Executive creative director,
CHI & Partners
When I first saw the new Cathedral City spot, I thought it was an ad about inner-city knife crime. Set to a chillingly bland cover version of one of the most beautiful songs in the world, wide-eyed pre-teens are seen running for their lives, lips drawn back into rictal grins of horror as they are pursued by unseen, hooded yout dem on stolen bikes. But, no. The innocent victims of this particular ad aren'trunning from, they are running to. And they are running to ... cheese. Yep, cheese. Running to cheese. THIS IS AN AD ABOUT CHILDREN RUNNING TO CHEESE.
The only child I ever heard of running home to cheese was the young Paul Lawson (chief executive, Leo Burnett London; deputy chief executive, Leo Burnett Group), but even he had the self-awareness to pretend he was legging it because he was desperate for a poo rather than rennet. This might be the most shameful attempt yet to "do a John Lewis". One can only hope that some good will come out of it and that, with enough repeat airing, it will eventually embarrass the rest of us into ceasing to blindly copy Adam & Eve's lovely old ads.
The BetVictor ad features a spectacularly unfunny spokesperson who successfully convinces me to never place a bet with the eponymous betting legend. This character is played by a comedian whose last foray into advertising helped bring Woolworths to its knees.
Radox has decided to use animated flowers to show a naked lady having a lovely shower and has a voiceover from Dermot O'Leary.
A brace of car ads for Volkswagen and Toyota. Advertising precedent would suggest that the VW spot will be truly wonderful, while the Toyota piece will dart past the eye with barely a flicker. Well, for once, precedent can go screw itself.
VW is a charming enough piece of film, and the "if you're good in one life, you are rewarded in the next" idea for the reincarnation of the Beetle is a fine one. But, for some reason, it doesn't properly ignite as an ad. The vignettes are a little "meh", perhaps, and I can't remember the music offhand, so maybe it just suffers from comparison to all the lovely VW advertising that preceded it. If you're going to stand on the shoulders of giants, you need to have stronger ankles than these.
The Toyota ad fucks with my head. It is terribly melodramatic, and has a po-faced Chandler-esque voiceover that takes itself far too seriously and tries way too hard to be all cool and tough. And yet, and yet. It is properly exciting to watch, and beautifully crafted, and feels so much more daring than other car ads out there - with its pretensions towards cinematic histrionics, it could have easily fallen flat on its face and ended up as risible as that "escape the map" digi-spot for Mercedes-Benz. In all honesty, if a team had presented this to me as a script, I don't think I would have had the confidence in the execution to sign it off. Great big John Wayne-sized pair of balls, the creative director who bought this one. Very admirable.
Not in any way casting aspersions on the physicality of the creative director on Sky Sports but, I'd say, by comparison with Toyota, the new ad heralding the start of the football season has testicles the size of my neutered house cat, Monkey. Monkey's gonads are sadly no more and, instead, he sports an undeniably still handsome but ultimately rather useless ball-sack bereft of any content whatsoever. It is a poignant sight when he wanders past with his tail confidently up. I experienced a not dissimilar emotional reaction when this ad walked by, despite the very expensive Rolling Stones soundtrack lending it some tomcat swagger.
Ah, well. That's enough balls from me. Cheerio.
Lean Mean Fighting Machine
True story. Birmingham, 1961. A local cafe is being terrorised by a giant of a bloke who arrives each day to help himself to food, drink and money out of the till.
The cafe-owner doesn't know what to do, so reaches out to a local hardman named Vince - a man whose fists are only a sovereign's width bigger than his heart.
So Vince comes to the cafe and, sure enough, the big bloke is up to his usual tricks.
A jukebox plays in the corner as Vince strolls over to the big bloke and asks him, politely: "Did you put Rubber Ball by Bobby Vee on the jukebox?"
The big bloke is taken aback, so Vince asks again: "Did you put on Rubber Ball by Bobby Vee?"
Bemused, the big bloke shrugs and drops his open palms in a "What you on about?" kind of pose. At that exact moment, Vince launches a lightning left hook right on to the big bloke's ample chin. Lights out. Cafe saved.
The brilliance of Vince's strategy, his question, was the big bloke never saw it coming; he opened up and that's when Vince knuckled him.
If Vince had done the usual - sauntered up and asked: "Hey mate, what d'you think you're playing at?" - the big bloke would instantly know there's trouble and covered up or lashed out.
And, granted, in a slightly less violent way, isn't this what we're trying to do with advertising?
We're trying to open people up, throw them off guard, confound them, get them to drop their defences. If our work is too obvious, dull, looks too much like advertising, they'll see it coming a mile off.
So, maybe in a slightly contradictory move, I'm going to use the well-worn mechanic of using this analogy to look at the strength of this week's offerings. Can any of these ads do a Vince and land one on the chin?
Sky Sports. This did a brilliant job of reminding me of that great Coke ad. The one with the blind fan. That dropped your guard; it told a familiar story in an unfamiliar way. Made you see the game with new eyes. Which this ad doesn't do. I'm afraid Vince is wearing a T-shirt with "I'm coming to chin you" written on it.
Radox. Great craft. It bobs and weaves beautifully but, ultimately, the actual thought being dramatised is a bit flat-footed. Vince's uppercut is parried.
BetVictor. If you use a famous actor, it's always a double-edged sword. You could get the great performance, but also their presence can overshadow the idea. I was left thinking more about what had happened to poor old Dennis Pennis. But, for those punters not familiar with his previous great work, the guard drops a touch and Vince manages to get a short jab to the ribs.
Cathedral City. Nicely shot, nice song. Not really much of an idea. I've had a couple of blows to the bonce with John Lewis ads, so maybe I'm a bit more wary of this type of work. Vince telegraphs a right jab.
Volkswagen. I've loved and studied VW ads since the beginning of my career. Then, "Das Auto" came about and it all went Lada-shaped. However, this feels like a return to the ring, although it's not quite as wrong-footing as some of its illustrious predecessors. A solid hook to the kidneys.
Toyota. Unlike VW, it doesn't have the great heritage of ads, which in one way is bad, but in another means it is not constantly being compared to past glories. This seems familiar, but is it a trailer? A new game? It leaves me uncertain, keeps me intrigued. Defences down, Vince lands a glancing blow to the chin - not quite sparked out cold, but certainly shaken up.