endline: "Why is it the better something does its job, the more we take it for granted?" Isn't it nice when things just work.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Definitely (lingering close-up of nicely

sharpened lead playfully stroking a bare page).

File under ... C for classy, consistent (and not confusing).

What would the chairman's wife say? "Can we squeeze another car in the

coach house?"

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Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).