People don't talk about advertising. They talk about stuff that interests them. Sometimes, that's advertising.
To be honest, it's rarely advertising, because real people have plenty of things to think about that are more important and interesting than advertising.
Dave Trott nailed it a few weeks ago when he wrote: "There is one group of people who live solely for the ads. A group of people for whom the ads are the most important thing in the world - people who work in advertising."
And there lies the problem.
We have become the target market for the advertising we produce. Our primary ambition is to get the work on to page six of Campaign and not on to page one of The Sun. Maybe if cultural impact was an ambition, advertising might be more interesting to real people.
The Barclaycard (2) "rollercoaster extreme" ad was on air a while ago, and now that old idea has been turned into an iPhone game. Why? A rollercoaster game will not make me like Barclaycard any more. Sorry, but it's not interesting. I'm not interested. I don't care.
Specsavers (4) is doing Hearing Centres. We start with a thumping drum 'n' bass track shaking the shit out of everything.
The music is coming from a car driving down the street. Have a guess who might be driving the car: a scary gangster, with gold teeth and an AK47 slung on his lap, or a little old lady? You got it. It's the old, little-old-lady-doing-something-you-didn't-expect-a-little-old-lady-to- do gag. The "Thunderbirds" ad it did a while back was much better, but this is predictable, dull and has little chance of being talked about or even remembered.
Next, we have an ad for EuroMillions (6). A guy who has won the EuroMillions lottery goes paintballing with all his mates in some exotic location. There are helicopters, motorised dinghies, lots of headshots and one nasty cock shot. Sitting just off camera is the creative team, with Cheshire cat-sized smiles, pina coladas and boners. For all the massive production values, it is a small idea made big, and feels over-indulgent and not massively memorable.
We all know that the Financial Times (3) is a daily paper that specialises in all stuff financial. So, if you want in-depth comment and analysis about the new Emergency Budget, get the FT. This ad borrows interest from the Tesco Value Range. The FT and Tesco? Odd fit if you ask me. The iconic work done for The Economist was very good at flattering its readers and also dumbing down for everyone who didn't read it. This is so over-simplistic, it just feels dumbed down.
Next, we have a harrowing piece for the Metropolitan Police (5). We're in a living room and next door there's an argument between a man and a woman that is escalating to horrific violence, and ultimately murder.
Halfway through we are prompted by a title that says: "If you think you should call 999, click here." Trying to get people to be more collectively aware of others and to even step in and stop something like domestic abuse is a really powerful idea, but it doesn't quite hit home. The title, which seems to be the mechanic for the idea, is too recessive and could have been made more of.
Pot Noodle (1) has a fantastic history of producing talked-about work. From HHCL all the way through to its current agency, Mother. The work has always had energy, mischief and a huge dollop of cultural currency, and this campaign continues the rich heritage. Compared with the other work being reviewed, the target market is very narrow: men who care very little about what they eat and like having drunken sex with strangers. This work is bang on target: these blokes don't like ads, they like big tits, beer and funny shit, and this campaign is funny shit and therefore delivers perfectly. It's well written, entertaining and disruptive, and has plenty of cultural currency.
CLIENT - Will Harris, head of marketing, Nokia Asia-Pacific
It all used to be so easy. Get sent the ads, rip open the Jiffy bag, chuck it in the u-matic, and lean back and bash out 650 words on what was good, bad or indifferent. There was a reassuring sense of certainty about the verdicts one delivered; we in adland had a common frame of reference and there was a consensus in Private View that was rarely breached. We knew what worked. This one is a turkey. This one will get a Pencil. This one I don't remember.
Not today. In this work-in-progress advertising world in which we live, most acknowledge that the "old model" is doomed, if not quite dead. The "new model" is emerging but still indistinct; the one certainty now is that there is no certainty about what is good and bad in ads.
Take Mother's Pot Noodle (1) ad. I hate it. It's noisy, jumpy, ripped with cliches and a parody of a genre that itself has become a parody. But I've no idea whether the people who it's aimed at love it or hate it, and nor has any other 40-year-old man who lives like I live. Audiences have fragmented to the point that it's difficult to see how other people are living, unless you are living with them.
So too the EuroMillions (6) paintball ad. If I won the EuroMillions jackpot, just about the last thing I would do is organise a game of paintball on a tropical island. It all seems a little pre-austerity. I'd like to think that I'd create a foundation for charitable good works, but I'd probably just spend it on old Land Rovers and liquorice wands. But if paintball is your idea of fun, then you'll love the ad.
I remember seeing the Barclaycard (2) "waterslide" commercial on TV before I moved to Asia, and quite liking it but not really being sure what it had to do with credit cards. As a digital zealot, I'd say it's a good thing that this version of the campaign is digital (asking the Nokia marketing guy to review an iPhone app is an interesting choice), although in my aforementioned hazy "new model" of the future I'm pretty sure that ideas will go from digital to TV, rather than the other way round.
On finally to the last three campaigns, and the ones that, as the pollsters put it, are aimed at people like me. There is something odd going on in the Financial Times (3) campaign; it's a clever ad no doubt, but it's a great illustration of how Tesco Value brand values and FT brand values are chalk (stripe) and cheese. I'm not sure I would have bought it as a client even though I bought an FT this morning as a reader. Similarly, while it's hard not to like the Specsavers (4) spot, it's always going to be an uphill struggle to stretch the brand association from one of the senses to two.
The Metropolitan Police (5) ad is simple, disturbing and horribly effective. I used to live next-door-but-one to a guy who used to slap his girlfriend around and it was horrid. I'd find myself crouching in the garden, listening intently, trying to convince myself that I had heard what I thought I'd heard, only to see Anna next door crouching down doing the same. Anna told me not to get involved and to my eternal regret I didn't. The situation resolved itself a week later when wifebeater's girlfriend moved out, and he soon moved away. There seemed to be a split consensus among everyone I asked about what to do; some advocated intervention, others said it was known to make things worse for the woman. If this good old- fashioned piece of simple communication means that one extra person intervenes, then it will have paid for itself many times over. I think there will always be a role for advertising like this in any "new model".
1. POT NOODLE
Project: Sticky Rib
Client: Nicola Waymark, marketing manager, Pot Noodle
Brief: Launch Pot Noodle's Sticky Rib Chinese Takeout flavour
Art director: Mother
Production company: HSI London
Project: Rollercoaster extreme
Client: Hannah Deans, senior digital and new media manager, Barclaycard
Writer: Emma Lawson
Art director: Dennis Christensen
Exposure: Global, seeded via Wireless festival, iTunes, blogs
3. FINANCIAL TIMES
Client: Caroline Halliwell, director of brand and B2B marketing,
Brief: Promote the FT's coverage of the Budget
Agency: DDB UK
Writer: Dave Henderson
Art director: Richard Denney
Designer: Pete Mould
Exposure: UK press
Project: Hearing 'big noise'
Client: Mathew Gully, Specsavers
Brief: Promote hearing range using 'Should've gone to ...' strapline
Agency: Specsavers Creative
Writer: Graham Daldry
Art director: Steve Loftus
Director: Sara Dunlop
Production company: Rattling Stick
5. METROPOLITAN POLICE
Project: Domestic violence
Client: Vicqui Viney, marketing manager, directorate of public affairs,
Brief: "You make the call, we'll make it stop"
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writer: Steve Coll
Art director: Colin Jones
Director: Ben Quinn
Production company: The Sweet Shop
Client: Richard Bateson, marketing director, EuroMillions
Brief: EuroMillions jackpots are big enough to share
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writer: Mike Sutherland
Art director: Antony Nelson
Production company: Traktor
Exposure: National TV, cinema