06 May 2011
Get this - there is no advertising (in any medium) coming out of the UK today anywhere near as creatively innovative as the work out of HHCL 13 years ago. Put that in your pipe for a moment ...
We live in an increasingly more professional, structured, measured and mapped industry than ever before. Not easily reconciled in a time when things are changing more than ever.
I have found that the person who operates the least from prior knowledge accelerates the quickest in new territory.
The creative spirit should be king of this. The world's a new place every day for us. It always has been.
So why aren't we making fresher work than ever before? I don't want to be too disparaging - the work here is above average for your standard Private View batch. But I can't help thinking that it all feels similar to lots of other work I've seen before. The Hovis farmer race seems appropriate enough, but it could have been for Magners - similar thought, strategy, look. Hovis, Magners; Magners, Hovis.
Isn't creativity doing what hasn't been done?
Lao Tzu summed up what I think our value as creatives is. He said: "It is because of its emptiness that the cup is useful."
So why all this decent but uninspiring work when things are moving on so fast? When the territory is so new, so fresh?
The Robinsons work was pleasant enough to watch. It's strategically sound, as is the Dreams beds work, but the executions again are both soft, sleepy. There's enough love in the production of these things, but it's all a little too ignorable and samey to be great. It's timid, scared.
The industry is scared. You can smell it. It wants experts like never before. Networks build teams of category-specific, client-specific, even problem-specific experts.
We created experts to create the illusion of certainty. Clients pay big money for certainty. The industry's got better at marketing the illusion of certainty to clients than it has marketing the products and services to the public.
Sure, the future's uncertain, but it should be an exciting, exhilarating kind of uncertainty. Agencies in the emerging markets seem to be embracing this much better than we are. It seems to be feeding them more than scaring them.
The Lucozade work is the bravest of the bunch today. Sure, they've paid famous people big money, but it stood out, it had a launch-like quality, it felt big, it had energy.
Standing out as a brief is Action for Happiness - what a massive task. A big one to live up to creatively. The work offers us a lean scrap of armchair psychology: "Happiness is a decision." It's the sort of thing you see Tweeted by American D-list celebs and spiritual imbeciles. It underestimates me. The voiceover is patronising and small. It made me feel sad. It looks sad.
I was happier for watching the ad for Schweppes. But it's yet another single plot line, fixed narrative thing - very CDP from the 80s. It even had the upper-middle-class accents to boot. And for all those reasons was way too much like the "Pimms o'clock" work. Pimms, Schweppes; Schweppes, Pimms?
Get this again - there is no advertising coming out of the UK today anywhere near as creatively innovative as the work out of HHCL 13 years ago.
All this diversification and fractalisation in the industry, all this increasing specialisation and expertise produces this work that all feels sort of the same. How can that possibly be?
Us creative people need to hold on to our value.
And that is that we are the only remaining people in our industry who aren't experts. And maybe it's time to stop listening to those who say they are.
But, then again, what do I know?
My name is Lucy and I am an addicted eavesdropper. There, I've said it. I listen to complete strangers' conversations and scribble them down fanatically in those little Moleskine notebooks of which I have many, filled over the years with bizarre, mostly mundane conversations. This may explain my obsession with dialogue, which has led to a career in documentary filmmaking, where at least I'm paid to be nosey.
I really like this Robinsons ad in which a couple of well-cast Northern kids trundle around giving out free juice. A bit like Linus used to do in Peanuts cartoons - same old-fashioned trolley cart.
It's new super-concentrated stuff, so it goes further. Simple idea, nicely framed observational shots and avoids the temptation to be schmaltzy. Love the soundtrack too but (here we go ...) when did you last hear any kid say: "Who wants a Robinsons?" Natural dialogue out the window. Shame.
I've always known where I am with Hovis. It comes from up North like all good things and it's good, honest, no-nonsense stuff. The whole point of this ad is to show how it encourages competition among wheat farmers. Cut to wheat farmers curiously dressed as sheep farmers racing through the Dales. OK. Maybe it's something to do with the European Union and quotas? Nicely shot, though.
Dreams. Beds are normally price-driven and this one is more cinematic, which I liked. Lovely shots of people nodding off. Wonderful soundtrack. But the last two shots spoilt it for me as they felt too set-up. A guy turns his bedside light off, pretty girlfriend dozing on his shoulder. He has what I can only describe as a folded place setting card with "Jay Harris, Dreams Manager" on his bedside table. His business card with some loose change would have come closer to convincing me that this bloke was waiting for us all to go to sleep because, at Dreams: "We won't sleep till everyone's in their dream bed."
A drummer, a rapper and a boxer, and lots of tattoos. OK ...
I like those BBC radio trailers shot like promos. I also quite like those ads featuring sports players looking all moody as the lighting fades up and down to black. But I don't get this, but maybe that's the whole point. I'm supposed to be intrigued and left mildly puzzled and rush to the Facebook page. Suddenly, Lucozade is not just a sporty drink or something my mum gave me when I was sick. It must be what the cool kids drink now instead of Red Bull at festivals. Well, if it's good enough for Tinie ... then yes indeed.
Schweppes. Great casting and well shot, but the idea is trying to be too clever and strays from the amusement of parodying suburban existence. I loved the last one when the couple blithely accept their daughter's leopard as a pet. That to me was clever and funny, but this one leaves me wanting to just drink vodka and pass on the tonic. It abandons the little mundane moments in everyday life and instead recreates that scene in ET where the house is turned into a quarantine tent and the forensics arrive in space suits and cart their son off. Why?
It's a voiceover with animation, which I have no objection to, but this ad for Action for Happiness is like a job creation scheme project for the least talented animators at art school. In the style of the Open University circa 1970, the dull female voice tells you "material things have led us in the wrong direction" ... and then a signpost breaks in half. Moderately interesting is the fact that "doing something good for others lights up the same part of the brain as treating yourself". On that note, I'm off to buy myself a cake and some shoes. That'll make me happy.