US PERSPECTIVE: A fear of offending puts US ads behind the Brits

I will now attempt to discuss advertising things. I was going to talk about American versus British advertising, but the truth is the current state of advertising can be broken down into two camps.

There is the straightforward, down and dirty stuff. For example, Clemmow Hornby Inge's Tango work was really entertaining, plus it's fun to say the names Clemmow, Hornby and Inge. I feel like I've kinda seen the TBWA John Smith's no-nonsense campaign, but it's still fun.

Then there is the fairly new trend (a positive one) of what I'll just refer to as "visual goodness". In this category, I automatically think of Jonathan Glazer, who has done most of my favourite commercials. America definitely hopped on the bandwagon this year. No dialogue. Pretty pictures.

Mini movies, such as Ikea "lamp", the Saturn campaign and Volkswagen "squares". Of those, the "squares" spot is perfect.

A simple idea, which was wonderfully executed, with a fantastic track beneath it.

What else?

I don't know what category the Barclays Bank work (starring Samuel L Jackson) falls into, but that's still one of the best campaigns I have ever seen.

One trend that I think is on the way out in America is violence in commercials. Two reasons: the first is it might just be played out - been there, done that. A lot of people were talking about the Terry Tate Reebok offering that ran on the Super Bowl. Terry runs around an office and tackles people. Is that good? I guess there will always be room for physical comedy, but that spot didn't feel terribly fresh.

The other reason is there was, obviously, a radical shift after 11 September and marketers over here are still terrified of anything that rocks the boat.

I think that's the main culprit in explaining why, with the exception of the aforementioned, many commercials over here just plain suck. Every six months for the past three years, we keep hearing about an economy that is ready to rebound ... and it never seems to. The irony, of course, is if corporations would uncurl themselves from the foetal position and try something a bit more interesting, they would be heroes.

With regards to specific advertising in America, the infamous "catfight" spot from Miller Lite was embarrassing. We watch two women wrestling in a pool and then cut to two guys in a bar who speculate, "now that would make a great commercial". It definitely seems like it will help promote sales within the vast under-aged beer-drinking market, but talk about the lowest common denominator.

Nike's "angry chicken" was terrific (Traktor has done it again). There is a huge catalogue of brilliant Nike work, but the reason I really like this one is it's not just an image spot. We watch an athlete using the Presto to perform a series of athletic manoeuvres to escape an angry chicken.

By the way, congrats to the team that came up with a man being chased by an angry chicken. Very random. Touche.

Ikea's "lamp" received the Grand Prix this year at Cannes, but to me, the bravest advertising was Ikea's other campaign. In "living room", a teenage girl informs her parents she's pregnant. As her parents start to argue and spiral, an Ikea salesman walks in and asks: "So what do you think?" The camera pans out to reveal they are just testing out the living room at an Ikea store. In "kitchen", a couple starts fighting and the wife accuses her husband of "prowling the streets" when an Ikea salesman walks into frame. With all the miracles of modern science, is it not possible to clone the Ikea client? Can we start a fund?

- Stuart Elliott is away.

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