With work from The Guardian, Cobra, Mr Kipling, Zeebox and Carling Chrome.
Executive creative director,
This week, there's only one ad in town. And it isn't Mr Kipling's.
So, let's kick the riff-raff up the high street and clear the decks for the main event.
Cobra: massively Indian commercial for a massively Indian beer, massively brewed in the UK. Homebase: breezy, nicely edited display of its wares in, er, a stack of crates. Carling Chrome: now, beer as jewellery! How did that happen? Zeebox: geeky Zee riles telly. Why? Aren't they soulmates? Mr Kipling: these people either don't have children or have weird ones. Or a weird granny.
Right, then. The new Guardian commercial is a follow-up to one of the most venerated ads of all time: the black-and-white "points of view" skinhead spot. It's not a hasty sequel; they've kept us waiting for a quarter of a century. But it is here. And it is, unarguably, an event. So, is it any good?
Well, as The Guardian told us 25 years ago: "An event seen from one point of view gives one impression." And from The Guardian's standpoint, this would appear to be a triumph. It has commissioned one of the world's best agencies and best directors to produce a two-minute epic of bravura film-making. It has been ambitious and bold. Twitter and the blogs have been bubbling away in a largely supportive fashion since the ad was revealed and The Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, can justifiably claim to have put "open journalism" in the spotlight.
"Seen from another point of view, it gives a quite different impression." That'll be mine, then. Honestly, I yearned to like it. I worry about the fate of newspapers almost as much as I fear for the future of Test cricket. But, for me, the narrative doesn't work. Of course the wolf is innocent; he hasn't eaten the first two pigs. Only The Guardian would retell the tale of The Three Little Pigs with a vegetarian wolf. The ensuing cause and effect through global mortgage default and rioting against (sigh) the banks is facile and unconvincing. It doesn't seem to know whether it wants to be wry, allegorical, entertaining or important. And while it may broadly reflect the pinball way news stories bounce around the channels, it is difficult to see a persuasive reason in it all for buying The Guardian.
"But it's only when you get the whole picture you can fully understand what's going on." So, maybe this isn't an advertisement, as such. Is it, perhaps, a declaration, a statement of intent? Because why would anyone buy The Guardian newspaper? It costs a minimum of £27.60 a month, including The Observer. The iPad version costs £9.99 a month. The full, online version, which is vastly superior to the other two, costs ... nothing.
This mind-boggling business model would have most people running round the boardroom table hitting themselves repeatedly on the head with a tea tray and screaming. Yet Rusbridger remains eerily calm. He has long espoused the importance of expansive digital development while admitting: "It will be some years before the returns from this transformation cover the costs of the investment." He has not said how these costs will be covered. But as it seems unlikely that ad revenue alone could ever sustain an operation with the scope of The Guardian, most people assumed that a paywall was inevitable, despite the paper's consistent opposition to one.
Then comes this ad. A manifesto for open journalism, which, by definition, rules out a paywall for as long as Rusbridger is in charge. He's got balls, you have to say. Has he also got a battle plan that can arrest our newspapers' slide towards the abyss and save journalism as we know and value it? If he has, and this commercial proves to be a marker in that fight, forget everything I've said: this will be my favourite ad of all time.
I Tweet therefore I am. Which is to say: I Tweet too much. I am certainly guilty of 140-character interior monologues about what I am watching as I am watching it. I also know the joy of being in another country and just reading people's snarky timelines about The X Factor. It's like I'm there.
With my eyeballs and thumbs synched, this Zeebox ad intrigues me. It depicts a grumpy old telly being shown up by the connected upstart Zeebox, who knows everything about what you're watching and what else you may want to watch in the future. I think I'd like to see these unlikely couch fellows as a big elephant of a cathode ray and a tiny busy ant playing Zeebox. Apparently, the latter can predict other telly you might like based on your current viewing. That's great if you're watching a lot of BBC Four. Not so much if you're watching Red Light Lounge - then you need a Zeebox intervention. Maybe it does that too.
I liked the magical grandmother with her tin full of Mr Kipling. As a firm fan of his Cherry Bakewells, I am down with any ad that fetishises classic Kipling creations. I would also love Mr K to market a box with a false bottom so you could make a cake magically appear and wow your nieces. Who wouldn't want to use the dark arts to conjure up a French Fancy whenever you fancied it?
But look at the ad again. Much like nobody ever looks at Bruce Willis save for Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense, we never get a good shot of Grandma, do we? Is she, in fact, handing out these yummy cakes from the afterlife? If so, this is conclusive proof that there is a heaven.
The young professional in Carling Chrome has everything: a nice pad with a view of the city, a super-hot brunette-bobbed girlfriend and T Rex playing on 180g vinyl. What else could he want? How about some ice-cold Carling Chrome exploding in his eyeballs? His vision of liquid gold suggests that the splashing beer actually helps him strap on his wristwatch and assist his lady with her jewellery. I can tell you from bitter (or lager) experience that, even after one bottle, this is not the case.
The Guardian "Three Little Pigs" is a truly epic tale that explodes with an armed response, outraged Tweets and nationwide riots over the innocence of the Porcine Three. I'd like to see more fairytales done in an All The President's Men style. I mean, how did Humpty Dumpty really fall off the wall? The King's Horses and King's Men were already in the vicinity - I say that's highly suspicious. What about Little Red Riding Hood's hacked voicemails? Is that how the Wolf intercepted her at Grandmother's house? Angry mobs burnt down the marshmallow house of the witch who supposedly tried to eat Hansel and Gretel. But we only have the kids' word for it that she was a cannibal. Perhaps she was a kindly old lady handing out Mr Kiplings in a magical tin. Either way, these stories are not going to go away. Tell us what you think. Hashtag: #GrimmNewsIndeed.
The Cobra Express seems like a cool way to travel. Usually, you only see dangerously overcrowded trains in India, but here we have a sexy crowd hanging out at magic hour, buying Cobra beer from a dude with an ice bicycle as The Black Keys blare over the Tannoy. Listen up, First Great Western. This is how it's done.
The Homebase ad with the shipping containers is a vision of storage utopia. Inside these crates, people are flipping pancakes, riding bicycles and playing vinyl (lots of bikes and vinyl this week). And it looks like a trip. Before the spot was done, I sold my Islington flat and moved into the Big Yellow Self Storage on the North Circular. I am writing this from inside my box and spinning Young Folks as we speak. Take the Cobra Express and pop over for some Carling Chrome and a French Fancy. We can watch The X Factor on Zeebox.