In the week of the US Presidential election, Lewis Hamilton being crowned Formula One World Champion, Harry Potter/Houdini performing miracles at The Lane and neverending financial meltdown, I suspect advertising is pretty low on the list of people's priorities.
A huge designer shopping centre full of luxury goods is probably even lower down the scale, and you have to feel sorry for Westfield (3) in that the timing of its opening is rotten. The commercial contains beautiful shots of London, which Seb Coe should recycle for the Olympics. I suspect the "designer moths" in the ad drawn to this particular flame will be of the lesser-spotted variety, though. I did have to have a slight chuckle at the endline, as living close by, I can guarantee that if you make a wrong turn into the White City Estate carrying your Tiffany's bag or try to park during a QPR home game you will indeed experience "shopping in a new light".
Axa (2) seems to be following the maxim that if you throw money at it, you can stretch a small idea into a humongous one. Thousands of extras line up to cross the red line of conformity (I think). Axa is "changing the way we do things", "making a stand" and "redefining standards". Unfortunately, when applied to advertising creativity, it is doing none of those. It did, however, succeed in crossing my boredom threshold.
This month's Daily Mail award for "shocking" advertising presented by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand goes to MTV (1). In order to get us to "Save water. Flush less", we see lots of people peeing outdoors in various locations. To its credit, it isn't worthy and it's humorously observed. The choral music is a nice, amusing touch, too. As far as shocking its target audience, it's probably pissing in the wind, but it will raise a smile and some awareness. Bit like Georgina Baillie, in fact.
To the print: I really don't want to be critical of The Royal British Legion (5) advertising as it's well intentioned. I understand the protective poppy figure and the statistics are horrific. Suffice to say, it's a great cause I give to about ten times a year (because it's cleverly designed the pin to fall off my poppy).
The Royal Mail (4) direct mail piece I will bloody criticise. The digital part of this campaign is excused because it's quite clever. However, once I've signed up, in order to get me to use the mail, Royal Mail sends the worst example of that medium you can get. The snappily titled "Tailored Growth Pack" is a witlessly put together hotchpotch of bad design and worse copy. It's tedious, it's dull, and it's everything people think direct mail is, and exactly what it shouldn't be. Yes, it's clever that you individually tailor it from a website questionnaire, but I've had better written and designed mini-cab company cards put through my door. Do these people not look at D&AD or the Campaign Big Awards? Mick Martin, the director of business customer services, who signed this; you've just been named and shamed. Don't bother to write.
From the ridiculous to the sublime. Budgets are shrinking, clients running scared, employees are miserable, fearing for their jobs. Draw your horns in and keep your head down. Cut your advertising budget. Retrench and retreat or we're doomed.
Bollocks to that says Barclaycard (6) (which has more reason to keep its head down than most). It has gone right on the front foot. Its new ad is big, bold, expensive, 90 seconds long (maybe too long), well executed, imaginative and funny. The communication "contactless technology" is as ingeniously small scale as the production is grand.
This, though, is not a client that has rashly decided to throw caution and cash to the wind. It will have been rightly told by its agency (believe me I know) that the clients who want to come out on top the other side of a recession have to be bold and brave and continue to outspend their competitors.
When the world zigs, zag, in fact.
SUIT - Johnny Hornby, founding partner, CHI & Partners
One of the many nice things about having The Carphone Warehouse as one of our founding and long-standing clients is that it is kind enough to keep me in phones. And whenever I have a new phone, my teenage son is always quick to snatch it away and then come back and tell me all the marvellous things I could be doing with it, if only I wasn't so useless. Until recently, though, I haven't found many of the things they could do either very useful or that entertaining.
Until the latest iPhone - and the access it gives me to Apple apps. There are thousands of apps you can download and they're growing by the day. Many of them (most of them) are rubbish. But the ones that I keep, I keep either because they are entertaining - I recommend bubble wrap, pocket guitar, and eat bunny eat (high score 223) - or because they are useful - Google maps, Google earth, share prices, and the amazing Obama 08 app that told you what the great man was up to day by day.
I'm going to judge this week's batch of ads as if they were Apple apps - because as consumers stop watching advertising and start interacting with media, brand communications that aren't compellingly entertaining or useful (arguably they should be both) are increasingly wasted. So which of this week's ads am I going to download and which are wasted?
Download is a big ask for the Axa (2) ad because it tells us nothing useful (it tells us nothing at all, in fact) in a way that you can't even be bothered to watch again, let alone talk about or pass on. It tries to tell me that I need to make a stand but I'm not sure about what, with whom or how.
I might download the Westfield (3) ad because I'll enjoy watching it again and it looks great, but I'm not sure what useful it can say. Westfield must have been one of those impossible briefs because I imagine the product didn't exist when the ad was made, with the consequence that the "useful" part of it - the news that a new shopping centre is opening - is about all it can say, but it says it very beautifully.
I think there might be a "useful" proposition in Barclaycard (6) (contactless payments), if I understand it correctly there's a card that I can flash past things and it pays for stuff. But this potentially useful message gets lost in something that's really busy being extremely entertaining. I love the casting, the music, the way it's shot, and the way our hero passes effortlessly through the world (particularly the library) - it's fantastic - until the brand tries to tell me something at the end about making payment simpler and I hadn't noticed our hero's journey had included him paying for stuff. But who cares - so entertaining it's a definite download.
I would only download MTV (1) "Save water, flush less" in order to keep it until I can find someone to help me work it out. It grabs your attention, which it's designed to do, but in a way that's off-putting and doesn't make you want to watch it again. Spare me again in particular the guy bouncing in his own wee. Also, it's misplaced because the "solution" to flushing less you wouldn't want to do, and you wouldn't want everyone else doing. So the ad goes nowhere - it becomes an instruction with no realistic suggestion as to how it might be carried out.
The Royal Mail (4) campaign is designed to have a very specific app, to help small businesses to use Royal Mail services to promote themselves better and grow their businesses - ten out of ten for usefulness, very few out of ten for creativity, engagement, anything that would make you want to read it.
The Royal British Legion (5) Poppy Support is a useful reminder to "remember your poppy" and entertaining in the engaging sense - in the sense that it makes me think about the broader implications of remembrance and the thousands of families this affects every day. It's not something that happened - it's happening now. Maybe next year's Poppy Appeal will also let me donate by downloading a poppy on my iPhone.
Client: MTV Switch
Brief: How consumers can address our diminishing water stocks
Agency: Ogilvy Advertising
Art director: n/s
Director: Theo Delaney
Production company: Hotspur and Argyle
Exposure: Pan-European TV, online
Project: Make a stand
Client: Olivier Mariee, group marketing director, Axa
Brief: Make a call to customers to make a stand against unacceptable,
Agencies: Saatchi & Saatchi, Team Saatchi
Writer: Matt Skolar
Art director: Philippe Fass
Director: Brett Foraker
Production company: RSA Films
Exposure: National TV, online
Client: Nicky Fuller, general manager, marketing, Westfield London
Brief: Launch Westfield as a new fashion beacon for London
Agency: Adam & Eve
Writer: Nick Tasker
Art director: Nick Tasker
Director: Daniel Barber
Production company: Knucklehead
Exposure: London TV, cinema
4. ROYAL MAIL
Project: Royal Mail growth campaign
Clients: Sarah Pollard, marcoms manager; Amanda Close, senior marcoms
manager, Royal Mail
Brief: Position Royal Mail as a "partner for business growth"
Agency: Proximity London
Writer: Marcus Iles
Art director: Duncan Gray
Designer: Lisa Boxshall
Exposure: DM, online
5. THE ROYAL BRITISH LEGION
Project: The Poppy Appeal
Client: The Royal British Legion
Brief: Promote the 2008 Poppy Appeal and support the annual fundraising
Agency: The Gate
Writers/art directors: Simon Cheshire, Rana Dias
Photographer: Spencer Rowell
Client: Gary Twelvetree, chief marketing officer, UK cards, director of
brand and advertising, Barclaycard
Brief: Barclaycard helps you to cut through the clutter of life
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Writers/art directors: Gary McCreadie, Wesley Hawes
Director: Peter Thwaites
Production company: Gorgeous
Exposure: National TV