You can't fatten a pig by measuring it. Advice I heard Michael Wolff offer someone last week.
What Michael meant was in lean times it seems very sensible to scrutinise every cost, to check and re-check competitor activity, to over-analyse the potential efficacy of messages and the efficiency of how they can be delivered. Inexorably, measuring becomes the imperative - the end in itself - and the audience, the very people the organisation exists to serve, get forgotten.
So, have the people behind this week's material freaked out and forgotten their audience?
Let's start with Samsung (3) and its online showcase for young directors. Its goal: to put creativity and broadcast in the hands of the new generation. Fabulous on paper, but tedious online. The carpet-bombers of TV buying can force people to watch your shoddy ads. You cannot force a soul to watch them online. To me, these short films seemed little more than an exercise in product placement.
If Samsung were true to its puff and really cared about young directors and new creativity, it would relegate showing its handsets, democratise the content and have a site worth visiting.
Visa (2). Two spots using the Visa branding as a wrapping device. I do not like them because I cannot help but compare them with Mastercard's ads. Mastercard has a fabulous insight - everything costs money but some things are priceless. Visa's insight here does not seem to get beyond everything costs money. Mastercard also runs UK-specific ads so it can tap into UK culture and build an even stronger connection with our lives. These Visa spots are clearly international, which tells us that this credit-card company is very concerned with creating economies of scale - single copy to run across multiple markets. Visa is putting cost measures before audience engagement and the scale of economy it creates is a false one.
Virgin Atlantic (1). A perfect poster that is perfectly true to its independent-minded audience. My dear Moroccan houseboys Jafar and Hassan tell me the characters spell "soon" in Arabic.
Wonderful. Prepare to applaud it in the award shows.
The Army (5). "Forward as one," they shout. Here, we see slow-mo combat scenes combined with male bonding. The boys and I could not get enough.
This slick-looking piece is based on a powerful audience insight: aged 16 to 20, you ARE your mates. Nothing on earth matters more than your gang. Personally, I am uncomfortable with it. A recruitment drive for quantity rather quality. Think for yourselves lads, I would say - but maybe we really are becoming more like the US.
Mint (4). Two spots exploring the quantity theory of stupidity: any smart decision must be off-set by a dumb-arsed one. The potty funsters of personal finance have stayed true to the audience this quirky brand was created for. Well done all.
Archers (6). A direct mailpack of ironic nonsense to spruce up your gaff.
Although the "bling" word feels a little dated and some of the individual ideas inside could have been stronger, I like this a lot. The other booze brands for young laydeez pretend you live in an architectural showcase on Rodeo Drive. Archers recognises you live in a shared flat in Croydon with greasy glasses and an avocado bathroom suite.
So, prudently, it has decided to post you some tat to liven it up. It is a silly, charming idea that would seem irrational, even wasteful to the obsessive measurer - they would not see that here the brand is nourishing its audience, giving them some TLC - and that's how you fatten a pig.
No offence meant to the young women of Croydon.
STRATEGIST - Ivan Pollard, partner, Naked Communications
It was John Webster who made me fall in love with ads and that was long before I ever met him. It is a love affair stretching way back beyond the Cresta Bear and the Humphreys. And, despite the fact that Mr Webster has now gone to live permanently with a bunch of tin-pot Martians and their dehydrated potatoes, my affair is still going strong.
However, like every love affair, it has its ups and downs depending on the tempting titillations that come your way. So how about this latest buxom batch? Just like the real thing, they revolve around money, fantasy, alcohol and giving up your life.
There is a nice idea inside the Mint (4) campaign. With more than a passing wink to another intergalactic funny man, the "clever/dumb balance" is a neat device to get me to engage in what is essentially a hard sell for getting one of these oddly shaped cards. I like the way it is not overdone, not over-produced and not over-acted. Simple, engaging stuff that delivers its message fair and square without really making my heart race. You can see this campaign idea growing and it will probably look more attractive the more you get to know it.
In contrast, the new spots for Visa (2) are a bit too saccharine and sweet. I almost fell for them, swept away by their charm. Cleverly packaged little vignettes, served with a liberal dose of feel-good music and the joy of the present being opened. Almost, but not quite. They fall short of full seduction because you catch them at their game and see the strategy showing beneath the kilt. Aren't they trying to persuade me to pay for my coffee and my daily bread with my Visa card? Now why would I do that?
Great ads make you do something dumb without even realising it. These ads almost got me, but not quite.
In terms of fantasy, we have the promise of sun, sand and Sven with a trip to the Middle East on Virgin Atlantic (1). I love posters.
To make someone fall in love at first sight is a tall order and one that I am afraid this poster just misses for me. Smart, symbolic, eye-catching and well branded, but maybe just a little too clever for its own good.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have the Samsung (3) work. To my mind, this is brilliant - a really clever use of the medium.
Product placement is an expensive business in Hollywood and sometimes it is cheaper to create your own films. This trick was made famous by BMWfilms.com, but if you want to see what happened next, check this website out. Subtle inculcation of Samsung phones inside sumptuous content with the added intrigue of inventing your own. If Virgin offered the knee trembler, Samsung serves up the sort of tantric experience that only Mrs Sting usually gets to enjoy.
And to enhance the mood, Archers (6) supplies a bring-in-the-bling kit including the obligatory money-off coupon. Nicely executed, with a whole host of stickers for your knickers. As a DM piece, this is well worth opening and makes you like Archers all the more for it.
And, as with any romance, the final call is to lay down your life.
The campaign of mutually reinforcing executions for The Army (5) almost makes you want to. Maybe the script is a little laboured - for love, for money, for your mates, for heaven's sake - but it is seamlessly put together and delivers a potent call to action. The recruitment advertising for the Army is some of the finest in the world and this lives up to the high standard already set.
So, all in all, my love of ads is still going strong. Maybe I am easily satisfied and maybe it looks different from that Martian spaceship, but I like to think he would still be glad that we are trying.
1. VIRGIN ATLANTIC Project: Soon Client: Breda Bubear, marketing communications manager, Virgin Atlantic Brief: Create an impactful poster to announce the launch of a new route to Dubai Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R Writer: Mike Crowe Art director: Rob Messeter Illustrator: Alison Carmichael Exposure: Six-sheets and 48-sheets on the London Underground 2. VISA Project: Visa Europe brand campaign Client: Joel Clift, head of Visa brand, Visa Europe Brief: Create a new communications platform across Europe, encouraging people to use their Visa card in place of cash or cheques Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi Writer: Paul Domenet Art director: Brian Connolly Director: Daniel Barber Production company: Knucklehead Exposure: European TV 3. SAMSUNG Project: Anyfilms Client: n/s Brief: Stimulate debate about film-making Agencies: Drill Inc, MFP New York Creative directors: Josh Rogers, Neil Powell, Jenny Lee (MFP New York) Movie production: Mike Wiese, Chris Cooney, Joel Murray, Alex Merkin, Mark Dippe (First Look) Communications planning: Happen @ Fallon Web build: The Barbarian Group Exposure: Internet 4. MINT Project: Mint credit card Client: Richard Taylor, head of brand, Mint Brief: New campaign for Mint credit card Agency: Clemmow Hornby Inge Writer: Enoch Lam Art director: Manuela Barbosa Director: The Perlorian Brothers Production company: Rokkit Exposure: National TV 5. THE ARMY Project: Army infantry Client: Army/COI Brief: Increase quantity and quality of infantry recruits Agency: Publicis Writer: Robin Garton Art director: Alastair Ross Director: Paul Goldman Production company: 2AM Films Exposure: TV, radio, outdoor (bus and tram panels), regional and national press, Sky DAL, text messaging 6. ARCHERS Project: Archers Client: Nicole Duckworth, brand manager, Archers, Diageo Brief: n/s Agency: Craik Jones Watson Mitchell Voelkel Writer: Kerry Bell Art director: Sarah Buller Exposure: Direct mail