Feature

The Work: Private view

CREATIVE - Jon Williams, executive creative director, Grey London

Morning. Now, strange as it may seem, I have a lot of sympathy with the young lady's predicament in this new spot for Heat (4) magazine. On a Thursday morning, I too quite often just lie on the floor gasping for words, unable to offer any opinion until I have been refuelled by my favourite rag. But in my case it's Campaign that needs jamming in my sweaty palms. Refreshed and reinvigorated by the ensuing bitchfest, I can then get on with my day. Which, if you'd seen it, is pretty much what happens in the otherworld of this new film.

Now, we have Look magazine, which is a competitor so take this with a pinch of salt if you like, but instead of leaving me wanting to buy Heat, it leaves me thinking that the shopkeeper did a great performance and there was a nice superhero pastiche monologue going on. I'm kind of involved with the ad, but, crucially, not with the brand. Carry on please. More like that. Make my life easier.

A couple of times last year, I got home early enough to read Thing 1 and Thing 2 a story. Doesn't happen often, and once their mum has stopped them screaming "stranger danger" and pointing at me, we can all get lost in a book together. They're brilliant, books are. Voyages into other worlds. Thing is, by comparison these Bookstart (5) ads just aren't as interesting. And when you consider the other lazier, but inherently simpler Sunday afternoon option, of just jamming the rug rats in front of the Wii while you pull the cork on a bottle of Merlot, they seem even less appealing. Don't tell social services.

Snickers (6). Mr T. Utter. Genius. Advertising with its nuts out. OK, so he's more used than a Clerkenwell crack-whore at the moment but I love these. So much so, that I went and found another one on YouTube. I like the one with the tank as well. If you don't love them too "You a disgrace to the man race", as the man himself says. You can feel the fun they must have been to write and film. Hourston said I should write about how they rail against the feminisation of society. I say "I pity the fool".

That Prudential (2) one's a joke, isn't it? It's you lot at Campaign having a laugh. It's bait to goad me into some sort of extreme reaction. Well, ha. You'll have to get up earlier than that.

Apparently, "there are two main types of broadband in the UK, my friends" as some American voiceover has just told me. And while these Virgin Media (3) ads enthusiastically celebrate the "mother of all broadband", the one I have at my house is the bastard orphan. A miserable line speed that is directly affected by both the wind direction, and tree lopping frequency of the bloody farmer. And no chance of changing any time this century. So I'm just jealous. This hugely commoditised market is about price and speed, isn't it? People buy tangible benefits not tech, don't they? Who cares what the plumbing is made out of? As it 'appens I can get 16 meg out of copper wire, so what do the extra four megs brought byVirgin's fibre do for me? And what's the damage?

Unfortunately, the world's first talking panda, the principal protagonist in the Fox's Biscuits (1) spot, has developed a serious speech impediment. Well, he did on my Mac. Sounded like that painfully unfunny comedian who pretends the mic's broken. And then the Mac developed the "spinning wheel of death". And I lost the will to live. Technology eh? Sorry.

I read in The Times last week, and I quote: "ITV is braced for a severe decline in autumn advertising revenue as household-name companies batten down marketing budgets before Christmas."

Yet.

These are all TV spots.

Oh dear!

ACADEMIC - Tony Cullingham, programme leader/tutor, The Watford Creative Advertising Course at West Herts College

Prudential (2). This car insurance commercial has "let's give the client what they want" written all over it. The poor old creative team has tried to pack a skyscraper of product points into a suitcase. Happy mum drives through suburban Utopia. Not a pothole or tailgater in sight. You wouldn't need car insurance if the world was really like this. There are far too many cliches and the resolution, "Insurance the way it should be", is one of those meaningless "addy" endlines. The brand clearly has nothing fresh to say. The category benchmark is Commercial Union's campaign: "We never make a drama out of a crisis". Prudential's should be: "We never make a good ad out of a nebulous brief".

Fox's Biscuits (1). Characters are best created from a logical connection with the brand. Get the logic right. And then go as nuts as you want. John Webster showed us the way. Cresta Bear, the Smash Martians, Hofmeister Bear were all engaging personalities. They got a simple brand message across with a script that made us smile. Fox's new creation is a sybaritic panda from New York called Vinnie who sits in a leather armchair droning on about the good things in life. I just don't see the relevance. A tie-in with the Beijing Olympics? Is it "I love pandas" week at Fox's factory? I'm baffled, frankly. In the biscuit tin of loveable characters, Vinnie is the stale wafer at the bottom.

Heat (4). It's apt that a vacuous magazine aimed at a dumb audience should start with a dumb blonde. A woman lies prostrate on the pavement struggling to speak. Another stab victim? Epilepsy? No, she's merely run out of gossip and needs to refill her head with more rubbish. A heroic shopkeeper comes to the rescue, spreads out Heat magazine and, hey bingo, dumb woman can talk again. Script-wise, it's a conventional TV ad formula: Problem, Product, Solution.

It worked for Heineken. But they had genuinely funny scripts and ideas. This is cheap, tacky and as funny as couscous. It's spot on for the target audience.

Snickers (6). I love The A-Team. I grew up in a quiet village in Leicestershire. I wanted to be Mr T and drive a tank at the wimpy kids as they left the local record shop with their Duran Duran LPs under their arm. This new Mr T execution in the "Get some nuts" campaign really works for me. Mr T fires Snickers bars from a huge launcher at a mincy power walker in an effort to get him to run like a proper man. It hurts and it's memorable. Rather like getting bitten by three mosquitoes at the same time.

Virgin Media (3). Samuel L Jackson's mellifluous tones deliver a basic physics lesson in electrical conductivity. Apparently, fibre optics give faster downloads than copper wires. The authority of Jackson's delivery and the groovy art -school graphics tries to rescue an ad which fails to connect with my emotional USB. No matter how functional the brand message is, I expect something more entertaining from Virgin.

Bookstart (5). I am familiar with the Bookstart scheme which encourages parents to read to their kids. I read to my son most nights. Leicester City football programmes from the 1974/1975 season mainly. It gets him to sleep. These two commercials with the theme "A tiny story about books" are charming and delightful. They recognise that both parents and kids have imagination. Kids have the imagination to construct a world. The parents have the imagination to provide it. One ad depicts an imaginary journey from the child's perception as dad reads a story on the bus. The animation, an illustration style not dissimilar to Quentin Blake, appeals to kids and parents alike. This could have been pure cheese. Instead, it's the cream of this week's ads. A well-crafted, intelligent campaign which is clear and disarmingly simple.

1. FOX'S BISCUITS
Project: Good stuff
Client: Mike Driver, AYR business unit director, Northern Foods
Brief: Create an idea reflecting the slightly naughty values of the
biscuit category, and Fox's position within it
Agency: Mother
Writer: Mother
Art director: Mother
Director: Garth Jennings
Production company: Hammer &Tongs
Exposure: National TV, online, viral

2. PRUDENTIAL
Project: Prudential car insurance
Client: Chris Bottle, head of category marketing, RBS
Brief: Increase Prudential's volume of car and home insurance policies
Agency: Inferno
Writer: Pete Matthews
Art director: Scott Sparks
Director: Phil Taylor
Production company: Bang.
Exposure: National TV

3. VIRGIN MEDIA
Project: The mother of all broadband
Client: Lisa McCormack, director of brand and acquisition, Virgin Media
Brief: Inform consumers of how superior fibre-optic broadband is
compared with other broadband
Agency: Rapier
Writers: John Townshend, Bryn Attewell
Art director: Simon Stephenson
Directors: Saimon Chow, Sean O'Dougherty
Production company: Rokkit
Exposure: National TV

4. HEAT
Project: Shopkeeper/feed the need
Client: Liz Martin, group marketing manager, Bauer Consumer Media
Brief: Confirm Heat's "must read" status,
Agency: Quiet Storm
Writers: Trevor Robinson, Becky Hamilton
Art directors: Trevor Robinson, Becky Hamilton
Director: Trevor Robinson
Production company: Quiet Storm Films
Exposure: National TV

5. BOOKSTART
Project: Bookstart fathers campaign
Client: Emily Butt, Bookstart campaigns and communications manager,
Booktrust
Brief: Encourage "hard to reach" fathers to read to their children
Agency: Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw
Writer: Simon Robinson
Art director: Jamie Tierney
Director: Tom Mortimer
Production company: 12 Foot 6
Exposure: National TV

6. SNICKERS
Project: Get some nuts
Client: Rankin Carroll, European marketing director, Snickers
Brief: Bring back Mr T for a second instalment
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writer: Mike Sutherland
Art director: Antony Nelson
Director: Guy Manwaring
Production company: Therapy Films
Exposure: National TV, online, viral