"... Johnny Vegas isn't actually that fat and the monkey isn't like a real sock, more like a chunky walking sock ..." It was that easy.
There's a moment at every social gathering, that yawning void in the conversation, when someone (one of the accountants/management consultants/resting actors) asks what you do. "I work in advertising ..." you throw away. You wait, you know it's coming, and sure enough, it does.
"So ... er ... what have you done, then?" Incredibly enough, they don't mean a viral ad, some branded content, an obscure ran-once press ad, or flip-flop mailer. They mean a telly ad. A big, ball-busting, mimic-it-in-the-playground spectacular.
And out it pops. The Lie. Big and fat and shameless. And it's a room-stopper. THEY LOVE YOU!
It's a darned sight easier than briefing, writing, selling and making the bloody things. So, is there anything here that would make you (or, crucially, me) the centre of attention?
First up, the Department of Health (6) and its anti-smoking website. It's an interactive print ad, really. You pick up a rubber with your cursor and erase a pencil sketch of a packet of fags. Apparently, there's never been more ways to get rid of cigarettes. This simply isn't true. I just smeared the Lucky Strike logo when I tried it for real. My half-chewed Nicorette gum worked better. And seemed more relevant.
It's rubbers again. But this time it's condoms on chimneys, exhausts and jet engines. And again, an odd, unconnected metaphor. Protection against sexual diseases? Yep, that's a condom. Protection against climate change? Hmm ... that thing's probably not going to work. It's for Friends of the Earth (2). And it's a really great brief. I do want to find out what can be done and what I can do. But I'm guessing that Durex isn't involved, and the "let's stop fucking the planet" connotation is limp. Nice shots, though.
Now this is more like it - an Orange (5) ad. One that I may well lay claim to at my next impressing-new-friends soiree. Bit thin on idea, but huge on feel and charm. A weird, beardy bloke gathers his loved ones around him. Slap on a weird, beardy soundtrack from the "folksy music for big technology brands" archive and, hey presto, it works again. Effortless and strangely beautiful.
Next up is a beguiling piece of animation set on a train. The surprise is that it's not for Eurostar, it's for Lloyds TSB (1). An animated iron horse replaces the real thing, and provides the, erm, glue for the campaign. For Lloyds, this is edgy stuff. Being picky, I've seen the animation style a few times before, but clients and the £50-a-night research group professionals probably vetoed anything totally new. The analogy is shunted into the endline, but if the conversation dips over the vol-au-vents, I might just mutter something about how I handled the "claymation-master-render-dub".
Hmm, Flora (4). Someone has recorded the brand strategy and put some live action to it. It's an IPA Effectiveness paper, on film. Not sure how long the creative department mulled over it. Looks like it spent plenty of time in planning, though.
I used to do a bit of below the line (never publicly admitted that before). These days, that's "A Good Thing". In fact, it's quite cool. I am cool. I am a "Champion of Integration". I pop open the Land Rover (3) mailer. Unfortunately, it really is integrated, with the grating tarot-card telly ad. Fortunately, it works better as DM. Like, wow.
So thanks again to Daz and Al at Mother. Your PG Tips ads made me shine at the parent/teacher dinner dance. Next week, at the village hall fundraiser, I think I might just spin the conversation around to the Orange ad.
CREATIVE - Steve Stretton, creative partner, Archibald Ingall Stretton
I think it was John Cleese who said that the rules of comedy are: "No puns, no puns and no puns." The trouble is, I've spent so much time pruning, extracting, squeezing and lancing them from other people's work, I've started hoarding them in my head. When I approach something like Private View, the puns threaten to burst forth on to the page like a tabloid sub-editor's Tourette's. But the fact is, I need to let them go, or the pressure will become too intense. So, although I will do my best to stop myself, be warned, this review may contain puns.
First up, there's a lovely film and a new strategy for Lloyds TSB (1). I must admit that, following an initial viewing, a groan escaped at the end frame. Such a charming thing for a big nasty bank, I thought. But a few plays later and it began to look like just the ticket: a train (named, I eventually noticed, "The Black Horse") steams through an animated landscape as two passengers meet, get married, buy a house, have kids and then retire. It's a timely departure from rampant horses gallivanting around the countryside, and it's a truly beautiful 60 seconds of animation. My only gripe is its resemblance to the National Lottery's "big win" ad with the bag full of smiles. And the simple fact is that, without repeated views, it's easy to miss the train, as it were.
I've seen these next ads, for Friends of the Earth (2), written about in the papers, which tends to indicate a job well done. Condoms on exhaust pipes and chimneys may seem slightly puerile, but strong executions pull things back nicely. You'd have to look long and hard for another environmental campaign that achieves this kind of stand-out, so one that penetrates the public's consciousness with a splattering of PR coverage deserves a warm hand.
Orange (5) and Mother often seemed an overly adventurous cocktail, but it still had a highly distinctive flavour, and perhaps there was more to be squeezed from the partnership. But accounts move on, and this new execution is full of subtlety and elegance. It also maintains its freshness after the first gulp, with plenty of visual trickery and warmth. Having said all that, the style, photography and whimsical music are all very familiar; it could easily be from the last T-Mobile campaign. But peel off that outer layer and there's enough sweetness and zest to satisfy.
Flora (4) usually delivers its "healthy heart" message with energetic, London Marathon-style gusto; but there's a change of pace in this rather earnest new campaign. The first spot, with a camera following a runner along a woodland road, is beautifully shot and has some nice lines. Puns, even. But they're good puns. The second, depicting an ultrasound scan of a baby's heart, cranks up the sentimentality, spreading the emotion in thick dollops. It feels a little like a health insurance ad, but is commendably far from standard FMCG fare.
The new Freelander TV campaign, in which a fortune-teller predicts that a man will be trapped forever in a 4x4 cliche, is not an ace in Land Rover's (3) hole. The direct agency following suit here has been dealt a tricky hand, and a pack of cards is the slightly obvious response. But it's very well constructed and illustrated, and I'm certain it would be opened, which is half the battle. My kids would probably play with the cards, too, so they'd have a life beyond the doormat. There are more puns in the copy, mind. Perish the thought.
Finally, this Department of Health (6) anti-smoking campaign looks a drop-dead cert for an award. Each of these highly interactive executions manages to light up the screen to some extent, but the best, in which you draw something with your mouse (I drew my partner Matt Morley-Brown's new goatee), then send it crashing to the ground to crush a packet of fags, left me gasping for more.
So there you have it. All for pun and pun for all. Marvellous.
1. LLOYDS TSB
Client: Nigel Gilbert, group marketing director, Lloyds TSB
Brief: Launch Lloyds TSB's new advertising campaign
Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
Writer: Mark Waldron
Art director: David Godfree
Director/animator: Marc Craste
Production company: Studio aka
Exposure: National TV, outdoor, press, online
2. FRIENDS OF THE EARTH
Project: Climate change
Client: Adeela Warley, head of communications, Friends of the Earth
Brief: Change students' perceptions of climate change
Agency: Clemmow Hornby Inge
Writer: Wayne Robinson
Art director: Matt Collier
Exposure: National six-sheet posters
3. LAND ROVER
Client: Serge Sergiou, CRM and internet manager, Land Rover UK
Brief: Generate interest and test drives for the Land Rover Freelander 2
Agency: Craik Jones Watson Mitchell Voelkel
Writer: John Spinks
Art director: Chris Jones
Exposure: National direct mail
Project: Runner, scan
Client: Matthew Hill, vice-president of brand development, Flora
Brief: Brand on a mission to make the world's hearts healthier
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Writers/art directors: Gary McCredie, Wesley Hawes
Director: Sam Brown
Production company: Rogue Films
Exposure: National TV
Project: People are good together
Client: Rachel Macbeth, head of advertising and design, Orange
Brief: Promote Orange's pay-monthly tariffs
Writers/art directors: Sam Akesson, Tomas Mankovsky
Director: Frederic Planchon
Production company: The Quarry
Exposure: National TV, press, online
6. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
Client: Sarah Partridge, senior campaign manager, Department of Health
Brief: There are many ways in which the NHS can help you give up smoking
Agency: Lean Mean Fighting Machine
Writers: Sam Ball, Dave Bedwood, Zoe Hough, Claire Baker
Art director: Sam Ball