OPINION: Cowen on ... Egg

Back in 1998, when Mother was first disturbing would-be Super Noodles munchers, the agency hardly seemed the choice for a brand looking for a safe pair of hands to take it mainstream.

Yet, in the case of Egg, that's exactly the role the agency has taken on.

For all its wacky style and subject matter, Mother's debut work for the original internet bank is an inherently conservative project. It's traditional in style, structure and, if you bend your ear carefully enough, in its tone.

The cumbersome product details, traditionally enough, are sifted out from the main body of the spot and flashed up at the end. Within the main structure of the ads, Mother's creatives can roam fairly freely, yet the result is far from a tearing-up of the rulebook. Instead, Mother's debut steps away from the edgy quirkiness that characterised HHCL & Partners' work and toward a sunnier, more inclusive tone of voice. The American accent that dominates these ads is no coincidence. Running through them is the same easily presented, non-threatening irony that makes such a success of US sitcoms such as Friends and Frasier. It's a style designed to appeal not only to the UK mainstream but to the French and German markets that Egg has earmarked for its international expansion.

Not that this makes the Egg spots bad. Good advertising, like good comedy, hangs on a well-observed truth and this campaign is no exception. In this case it's the root fear of financial organisation that makes it almost physically impossible for some of us to look at our account balance when we withdraw money. All of this is identified, isolated and dispatched with the aplomb you'd expect of a hotshop on top of its game.

Now the obvious irony in all this is that there used to be an agency famous for touching a previously neglected nerve in this way - and it's the agency that Mother hustled off the Egg account last November. It's all too easy to see the origin of this campaign as further evidence that Mother has stolen HHCL's clothes - and simply deposed the older agency as the choice of marketing directors only interested in working with the hippest shop in town. That was, after all, the charge that HHCL was laying at the door of Egg's Nick Cross six months ago.

But are the two agencies' styles really so interchangeable? I'd argue not. In fact, I'm not sure that HHCL was ever comfortable with controlling its anarchic tendencies the way that Mother has with this campaign - and Egg, for one, should be extremely grateful.

HHCL's work for the brand was dangerous in a way that Mother's campaign has no intention of being. It may have misfired at times, it may have alienated half the UK population but HHCL's ads ensured that Egg had an identity as a real, dyed-in-the-wool alternative to traditional high-street banking - and was seen that way even by those who had spasms at the sight of the creepy salesman spots.

Everything that made Egg difficult to stomach in its earlier incarnation makes it all the more attractive now the brand has decided to come in from the cold and pander to the mainstream. Mother's campaign doesn't have the edge or the muscle to establish Egg as a true banking revolution, but it doesn't have to - at least not in the UK. The mainstream audience knew this brand was different, they just didn't think it was aimed at them. And now that all the scary stuff has been packaged up more accessibly, they probably can't resist taking a peek.

As to whether this strategy can build the brand from scratch - we'll just have to ask the French in a few months time.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Perhaps too comfortable for that.

File under ... A for accessible.

What would the chairman's wife say? Now isn't this much nicer than that horrible Rob bloke?