Bank holiday, pitch in the middle of what is left of the week, trying to deal with estate agents on the house front and I somehow end up discovering I have agreed to do Private View. So, no offence to all involved, but I am not lounging around carefully taking in every nuance of your masterpieces, I am giving them the "taxi test" - trying to recall what each ad had to say while headed toward, of all places, Soho.
First of all, I can remember the Vauxhall (2) Astra spot - only not for reasons the agency were hoping for. You see, back in 2005, The Phoenix Foundation (a good ol' Kiwi group) released a fantastic promo for their track Hitchcock - if you want to watch a piece of entertaining film with a real message, go to YouTube and check it out. Reuben Sutherland's direction is fresh as can be and the whole thing so very memorable. The Astra spot, on the other hand - well, it has lost all of the freshness and comes out rather like a glossy Hollywood remake. Not something people remember for long.
Speaking of long (memory, I mean), blokes think about sex every 30 seconds and women think about ... MFI (3) kitchens, apparently (little wonder there is not much demand for a nip and tuck, eh?). Indeed, the agency likes this insight so much, it has shot the same ad three times over, presumably in the hope that it will sell three times as many kitchens.
Now for an ITV (5) poster or two advertising The Bill. One nearly reads "Join The Bill", only the word join is so faint it is illegible. The other attempts to read like a police recruitment ad from those great old D&AD annuals of the 80s, only in this case it is not so great.
Little Johnny's day is not looking so great either, as I seem to recall an image of mum putting a dead fish in his pocket as she sees him off to school. He, of course, fails to notice. The spot then makes some point about Kingsmill (1) bread being the easier way to give kids their Omega 3. Hang on, aren't there all kinds of spreads for sandwiches and "healthy" kids' drinks that contain Omega 3? And if Omega 3 comes from fish, won't that bread smell a bit odd?
Thirty seconds is now up, but don't worry, it's the white-van man's favourite titillation, The Sun (4). You can stop thinking about Page 3, though - this is a football promotion, complete with what could only be real fans reading scripted lines. Clearly, it is a quick, cheap (at least, I hope it was cheap) promo spot that brings to life the football trivia on offer by rebranding it as "football ammunition". In other words, it has got an idea at the heart of it.
Last of all, I can clearly remember a BBC (6) spot claiming that the BBC brings football to life. I can remember that because the spot is comprised of a whole load of footballs that (rather slowly) "come to life" all by themselves only to bounce their way over fences and the like. All the while, various "live" BBC commentaries provide a backdrop. My only gripe is that shoe-horned into this are: a shot of a computer logged on to the website; a radio (complete with a sticker reading Radio Five and its frequency) and Gary Lineker on the telly. It just makes the spot a bit small and less engaging, something I am sure you would not find creeping into the cut if it were supposed to be viewed on the net.
Which makes you think, it is funny how when people make spots to go on the net, they strive to make them as entertaining as they can. Why should telly ads be any different?
MARKETER - Peter Gandolfi, head of brand marketing, Nationwide
When was the last time you were having a boring conversation with a friend and you started to daydream? Your mind wandered away from the dull details of their last holiday and moved, inevitably to, yes, you guessed it, thoughts of a newly fitted kitchen from MFI (3)! I applaud the attempt to create desire for what is essentially a low-interest purchase (a fitted kitchen in a sale), but feel a touch of reality might have been in order.
As someone responsible for an organisation's advertising and marketing communications, I encourage my team and agencies to clearly say what it is they are selling while being as competitive as possible, and depict credible emotions and reactions as they relate to the product or brand they are selling. The endline "You dream it. We'll make it happen" just does not stack up for me. How about "MFI is selling fitted kitchens that are cheaper in the sale"? There, that was easy.
Now, I quite like hyperbole; it just has to be part of making the "sell". I am not averse to watching a few cars flying about - I quite liked The Fifth Element and my children loved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but neither of those films was attempting to sell the cars it featured. Whereas the new commercial for the Vauxhall (2) Astra is. The special effects are lovely and I like the music, but what does it really say about the car and any difference it might have over its competitors? Where is the substance and why am I going to be persuaded that the Astra is better than the Volkswagen? Sending cars through burning rings of fire does not work for me.
At Nationwide, we have supported football for a decade, so I was looking forward to The Sun's (4) Supergoals supplement and the latest BBC (6) footballing effort. As a brand, I feel like The Sun is a party animal that wants to take you out all night drinking, as if it were your stag do. Friendly, yes, but a bit out of control. So I was disappointed to see some fans feigning competitiveness between one another, in a rather contrived fashion. I wanted raw passion, but I got some vanilla replacement where "fans" quoted stats at me about their club. I was left unconvinced.
The BBC's homage to football is nicely observed, has a simple idea at its core (literally bringing footballs to life) and does something most football ads do not do by not featuring fans or footballers. Having just endured a summer of football ads (while Pepsi's attempt was poor, Carlsberg's was marvellous. Ours, hopefully, put a smile on your face), I was surprised that I liked this as much as I did.
Everyone seems to be selling health benefits at the moment. So I was intrigued to find out how a loaf of Kingsmill (1) bread was going to convey how it contained high levels of Omega 3. Beyond the "how do they get it in there?" question (if anyone knows, please advise me), I actually felt this ad was the pick of the bunch this week. It marries the reality of it only being a healthy loaf of bread with a very simple visual treatment for bringing Omega 3 to life; a fish that kept popping up in a lunch box, an ice-cream cone and a pocket respectively. Here, the hyperbole is part of the sell, so I like it and believe it works.
And, finally, to the ITV (5) ads for The Bill. I don't mind these print ads, but that is their problem. They are predictable and they look like every other ITV ad for a TV programme. There has been little attention paid to the message itself and, by the looks of it, even less on the crafting of the execution. Our own Nationwide campaign has benefited from the writing skills of Leagas Delaney and the direction of Armando Iannucci. The idea is just the beginning of the journey. I feel more advertisers should try to remember that.
Project: Flipping fish
Client: Brian Robinson, chief executive, Allied Bakeries
Brief: Promote Kingsmill Head Start as an easier way to smuggle goodness
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writer: Orlando Warner
Art directors: Simon Briscoe, Joe Miller
Director: Jeff Stark
Production company: Another Film Company
Exposure: National TV
Client: Olivier Danan, brand communications director, Opel Vauxhall
Brief: Launch the new Astra across Europe
Agency: DLKW & Partners
Writers: Jackie Steers, Ira Joseph
Art directors: Jackie Steers, Ira Joseph
Director: Jeff Thomas
Production company: The Paul Weiland Film Company
Exposure: European TV
Clients: Tim James, brand director; Nicola Alon, brand director, MFI
Brief: Refresh and reappraise the MFI brand
Writer: Jon Sayers
Art director: Alistair Proctor
Director: Andy Pearson
Production company: All Films
Exposure: National TV
4. THE SUN
Project: Football ammunition
Client: Rosie Harrison, The Sun brand manager, News International
Brief: Create interest in The Sun's football pull-out Supergoals
Agency: Euro RSCG London
Writer: Imran Patel
Art director: Dave Prater
Director: Cris Mudge
Production company: Mustard
Exposure: National TV
Project: The Bill
Client: Jackie Randhawa, brand controller, drama and soaps, ITV
Brief: Remind viewers to "join The Bill"
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writer: Mark Goodwin
Art director: Tiger Savage
Photographer: Adam Hinton
Exposure: National press, magazines
Project: Football on the BBC 2006
Clients: Tia McPhee, marketing manager; Richard Blake, brand manager,
Brief: The football season's commentary is on Five Live, BBC TV, online
Writers: Brendan Wilkins, Dave Waters
Art director: Dave Waters
Director: Samuel Christopher
Production company: Red Bee Media
Exposure: National TV