In my country, disrespecting another man's advertising is punishable by death. We even invented the phrase "be constructive". So, with this in mind, I start my very first Private View.
Straight away, my laptop refuses to play the Peugeot (2) spot. So I ask Joseph Tedder, one half of the new junior team we have just hired, if he can open it on his machine. We view the spot together. It's about a little girl painting with acrylics in her room. A moment later, we realise that she's actually in the back seat of the new "smoother" Peugeot. Joseph looks at me and asks: "Why are you watching this?"
I realise quickly that I can't do this. I now have the innocent face of Joseph Tedder imprinted in my brain. I can't lie to him and everything he represents. It's tact versus Tedder. Hopefully both.
I take a deep breath and open the Energy Saving Trust (6) direct mail. I promise you I tried with all my heart to understand this piece of communication. This is where I got to: it's a handwritten, printed letter to a councillor called "Mr Sample" (me, I think), about an energy-saving project that happened 20 years ago. The letter also contains a newspaper article written by a little girl and it's about her memories when this councillor (me) addressed some environmental issues at the time. She is pleased with the results of the project and wants to thank me for doing something about it. PS: she was the one handing "me" some flowers in the picture. After 40 minutes of contemplation, I'd say it needs to be simpler.
Now an ad about a strange town where everyone in the village dives into a massive lake filled with Mentos (4). The line is "the world's gone Mentos". To stand even a small chance of engaging, this idea needs to be really Mentos, not just a little bit. Although it is quite mad, I have to say.
Next, a CD with the tag "Stella Artois (1) TV and cinema campaign". They are in fact a series of bumpers for the Stella Artois film festival. It's about cinema geeks and film trivia. They end up with the line: "Yeah. We're into films too." I was going to write something about the nice photography but the Tedder face appeared again like a vision. The truth is, I trusted Stella, even with a small budget. They always make things feel "premium" without making them feel out of reach. But these don't do that and the acting is just OK. And Stella don't do "just OK".
With my days already numbered, I log on to Vodafone (5) freeweekends.co.uk. An uplifting design with butterflies and rabbits tells me that I need the latest version of Flash. I call Serkan. He runs the IT department and therefore the whole of Fallon. Finally, I get on the site. It's got plenty of messages with people telling you about their weekends. I listen to a couple of them. Someone says that he wants to stop eating carrots this weekend. Here's the thing, whatever you do these days, you have to do a website. Clients want websites even to promote websites. People have so much time to look at websites. The endline is "make the most of now". I consider talking to Micah, Rich and Andy about firing Joseph.
Finally, an ad for Transport for London (3). Most of these "think" ads have the same structure. You know it's coming and you try to protect yourself and then you relax for a second and that's when they get you. And while you're on the floor, they tell you a really good fact like "most collisions happen within three miles of your home". It makes you think, which is good. Something tells me to look out on my way home tonight.
DIRECTOR - Mike Figgis, film and commercials director, Tomboy Films
Let me start by saying I really don't like playing at being critic. I've had too many beatings myself from clever-dick writers, so I'm going to be as honest as I can, knowing that everybody sets out to do good work and sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn't. Just the other day, I was slagging off some Hollywood film and someone told me that perhaps I knew too much about the process to appreciate films any more. Well, I'd say this was true of bad films, but a good one can still take your breath away and make you forget everything for a while. So, here goes ...
The Peugeot (2) ad was well made. I assume there was a handsome enough budget. I enjoyed it right to the last moments and then it didn't work for me because it told a big whopper. It was saying this car is so smooth that a small child could do a delicate painting in the back. There is no car in the world can do this other than on a straight run on some salt flats somewhere. And I wondered why it was felt necessary to tell this fib. Who would believe it? So ... well made, but ultimately not well written.
Train-spotty film nerds discuss continuity errors in the Stella Artois (1) film idents. I went with it for a while and then in the last clip they just went too far and had everyone nodding together. At that point it lost me because it seemed so fake and I wanted it to be real, to develop a bit more and maybe show some real passion for cinema rather than just sticking on this one joke. And I think this could easily have been accomplished. Maybe it just underachieves a bit too much (on purpose). I'd be interested to know if they are entirely scripted or a bit improvised. My guess would be scripted, and therefore the fault is in the writing again.
I struggled a bit with Mentos (4), trying to work out the ideas and how they may have evolved in the creative process. I guess the genre is well tried: silly Europeans involved in rituals which tie in products. Of course, I can remember other spots which have been quite funny in this vein, but in this instance I didn't find the humour, it didn't find me. I didn't envy the director trying to make something of this script and I could see the story-boards etc but, at the end of the day, where is the story and where is the punchline?
I feel really bad saying this because the cause is a good one but I bin stuff like this Energy Saving Trust (6) mailpack all the time and worry about the trees that have been sacrificed for what amounts to junk mail. Maybe other people are kinder to their post and actually take the trouble to read it, but for me life is too short. And, having gone to all of that trouble, why fictionalise it? Why not just say the truth and make it pithy and hitting - doing it their way seems to put a filter on the information, which is counter-productive.
I popped in to the Vodafone (5) site and was underwhelmed. Recorded messages of people saying they had a nice time somewhere. I assumed they were all lying and had been paid to do so, because there was nothing to convince me otherwise. Are folk so lonely that they would consider wasting time to visit sites like this? I was baffled and feel I may have missed a vital piece of information. But if I did, there was nothing else on the site to lead me to Nirvana. So I left.
I have the feeling I went up for one of these Transport for London (3) spots and didn't get it, so I could be really bitchy. In fact, I really liked it - it was my favourite of the whole batch. I think the budgets on these are quite small but from a directing point of view it had one huge advantage over all of the rest - IT WAS TRUE. It was based around a fact rather than a product, so it wasn't necessary to fib or exaggerate, the director could just focus on how to get the truth across. Well, wouldn't it be just fabulous if all ads could be BASED ON A TRUTH? And they paid you for telling the truth.
I watched and read all of these ads and wondered whether I could have done them any better. The answer is no from the directing angle ... but yes from the writing angle. Most of the problems come with the writing.
1. STELLA ARTOIS
Client: Lee Rolston, marketing manager, Stella Artois
Brief: Promote Studio Artois Live
Agency: Lowe London
Writer: Patrick McClelland
Art director: Simon Morris
Production company: Thomas Thomas
Project: 307 surprising diesel
Brief: Demonstrate the benefits of Peugeot's HDi technology
Agency: Euro RSCG London
Writer: Imran Patel
Art director: Dave Prater
Director: David Lodge
Production company: Bandits
Exposure: National TV, cinema
3. TRANSPORT FOR LONDON
Project: The day you went to work
Client: Miranda Leedham, group marcoms manager, Transport for London
Brief: Jolt drivers into realising that accidents are likely to happen
on familiar journeys
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writer: Curtis Brittles
Art director: Will Bates
Director: Vince Squibb
Production company: Gorgeous
Exposure: Cinema and TV in London
Client: Corrado Bianchi, marketing manager, Perfetti Van Melle
Brief: Generate increased awareness of and likeability for Mentos
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Writers: Steve Wakelam, Dean Wei
Art directors: Steve Wakelam, Dean Wei
Director: Guy Manwaring
Production company: Therapy
Project: Free weekends
Client: Fiona Tyrell, brand and planning communications manager,
Brief: Promote the new free weekend calls and texts offer to Vodafone
Pay as You Talk customers
Writers: Alex Brayton, Amy Gould
Art directors: Alex Brayton, Amy Gould
6. ENERGY SAVING TRUST
Project: Letter from the future
Client: Rosina Roberts, business marketing manager, Energy Saving Trust
Brief: Encourage council leaders to work with the Trust to introduce
policies to help reduce CO2
Agency: Tullo Marshall Warren
Writer: Adena Graeme
Art director: Denise Bacon
Exposure: Direct mail to 250 council leaders