27 May 2011
Do you want to hear the most extraordinary thing my two-year-old came out with the other day? Of course you don't. You'd probably rather kill yourself. And as I don't want your blood on my hands, I forbear from parental gushing and the world is a better place. It's an easy understanding, but one that still eludes some advertisers who persist in telling us things that clearly fascinate them, but raise not a glimmer of interest in the rest of us. They have ignored the basic rule of our business, the sine qua non of commercial communication, the failsafe by which our entire output can always be judged: be useful or be entertaining. It really is that simple. Being one of them will get you by, being both is the Holy Grail, and being neither is the all too commonplace waste of money we fast-forward through on a daily basis.
How does this week's line-up fare when the formula is applied? Well, there's no avoiding the fact that we are saddled with two chocolates, some crisps, two beers and a brutish 4x4, so cynics among you may suspect that unless we are eager to boost levels of obesity, self-loathing, violence and anti-social behaviour, we could be struggling a bit in the useful category. But let's see.
Cadbury Dairy Milk has previously been useful by being entertaining. The drumming gorilla added to the gaiety of the nation. The trouble is, his presence has loomed so mightily over efforts to supersede him that every follow-up to date has withered in his shadow. It has gone deliberately lo-fi in its latest attempt, bringing the contents of a charity shop to terpsichorean life. Some will like it, some won't. But the elephant is still in the room, and he's black and furry.
The other chocolate is a pudding called Gu. On paper, its TV ad is pretty lame: a series of vignettes showing a variety of temptations you should probably avoid, including the product. The line is: "Give in to Gu." So far, so zzzzzzzzz. But, by means of outstanding filmmaking and music selection, it soars above its doubtful potential and becomes an unexpected jewel of wry entertainment.
Another familiar format given the full treatment is the Range Rover campaign that allows you to interact with a film and affect the outcome of its story. It's ambitious and entertaining before it clunks to a bit of a disappointing halt when the hard sell arrives and attempts to link the choices you made during the film to the options available on a new Range Rover.
Walkers crisps. Useful? Well, yes, if you've been languishing for want of a ridged crisp and haven't spotted any of the many varieties packed on to supermarket shelves for the past few decades.
Entertaining? I wouldn't say so, no.
Beer doesn't need anyone to point out how useful it is, so it can just get on with the single-minded job of entertaining us. Budweiser flunks this simple task with a desperately formulaic piece showing young people going off to do fun things together, intercut with beer porn.
The fact that it is well filmed, skilfully edited and uses the gorgeous intro from You! Me! Dancing! by the faux-Welsh indie popsters Los Campesinos only highlights the paucity of original thinking that has gone into it.
Heineken, on the other hand, has thought very hard about what some people like and has almost certainly enhanced their entertainment. I say "almost" because I haven't yet been able to test drive its app, which only goes live during a Champions League game. While the game is being played, you use the app to interact with what you're seeing, predicting outcomes and scoring points. If it works as well as one hopes, it's very smart and this week's clear winner.
It's my first Private View and I don't want to give the boring client perspective that no-one wants to read, so I'll keep it light, fluffy and focused on the pictures. Here goes.
No-one really knows what's going to happen with our economy but there's no doubt that consumer confidence is low and that's not likely to change soon.
Damn, I've gone and blown it already. Ah, well ...
It's precisely at these times that advertising can demonstrate its worth to brands. Yes, there are the inevitable pressures on budgets, but great advertising in tough times can drive a more defined impact on sales, share and brand perception than in "normal" times.
All clients and their agencies should be refocusing on what really matters: creating genuinely big ideas that deliver freshness and cut-through. But, crucially, we need to do this while rooting our work in genuine truths about our brands. So that's how I'm judging this work: big ideas and propositions that match the promise.
First up, is something uncontroversial... Cadbury Dairy Milk. It features clothes dancing in a charity shop to Jermaine Stewart's classic We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off. Huge effort has gone into creating a multi-layered campaign here. But I just can't get there on the creative. There's no real idea, which is fine if it's a truly engaging visual spectacle. But, somehow, when this comes together, it all just looks a bit ... well ... drab. I'm not sure what they are asking me to do or think. This is a great brand with a great product that people love. Surely this is rich territory for advertising with a great idea at its heart?
Next is Gu. More chocolate. But, actually, I rather like this. It revolves around a series of scenarios in which people just can't help themselves: bursting bubble wrap, pulling up a Scotsman's kilt (suffered from that at many weddings), putting someone's exposed washing label back inside their dress and so on. It's an insightful idea that resonates well with the naughtiness of the product and has a nice endline. It's shot well and makes me smile quietly.
On to cars. Land Rover has created an interactive film for the new Range Rover Evoque. Called "Being Henry", it allows us to choose the outcome of the film from a series of options. The choices we make on behalf of our star, Henry, finally translate into a personalised Evoque. The production values are high and the team involved has put real thought into doing something different. My only problem, going back to brand truths, is that while the film really pulls me in, I can't help but feeling it's a bit tenuous at the end, when it leads me to making choices about metallic paint colour and leather trim. I just want to know what happens to Henry.
Next is yet another ad featuring Gary Lineker doing something with his Walkers crisps. This time, it's his new crinkle-cut versions and he's having an affair with them behind the back of Elle Macpherson. Yes, really. Not much more I can say. This is one of the longest-running relationships in advertising and for that I must give credit. But, seriously, it must be time to move on.
Budweiser has a new TV ad. We see a range of scenes build with the help of a decent piece of music. I like the sense of anticipation and the beer looks really cold, but it's all just too American. The Getty shots of women and men with American football tops do not paint a picture of your average British Saturday night. Yet again, I'm left wondering where the compelling idea is.
Finally, Heineken has created an app that allows you to play an interactive game while watching the Champions League. You play against friends, deciding when the next goal might be, if there's about to be a corner and so on. I probably needed to play it while watching a game, but it looks like the client and the agency have an innovative idea that will drive cut-through from their sponsorship.
So all in all, a mixed bag. Some disappointments, but also a few significant rays of light. Perhaps our consumers will get their mojo back quicker than I thought.