Executive Creative Director,
Euro RSCG London
We love a good animal ad, don't we? The Andrex puppy. Tony the Tiger. Cats with thumbs. PG Tips Monkey. Aleksandr the meerkat. The list goes on. It's a long and illustrious alumni. A proud tradition that has been continued in three of the six campaigns up for review this week.
Will they be taken to the nation's bosom as so many anthropomorphised advertising animals have before them? Are they worthy of a cherished plush?
And will the other three pieces be found wanting for the inclusion of a cheeky monkey or a fluffy kitten? Let's see, shall we?
Colman's. OK, so there's this bull. He's a posh, "Tim Nice But Dim" type of bull. He's in a John Bull fancy dress outfit (the stout national personification of Britain since the mid-1700s). He bursts into a suburban kitchen; the family don't seem too surprised.
Perhaps he rents a room off them or lives next door or something. Anyway, he then explains the product benefit of a Colman's Tikka Masala sauce to camera before having a funny turn at the sight of a red napkin. Once recovered, he tucks into Mum's lovely chicken dinner. Of course he does. Not sure he's up there on the Mount Olympus of ad animal gods.
Lactofree. The second of this week's animal offerings. This time, it's a hedgehog that is happy because she can now enjoy lots of milky/dairy things. They are lactose-intolerant, apparently, so dairy has traditionally been off limits to them. And I know that because the voiceover starts by saying: "Hey, hedgehogs. You may think you're intolerant to milk, but you're not - you're intolerant to lactose, the sugar in dairy." The poor hedgehog doesn't look like it's having an awful lot of fun and it's all pretty unappetising, but hedgehogs are cute and lactose-intolerant, so fair play. Is it a Dulux sheepdog? No. Don't think so. More of a Hippopotamousse.
What is a Dulux sheepdog, however, is the Dulux sheepdog in the new Halifax (3) spot about household insurance. Animal ad number three. He manfully saves the day by preventing a football from smashing the kitchen window when all human attempts fail. It's probably the nicest thing that Halifax has done for a long while. It's warm, heartland of Britain stuff. Very Adam & Evey.
Now on to the ads without animals.
Andy. Mate. Seriously? Britvic and PepsiCo - Transform Your Patch? What were you thinking? Patch? Patch is a dog's name. It's a gift. Instead of that scary old dear you cast, you could have used a man in a dog suit or a cartoon dog with a funny-shaped patch. He could have joined in with the skaters and BMXers. Would have been much better. What kid is going to want to wear a badge or a T-shirt with her ugly mug on it?
Next up, a print ad for MI6. I'm sure it's very clever but, unfortunately, it looks so dull, I can't imagine for a moment why someone would take the time out of their day to bother reading it. I had to because I'm reviewing it.
How about livening up future executions with a mole? Maybe even a singing mole. Spies love moles. And think of the boost it would be to MI6's SEO program. Could be the next meerkat.
Finally, we get to LateRooms.com. The Stranger Than Fiction lift. Unfortunately, not as good as the original. Not sure even the inclusion of a couple of kittens playing with a ball of wool in a flower pot would rescue this one.
So, there you have it. On this week's evidence, the answer is animals.
War Of The Words Winner
"If you don't get a job after this, you should get out of advertising." Andrew Stephens, the founding partner at Goodstuff, on his intern writing Private View.
And with those words of encouragement, let's dig in.
Halifax. What a gem. Ads like this make people want to get into advertising. Nobody wants to think about insurance - it's like how no-one wants to think about organ donation or pensions. Most of us prefer not to be confronted with our own mortality or our house burning down, and most definitely not after dinner while watching a bit of telly. And yet Adam & Eve found that one moment, that one story, that one accident that a family gathered around a television would think about. Everyone's had it happen to them and now it's playing through their head as the ball is flying through the air: the kids are having flashbacks about how mad Mum was the last time they broke something, Dad is visibly cringing, and the aunts and uncles are sweating bullets. Then, to cap it all off, an animal saves the day. More on that later ...
Lactofree. Ah, animals - the AWP of advertising (Counter-Strike, anyone?). Animals short-circuit people's feelings the way cleavage short-circuits men's minds and arbitrage short-circuits efficient markets. They're effective and, for what it's worth, as a member of the lactose-intolerant conspiracy theory to take over the world (there's no conspiracy theory - forget that, that's crazy), the simple, cute messaging is quite convincing. Lactofree and Cravendale are probably separate entities in most consumers' minds (they are, indeed, both owned by Arla), thus the use of anthropomorphic animals might come off as being a bit copycat.
Britvic and PepsiCo. I'm not convinced that Britvic or Pepsi really cares about urban renewal. If they did, would they force us to buy their product before they did anything? Passion is a hard thing to fake, and I just don't feel Britvic, Pepsi or the old lady actor are passionate about this cause. Putting someone from Groundwork in the ads would have made the campaign feel more authentic.
Colman's. This commercial is hilarious. "Cook, you villain!", "Show the range!" ... all meme-worthy quips. It does the odd thing of making the mother look annoyed in the ads. Seems counterintuitive but, then again, if the kids and husband love the ad, the mother might just cave in at the grocery aisle.
LateRooms.com. There's quite a bit packed into this ad. There seems to be a bit of tension between the client's requests for product messaging and the agency trying to create an emotional story. A simpler next instalment would heighten the emotional appeal of the campaign.
MI6. Perfectly written, with just the right mix of professionalism, romance and intrigue. It could've been penned by le Carre himself. For what it's worth, my middle-aged, successful (did I mention handsome?) mentor at Goodstuff enthused over the ad to the point I'd be worried, if I were his boss, about losing him to ...
Her Majesty's Secret Service. Now, this may be a small point, but as an avid reader of long copy at bus stops, it has become a cliche for these ads to break the fourth wall (ie. referencing the fact that, yes, I am waiting for the bus and, yes, I am reading this text).
On a personal note, thank you, Andrew and Simeon and everyone at Goodstuff, for giving me this awesome opportunity and housing me for the past two months. You're good people: good lads and good ladies. I hope we can work together again some day soon.