Private Hear: May 2013

Featuring work from Boost, Lucozade, Kleenex, the Department for Communities and Local Government, Gumtree.com and the White Ribbon Campaign.

Private Hear: May 2013
Trevor Robinson, OBE founder and creative director, Quiet StormMatt Davis, creative partner, The Red Brick Road

Judging radio commercials is difficult, as you have a tendency to be critical and easily irritated by them, but I know as a hackneyed old creative how difficult it is to write an original one.

A trick I’ve learnt is to think of radio as a visual medium and get the audience imagining the idea in their head – like a good book.

It might sound a bit poncey, but I think it’s key to creating something that lives in your memory.

The energy drink Boost. I’m holding back the sledgehammer of destruction, but I found this predictable.

When I visualise the clichéd geezer, I find him irritating and the concept leaves me flat. The rave music is annoying. This one didn’t work for me.

I dislike it when radio ads yell at you. It’s like a charity mugger on Carnaby Street jumping out at you: you just want to punch them.

The Department for Communities and Local Government. I have to say, this woman’s whiny, lyrical voice not only depressed me but I also felt like screaming: "I get it, you’re going to be burnt alive if you over-connect, but don’t tell me again!"

It’s way too long. And I’m sure it’s meant to be chilling, but it’s not.

Gumtree.com. I can see that the creatives were trying to be intriguing using the wedding theme, but this felt predictable, cringeworthy and a bit ad-y. It isn’t memorable and I just wouldn’t listen to it.

Kleenex. At first, I found this weirdly offensive – I think because my wife’s left-handed and her mum wouldn’t accept this, making her do everything with her right. But when I realised how absurd I was being, I started to really enjoy the ad.

It was incredibly visual – drawing you into amusing scenarios. I like the way they tied in the product in a silly way, making you think twice about it – the most you can ask for when listening to a commercial. A left-handed thumbs up from me on this.

With the Lucozade ad, I see another irritating charity mugger in my face. It’s predictable, I instantly know where they are going: drink this, get a heightened sense of reality. Let’s face it, this is not a new thought – though you have delivered it with a shouting oik!

The White Ribbon Campaign. I liked this: intriguing, simply put together, very informative and it showed me a different perspective. The ad is very emotive and made me visualise the circumstances and empathise with the family. It made me think and want to do something about it: an instant call to action – all you could ask for from an ad.

I hope I haven’t offended anybody with my judgment call. As I said, I know what a hard task it is to stand out from the deluge of radio. But a couple had great standout with original concepts and I was pleased to listen to them.

Radio. It kills me. So damn difficult to do something – anything – original. Directors can’t alchemise a sparse script. You can’t fix it in post. And just try liberating yourself from the tyranny of feeble extended gag, shouty acting, a sound effect or two and the dreaded reprise at the end.

It’s a formula that’s crying out to be killed off. But it has the resilience of a cockroach in a nuclear war.

First off, a couple of (it would strongly appear) first thoughts that fall right into the trap. I imagine the teams were, as always, horribly pressed for time.

Gumtree.com brings buyers and sellers together. Rather like, well, a marriage? Cue overacting vicar marrying the buyer and seller, the reprise being a kind of "I announce you man and wife" as the deal proves successful. Divorce me from this reality of radio advertising, please.

Boost is a product that gives you a burst of extraordinary energy. A bus runs for you, as opposed to you running for a bus. A half-decent trade print headline weakened to being an idea that’s on a life-support machine by prolonging it for the duration of a radio ad, with a few asides and the odd sound effect dulling the pain.

Surreal is the name of the game with Kleenex as it introduces its "left-handed" tissue. I wasn’t wiping away the tears of laughter here – I was more baffled by a poor relation of the Diamond Shreddies research group viral of yesteryear. Odd. My left-handed art director couldn’t shed light on it, either.

Admirably trying to elevate themselves from the radio predictability are spots for Lucozade and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Lucozade plumps for the tried-and-tested but sometimes successful approach of borrowed interest and metaphor by lampooning internet tomfoolery – namely, browsing internet clips. They bring this to life with deafening sound effects, therefore demonstrating the impact of the drink. A nod to the target market. But a little derivative.

The Department for Communities and Local Government takes a song and twists it – a tactic that can work neatly, but not here. "The left bone connected to the…" could be a decent enough metaphor for something, I’m sure, but not to demonstrate an over-connected plug socket that may result in a fire. Missed opportunity here, what with the emotional possibilities of this "product".

Unlike the White Ribbon Campaign. "But" is a powerful ad that’s genuinely different. Casting gives it a head start by using the sombre, familiar tone of the chap from Who Do You Think You Are?. He mentions barely repeatable acts that "don’t count" for domestic abuse, which takes the reader into a seriously uncomfortable place.

Then, getting increasingly horrific, he lulls us into a desperate need for a solution by mentioning the pure reason for the ad: that the definition of domestic abuse is being changed. Thank heavens for that. And, rather less seriously, thanks to the ad for showing radio’s potential as a truly powerful medium.


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