For those of you who missed Campaign's conference on creativity
this week, HHCL's Steve Henry made a stimulating point. If he will
forgive me for a brutally short summary, it was this: as consumers
become more empowered, so social and commercial behaviour are today
inextricably linked. Advertising must move on from creating pure demand
to creating responsible demand. Responsible demand is that which has an
ethical context and a moral dimension.
Of course, you can interpret this in many ways, but I bet Henry would
approve of the latest Fox's Biscuits ads (Campaign, 18 May) from St
As you would expect from St Luke's, the basic campaign idea has a Moral
Dimension. It also, to revert to adspeak, has a Big Idea. This is that
Fox's biscuits bring people together and restore fractured
The ads add a further twist of contemporaneousness by demonstrating the
paradox of modern-day society: that people who rely on modern
communications technology lose the ability to communicate face to face.
Thus in one ad a woman can't communicate with her husband except by
mobile phone; in another, a computer games nut can't deal with the real
world; and in a third an office worker's dependence on e-mail and the
internet means he can't communicate with his colleagues.
The problems are resolved by a Fox's worker who offers biscuit
The hapless individuals are encouraged to use biscuits - the ultimate in
low-technology - to rebuild their social skills. Eat biscuits! Don't be
a social outcast! See how Fox's is good for society! Ethical, moral,
responsible ... I think we can say it ticks all those boxes.
Moreover, and I'm sure it won't surprise you to hear me say this of St
Luke's, it's an especially New Labour sort of ad. By that, I mean it
taps into a line of thinking that is currently exercising both the
chattering classes and Labour bigwigs (the same people, come to think of
The idea, that society is on its deathbed, is expressed in the book du
jour entitled Bowling Alone, by Professor Robert Putnam of Harvard.
Putnam's thesis - for which he uses bowling as a metaphor - is the
disintegration of US civic life because everybody's too busy watching TV
or being an individual to join scout troops, school governing boards and
so on. So impressed has Labour been with this book that Putnam was
invited to address a seminar in March at no less a venue than Number 10.
Of course, at 514 pages, Putnam's book examines the phenomenon with
somewhat more intellectual rigour than the Fox's ads, but I'm sure you
get the point. (It is, I'm sure, pure coincidence that Fox's is a
subsidiary of Northern Foods whose chairman, Lord Haskins, is a big
Labour supporter and donor).
None of this would matter a jot, however, if the ads were bad.
After all, imagine telling a Fox's factory biscuit packer that the ads
hadn't worked and their jobs were on the line but, hey, never mind
because the campaign did at least have a Moral Dimension.
I, however, love the ads. They're fast, they're witty, they're sharp,
they're absolutely true to the product insofar as biscuits are an
inherently social product, and they have resonance on a wider scale
(see, I agree with Putnam and Henry).
There is, however, a flaw and if I were a Fox's biscuit packer I might
be having sleepless nights. That is because the ads are a generic for
biscuits. The message that biscuits promote social interaction and bring
people together is something that applies to any biscuit, not just a
Fox's: Ginger Nuts, Digestives, Rich Tea (see, all McVities' brands),
even Garibaldis. I don't believe that that is a territory Fox's can
uniquely claim to be its own. I hope I'm wrong though, because these ads
deserve to succeed.
Dead cert for a Pencil? Doh! St Luke's doesn't do awards.
Will they work? A Crinkle Crunch and a cuppa? Fab.
What would the chairman's wife say? Who ate all the Fig Newtons?