12 April 2012
"Energy beats talent."
I'd love to claim it. But I have a badly photocopied picture of Dave Trott's head (not his best side - sorry, Dave) stuck above my desk with that quote on it that won't let me.
He's bang on. It's true of people, and it's even truer of agencies.
Talent spaffs on. Gets lucky. Relies on a name.
Energy comes through.
Big or small, local or global, the ones with energy are making the difference. They are the ones doing the work we all talk about.
They are the places we want to work.
It's also true of clients. Some are in it for the love, the ambition. Some want to be famous (my favourite). And some, like 90 per cent of our industry, are just doing a job.
The problem is this:
A sleeping agency, a tired creative and a hungover account team can all be dragged into doing great work by an awesome client.
The client will push, harry and ride its agency until glory arrives.
The opposite isn't true. No amount of talent, energy and drive can get an unambitious client to make great work.
Agency, art director, client. Let's look at the energy behind this lot and send poo in the post to the people who didn't try hard enough.
Let's start with the power cut on the Magners ad. Granted, there are some nicely directed moments in the spot, but I'm feeling a bit like no-one ever really asked decent questions of the strategy. Cider made in the dark, with no explanation of how it might help the taste, only reinforces my suspicions around a product that already feels artificial. Where is this going?
You might ask similar questions of a concept that places all we love about Sundays, roasts and our mums, in a squeezy tube. My questions are to the boys in the NPD department at one of Britain's best-loved brands, Oxo, rather than the agency forced to attempt to advertise this. Decent casting may sell a few tubes.
After shrugging off the obvious Sony lift, I'm happy to say the "summer like no other" posters from the Greater London Authority are crisp. Although not quite clever enough visually to become great, they push the Mayor of London an inch closer to modernity. Have they pushed enough? Are these written for the 11- to 25-year-old audience they claim to court, or a Cannes jury?
Usain Bolt is my new Kate Moss. A proper ad slag. This time, it's for Visa.
This huge Visa ad with "innovation ambassador" Bolt must have taken a lot of energy to make. In its 90 seconds, there are some sweet spots, but I can't help feeling that the edit bent over and stopped making people feel something. There's little shape here and it lands a bit flat.
The HSBC ad, however, rescues a similar corporate giant with its fresh and disruptive execution. There's some running, but no Bolt (shocker). A huge budget for a globally unimportant event (rugby's Hong Kong Sevens) makes a simple concept dance. It goes on a bit, but the people behind this work have energy and this impresses.
As does the agency to beat behind the Foster's work. I didn't want to end on some idents, but these two Aussie boys are household mates to us all now, and these are good in a lazy category.
So. Go where the energy is.
Work with people, clients and agencies that have energy. Work with the ones that are up for it, the people who are in it for the right reasons. And if you still don't make any good work, then quit and open a prawn shack in Cornwall. You'll get more sleep and have a nice tan.
I must confess that this is the first time I have done Private View but, after being the director-general of the IPA for ten years, the chairman of the IPA Effectiveness Awards and in the industry for more than 25 years, I am raring to go.
I can see that Magners' marketing strategy is to add perceived value and defend a price premium, using "the way we make it"
creative execution to do so. This added provenance distances the brand from less upmarket products and avoids being struck by White Lightning syndrome. This latest execution is based upon an insight - planner sees light in dark - which blooms into a full-blown ad fantasy. It's another mildly amusing mad idea that builds the "method in the Magners" proposition. The gentle Irish brogue and Deliverance-like banjo soundtrack reinforce the concept, ditto the Facebook free eye-pads offer. There's a glimmer of a chance it'll get a non-cider drinker to change tipples.
Foster's strategy is to associate with comedy - a good idea since laughter is central to drinking culture. Aussie heritage is reinforced by the surfer shack and two handsome hunks who hark back to Paul Hogan - shame about their wooden performances. It's sensible to have lots of ident executions so they'll avoid annoying over-repetition. There is a gentle nod to brand colours in the yellow rubber glove and blue mechanical arm, but good to have resisted being slavish with the mobile cooler and other props. Does it do enough to tickle the comedy fan's fancy and get a non-drinker of Foster's to try this tinny? Not sure they're funny enough.
Oxo uses the marketing strategy of innovation in packaging, which works well in mature-to-declining markets, communicated using a "slice of life" creative execution and updated by using Skype for the dialogue. It builds on its "Oxo family" heritage by using a dad, not mum, as the cooking coach for the son's "date meal"
preparation. It's a shame that the dad falls off the PC wagon with a lechy "Blimey, you've done well there" comment as he spots his son's new girlfriend via the laptop. The problem is Oxo's new squeezy tube demo is limited to the ad's "freight section" rather than being the engine of the ad.
HSBC's business strategy is to position itself as "the world's local bank", so why not use its sponsorship of the Hong Kong Sevens to reinforce its proposition? Why have the teams in fancy dress instead of their national strips? Which country do the green soldiers represent? The USA? But aren't they symbolised by the cowboys? Which team is channeling the Scousers in comedy Keegan wigs? And of all the options, why does the end-shot feature a Roman soldier when Centurion is an American Express brand? The client should have blown the whistle on this game.
Visa's strategy is to position itself as the premier financial transaction facilitator with a lead in new payment technologies - they're the people who are "Oysterising" your Vodafone. Its International Olympic Committee sponsorship lets it use Usain Bolt in an Olympic context to express its proposition that "life flows better with Visa". But, unluckily for Visa, it has been pre-empted by Virgin Media's use of the speedster. While the "airport lost baggage" pretext for its race is a bit tenuous, the revelation that Bolt's opponent is his official starter is neat.
The Greater London Authority's strategy is (maybe) to engender a Boris feel-good factor in the run-up to the forthcoming Mayoral Election, but sailing close to the wind has led to a capsize. The Art Deco graphical style is flat and uninspiring. There are no less than three headlines. Only in the body copy is a busking competition revealed. This ad committee has created a camel and musicians missing the opportunity will get the hump.