OPINION: EDITOR’S COMMENT

As I sat watching the razor-sharp Johnny Vaughan and his irrepressible foil, Denise van Outen, the other morning, I got to puzzling over the ad breaks. Or, perhaps I should say, the ad breaks puzzled me.

As I sat watching the razor-sharp Johnny Vaughan and his

irrepressible foil, Denise van Outen, the other morning, I got to

puzzling over the ad breaks. Or, perhaps I should say, the ad breaks

puzzled me.



One, in particular, stood out. It opened with some kitsch 50s-style

footage whereby a man in a cardigan with a guitar stands serenading his

six wives on the sofa in front of him. Next up was a heavily art

directed spot featuring a man eyeing up a fly and a frog - or was it the

other way round? The music was, erm, kitsch.



The spots were for Levi’s and the Guardian respectively - although, in

truth, if the endframes had told told me they were for Labatt beer, I’d

have been no less mystified.



It set me thinking about the advertising we like. This time, when I

write ’we’ I mean the bright young things populating the advertising and

media communtities and who set themselves up as arbiters of taste.



The wheel has come full circle from the overblown 80s and its obsession

with the glossy epic. Today, one tyranny has been replaced with

another.



Currently, it’s the school of quirkiness that rules.



Examples abound both at the Sure ’Jonathan Ross’, Fanta and Tony’s

Freezer Cocktails end of kitsch, and at the near-ubiquitous cheapo,

knockabout style, seen most obviously for Batchelors (both Super Noodles

and Pasta ’n’ Sauce), Magic AM, Trebor Extra Strong (in fact, a great

deal of Mother’s output), Butterkist, First Direct and the rest of the

recent Levi’s campaign.



Not all quirky work undersells, of course. Ikea, for example, is kitsch

but it couldn’t possibly be for any other brand; Volkswagen’s work is

consistently (including the latest magnificent Polo ad) the ultimate in

understatement, but almost all of it could only be for VW.



The excellent DMB&B Maltesers series featuring friends and lovers

fooling around with Maltesers is the most memorable campaign in years

for the Mars brand, and has got across lightness with a delicious

deftness.



Understatement need not mean underselling. But too often the latter is

confused with the former. Grey’s Fairy Liquid ad is understated and

proves we don’t need Nanette Newman to get the point.



Much of the award-winning US work at Cannes this year also relied on

knockabout fun: for example, the Grand Prix-winning Nike campaign

managed the knack of selling and entertaining.



Where’s this all going? Well, I worry that when the great clients high

up in their New York eyries look down on their global business empires,

our obsession with the quirky and our general unease about selling,

makes it easier for them to dismiss the UK marketplace as an oddity, a

bit-player.



In other words, not a place where the major international campaigns will

be created - so further diminishing London’s power. So, relish our

quirky local campaigns, I’m really not saying that they’re bad, it’s

more that I’m not sure how much longer many of them will exist.



There is a certain relentlessness to the march of regional, if not

global, campaigns. Given that, the UK needs to be creating them.



I may be completely wrong, what do you think?



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