Feature

The Work: Private View

CREATIVE - Dave Trott, creative director, Chick Smith Trott

Why do we assume people have to like ads? Everyone assumes that "being liked" is what sells, but is that true? Look at the numbers.

Last year £18.8 billion was spent on all forms of advertising in the UK. How much of that does anyone remember?

Here's the official statistics: 4 per cent was remembered favourably; 7 per cent was remembered negatively; 89 per cent wasn't remembered at all.

Bill Bernbach said: "If no-one notices your advertising, everything else is academic." So that's roughly £17 billion wasted on advertising that no-one even noticed.

Of course everyone wants to be in the 4 per cent that's remembered favourably. But don't forget, being liked isn't the job. In a massively over-communicated society, being noticed is the job.

I was talking to Peter Woods (the man who built Direct Line, and then built esure) about this. The Michael Winner ads for esure had just been voted the most unpopular ads ever. He said: "Yes. Now ask me what they did for my brand. They put it on the map overnight Sales went through the roof."

Think how you buy car insurance. You don't see an ad and think: "I like that ad. I must buy some of their car insurance." Car insurance is a "distress purchase". You only buy it because you have to. You think: "I'd better get a few quotes and compare them. Who's top of my mind? Direct Line, Churchill and esure."

Then you call them all up, or go online, and go with the cheapest. So car insurance is about awareness, salience.

Our job is to try to be part of the 4 per cent but, if we can't, at least be part of the 7 per cent. Above all, make sure we're not part of the 89 per cent. So why do most people end up there? Because they think it's our job to make ads that people like.

Woolworths (5) has Jackie Chan. He's a funny guy; I like him; I like the jokes, but I couldn't understand what the little characters were saying or what any of it had to do with either clothes or Woolworths. Either way, me liking Jackie Chan is irrelevant.

McCain's (4) Rustic Fries had beautiful animation, lovingly shot. Very charming and very gentle. I like it, but I'm not sure it will dominate a break.

Shreddies (3) had a factory full of grannies knitting breakfast cereal. It doesn't matter whether I like it, what matters is: will it get Shreddies on the radar over the competition? Or will it just make a few thirty-ish middle-class university graduates laugh at the postmodern humour?

BBC4 (1) has a commercial for a programme called Medieval Minds. This has terrific animation but, best of all, a great soundtrack: Purple Haze played on ancient instruments. I had spotted this on YouTube a week before I was sent it for Private View, and I forwarded it to my kids, who both loved it and sent it to their friends. That's how viral works: free advertising.

The Nokia (2) commercial had impressive use of CGI but, other than the fact that the phone has sound and picture, I couldn't see what made it different.

Then the New Directors Showcase (6) viral. Very nicely shot, good call for entries. But I can't help wondering, now that John Webster and Charlie Saatchi aren't doing it anymore, is there anyone out there who can tell the difference between a good piece of film and a good ad?

Answer that and you'll know why most people end up in the 89 per cent.

DIRECTOR - Mark Denton, founder, Coy! Communications

I'm in shock. Last weekend I found myself in the back of a cab travelling north up Duke Street towards Manchester Square.

And there it was. Or rather, there it wasn't. The bit of wrought iron that formerly supported the Smees advertising and marketing sign was now naked. As we sped past, I glimpsed an "Offices To Let" sign in the window.

I was so concerned that when I got home, I jumped on my computer and looked up the Smees website. I gave them a bell, hoping that a reassuring answer phone message would kick in. But, no, nothing.

What's happened to them?

Over the past few decades, I'd often thought about popping in and asking what they did. Although I knew there wasn't any urgency. After all, they'd always be there.

Here was yet another indication that the industry I'd almost grown up in over the past 33 years is changing. Mostly, it's for the best, and there's some pretty exciting toys to play with now. Even so, every now and then it's easy to get sucked in to a bit of nostalgia fuelled by watching something like one of those advertising documentaries BBC4 is running before Mad Men.

You can get fooled into thinking that ad breaks in the old days were full of "Fiat Strada", "'Ello Tosh, gotta Toshiba?" or "gertcha". But I know that's not true.

Being a modern, forward-thinking, digital kind of bloke, I've finally finished transferring my knackered VHSs on to DVD. Some of them were more than 25 years old. I'd taped whole programmes as reference, including the ads.

Here's what surprised me. There was a bigger percentage of crap back then than there is now. Of course, advertisers were different. Just substitute a packet of budgie food for a mobile phone company and you've now got a better quality-to-rubbish ratio.

Which leads me on to this week's selection of ads for review. Reassuringly, they've all got something going for them.

First of all, there's the BBC4 (1) Medieval Minds promo. I like it. I love the concept of trippy medieval animation sitting alongside an ancient rendition of a Jimi Hendrix track, although I think it could have been pushed a little bit further. I would have made the animation a lot grubbier: it's a bit too clean for medieval times. Plus, the soundtrack might have benefited from the addition of 100 Gregorian monks and a twangy lute solo. Then again, I've never been known for my subtlety.

The second ad sees Jackie Chan in a Woolworths (5) ad. Not as good as an earlier one that starred Darth Vader, but still very good in parts. There's a really nice "wax on, wax off" gag. Jackie replies "I wasn't in that one", with perfect comic timing. Sadly, this is only in the 60-second version, not in the shorter-length one I saw on telly the other night.

Shreddies (3) are apparently "knitted by nanas". I think this campaign is sweet, but I can't help thinking it could have been shot to look a bit more modern without losing any of its charm.

The ad for McCain (4) also had a lovely warm feeling about it, but the animation lacked the X-factor that might have turned it into a craft winner.

Nokia (2) is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Big, impressive and modern, but, unfortunately, charm-free. Very slick production values, but as cold as a very cold thing.

Finally, we've got the New Directors Showcase (6) viral. I'm biased, but I really like it. It's my pick of the bunch. There's some very good acting from my old mate Chris Palmer as he's rubbed out during a commercial shoot and usurped by a young pretender.

All in all, a pretty good set of ads. Not all podium wobblers perhaps, but definitely better than average. Our industry needs to continue to up the ante. Especially as all those gifted amateurs on You Tube are making us look a bit mortal.

1. BBC4
Project: The medieval season
Client: Lindsay Nuttall, head of marketing, BBC2, BBC4 and factual
Brief: n/s
Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
Writers/art directors: Nick Simons, Jules Chalkley
Director: Jamie Roackaway
Production company: Strange Beast
Exposure: TV

2. NOKIA
Project: Harmony
Client: Will Harris, marketing director, Nokia UK
Brief: Communicate the Connect Contemporary range's high-end credentials
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Writers/art directors: Pete Gatley, William Spencer
Directors: Eric Augie, Olivier Lipski
Production company: Blink
Exposure: TV

3. SHREDDIES
Project: Knitting nanas
Client: Ronnie Parry, marketing director, Cereal Partners UK
Brief: Ingeniously designed for the taste everyone loves
Agency: McCann Erickson
Writer: John Hurst
Art director: Carole Davids
Director: Harald Zwart
Production company: Upstart
Exposure: National TV

4. MCCAIN
Project: Skin goodness
Clients: Simon Eyles, marketing director; Greg Foster, brand manager,
McCain Foods GB
Brief: Rustic Oven Chips have the skin left on for goodness
Agency: Beattie McGuinness Bungay
Writer: Richard Harris
Art director: Jamie Starbuck
Director: Christian Bevilacqua
Production company: Therapy Films
Exposure: TV

5. WOOLWORTHS
Project: Jackie Chan
Client: Tony Holdway, head of brand communications, Woolworths
Brief: Launch the Worthit! kids' clothing range
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Writers/art directors: Matt Waller, Dave Monk
Director: Declan Lowney
Production company: HSI
Exposure: TV

6. SAATCHI & SAATCHI
Project: New Directors Showcase final call for entries
Client: n/a
Brief: Promote the last call for entries for the New Directors Showcase
2008
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Writer: Howard Green
Art director: Pablo Videla
Director: Chris Palmer
Production company: Gorgeous
Exposure: Viral