Hmm ... it's never easy having your work publicly reviewed by some prat you've never met. Still, we've all been there. Thickens the skin.
First up this week is a press campaign for Whiskas (3), in which the label is folded into origami animal shapes. After considerable thought, I'm going to give these a thumbs-up purely for what they're not ... which is to say not featuring a 31- to 45-year-old urban female professional who confuses her cat with a child. These ads are very simple, very clean and, as I say, they eschew most of the usual category booby-traps. Yes, the origami device is a tiny bit random, and while the shapes speak clearly to meaty flavours, they don't really deliver the new news - real meat chunks. Still, they've made a nice job of what is not an enviable brief. Exactly what Rankin brought to the party though, I'm not sure.
For those of you who are uncomfortable with change, fear not, there's always Foster's (4) advertising. In this one, a blokey Aussie bloke does what it takes to get his super-chilled beer into the shaded comfort of a beach umbrella without exposing it to direct sunlight. It's enjoyable enough, as Foster's ads usually are, but, for some reason (I'll blame the editing), the gag here almost misses me. You have to look quite hard to clock that the beer is always in the shade. Somehow I feel it could have been easier than this. And fresher. Foster's is too good a brand to be stuck in the world of self-parody.
Next up is a direct mail invitation to Virgin Trains' (2) tenth birthday party, which features ten real red candles laid nose-to-tail in the form of a train. Quite why you would want to celebrate anything to do with train service in this country is beyond me. This feels more like a halfway decent poster idea doing double-duty as a DM piece. Worse, however, is that after sending me a two-foot long, quarter-inch-thick piece of plastic-covered card, I'm then asked to honour its birthday wish and recycle both the card and the plastic. If Virgin were genuinely concerned about deforestation, it would have been smarter to send me an e-mail invitation instead.
And speaking of online communication, Mercedes (5) has launched a microsite for its new C-Class car, which invites you to play a series of simple Pong-like games as an interactive way of demonstrating the car's features. The site is stylish and admirably simple. A couple of the games are interesting and successfully tee you up for the info-bite you're about to receive. Despite telling myself I wouldn't, I did in fact fuck up the eighth memory test just as they predicated. Overall ... a nice site. It wouldn't make me decide to buy a C-Class. But, if I already had my eye on one, it would do nothing to dampen my positive feeling about it.
The Boots (6) ad is by far the best of the lot. It's a simple idea dramatising a human truth (always a good ad formula to follow), that when you take off your kit at the beach, it feels like everyone is watching - especially in those early summer pre-tan days. The spot is well shot, nicely observed and uses music to good, dramatic effect. My wife, who is the bullseye target, giggled and shuddered simultaneously when this came on TV the other night. My only issue would be with casting ... surely someone that well put-together would not really mind going through this ritual.
And finally, Pizza Hut (1). Growing up in Canada, you are subject to a lot of really good pizza advertising, so, by comparison, this one didn't really cut it. An overlong montage of real snapshots of real people having fun doing real things, which culminates in more real people having fun at Pizza Hut under the headline "Family fun since 1958", left me - pardon the pizza pun - feeling a bit flat.
PR - Matthew Freud, founder and chairman, Freud Communications
Last time Campaign asked me to express my layman's opinion on your industry's output, one of the ads was so brilliant that I had a Victor Kiam moment. I said nice things about DFGW's "Elvis" spot for Radio 2; the agency sent me a thank-you postcard. I thought they were polite and talented, and now Tom, Hugh and Dave are part of Freuds.
So it is with new authority as the owner of the UK's 46th-biggest ad agency (along with a Lion, some Pencils and Arrows) that I can give you a more considered view of this week's work.
The TV first. Foster's (4) hits the beach for the next instalment of its cunning creative that reminds us that lager beer is cold and some lager beers are colder than others. Coke's use of condensation on its bottle shot actually persuaded people that Coke was colder than Pepsi, which says much for the genius of product photography and the stupidity of the consumer. The Foster's work is a jolly ad and looks nearly as expensive as it probably was. I am still trying to get Dave to tell me how you guys convince clients that 30 seconds of film costs the same as 60 minutes of TV costume drama, but he says I didn't pay enough for his business to be inducted into the brotherhood.
Also flying clients to exotic locations to spend ten days overseeing the creation of a beach ad is Mother for Boots (6). I so hope the crowd of 1,000 extras were real and not CGI-ed, although I have seen CGI budgets and maybe reality is now the low-budget option. What I like about this is that it is driven from a genuine creative insight that plays on primary human emotion (fear - of beach body scrutiny). They should work hard with their PR agency to ensure they own this space editorially in the run-up to August.
Pizza Hut's (1) family photo album is just perfect. I worked with the mighty Peter Souter on Pizza Hut's celebrity ads in the 90s (England footballers a high point, Ronnie Corbett less so), and this family moments campaign is the first work on the brand that really cuts through since then. They have reminded us that Pizza Hut is a truly democratic product that cuts through targeting and price and appeals to all of the people, some of the time.
Now on to the print. Whiskas (3), which I say is very fine cat food with no first-hand knowledge, takes a whole page of brightly coloured origami-ed packshot to tell us that what is inside is indeed beef, chicken or fish. Effective enough, but, as someone who can occasionally get a page to tell a very long and complicated story to almost all of its readers, I can't help feeling that using a full page to achieve a sideways glance at a single image doesn't exactly sweat the budget. Still, maybe the beef, chicken or fish is not very expensive and margins are generous.
DM. My office is full of 15 years' of Ian Schrager's mailings. Somehow I can't bring myself to throw his little objects of beauty away. Virgin Trains' (2) birthday candles will not be joining them in the dust-gathering direct hall of fame. Certainly an eye-catching invitation, but I don't really trust the bearded man to do anything other than fly me to America (which he does very well indeed), so would have declined his train party if I had been invited (which I wasn't).
And finally digital. This is genius. Go to www.c-class.co.uk and I defy you not to spend ten minutes playing and think more of Mercedes (5) during and after. Who made this? I feel another Victor Kiam moment coming on. (CVs to email@example.com.)
1. PIZZA HUT
Project: Gold spot
Client: Darrell Wade, brand communications manager, Pizza Hut
Brief: Create a 60-second cinema spot to place Pizza Hut at the heart of
family fun time; show that families have more fun when they connect
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy London
Writer: Ray Shaughnessy
Art director: Dan Norris
Director: Smith & Foulkes
Production company: Nexus
Exposure: National cinema
2. VIRGIN TRAINS
Project: Virgin Trains' tenth birthday invitation
Client: Vickie Passingham, direct marketing manager, Virgin Trains
Brief: Invite key Virgin Trains customers to celebrate its tenth
Agency: Craik Jones Watson Mitchell Voelkel
Writer: Mandy Wiemers
Art director: Kerry Pellew
Exposure: Direct mail
Project: Oh so origami
Client: Helen Nott, marketing manager, Whiskas
Brief: Illustrate that Whiskas' "Oh so" range contains whole chunks of
meat or fish
Writer: Ollie Kellett
Art director: Alex Holder
Exposure: National press, in-store, online, DM
Project: Never leave a man behind
Client: Kathryn Swarbrick, Foster's
Brief: Help Foster's win the "cold war" as we head into summer by
refreshing the "shadow" campaign
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writer: Luke Boggins
Art director: Dan McCormack
Director: Nick Livesey
Production company: RSA
Exposure: National TV
Project: C-Class launch
Client: Richard Payne, communications manger, Mercedes-Benz Passenger
Brief: Launch the new C-Class, following the campaign idea of "serene
Agencies: Zulu, Agency Republic
Writer: Alistair Campbell
Art director: Richard Hale
Project: Moment of truth
Client: Andrew Brent, executive marketing director, Boots
Brief: Make women aware of Boots' summer beauty offerings
Art director: Mother
Director: Garth Davis
Production company: Anonymous Content @ Independent
Exposure: National TV