10 May 2012
Call off the hounds. Dim the Davy lamp. Power-down the satnav. The G-spot doesn't exist. Official. A recent survey of 1,800 female twins by King's College London has exposed the Holy Grail of women's sexual pleasure as a myth. Gentlemen, your quest is over and I know what you're thinking. "That's 30 seconds I am never going to get back."
You may anticipate precisely the same tristesse du temps perdu when you finish watching the new B&Q commercials. But you'd be wrong. They are actually 40 seconds long. The agency team have singled out "pride" as the key emotional motivator in the home improvement market and gone after it with hammers. The clinical use of vignettes has helped them corner this generic and beat it into shape. Then, I imagine, they went home, showered and changed, cool as you like, until they realised they'd forgotten something! So they returned to the scene of the crime and shot the cute dog vignette as well. It's a professional hit but, in these difficult economic times, why broadcast the same message as your competition? Surely there's some commercial advantage in being the "other one"? Ikea. Apple. Anyone?
Argos has a genuinely differentiated retail offer but there's this thing called the internet, apparently, and it's having the high street's lunch. Now the Home of the Laminated Book of Dreams is in trouble. If your Christmas trading was almost 9 per cent down, you might be tempted to have a little tinker with your advertising campaign, but Bill Nighy's family of aliens get a spring reprieve with the same mix of hokey charm and product placement. I do wish them a different outcome but it's humbling to contemplate what advertising can actually achieve when confronted with social change and seismic events in technology. Advertising couldn't save Polaroid or Kodak or Woolworths. Our retail landscape is going to look very different in five years' time.
You'd think Ken Livingstone would be a man with a change agenda but you'd be hard-pressed to find it in this viral party political broadcast. I'm not blaming the messenger, but this vox pop litany of Londoners' complaints, however justified, just sounds same-old and whingeing. Of course people want redress but they need vision, too. By the time you read this, our great city will have decided on its next mayor and if the Old Newt Wrangler beats the Beast of the Bullingdon Club, then I've got it completely wrong and this powerful and emotive piece of propaganda is entirely vindicated. Billecart-Salmon s'il vous plait! Rose, of course.
The other big event in dear old Lunnun Tahn might just be the Olympics. For all its street credentials and rap narrative from Wretch 32, this Adidas spot follows the familiar celebrity route. Daley, Example, Beckham and the ubiquitous Victoria Pendleton join da crew and ... well, you know the rest. It seems that nearly all our sports brands have pretty much hit the wall as far as television is concerned. All the innovative stuff happens online or on-street.
HE'S OUTSIDE YOUR HOUSE!! The Changing Faces campaign subverts the old horror movie cliche to remind us we must not judge a book by its cover. Ol' Leatherface lurking outside in the rain turns out to be nice middle-class dinner guest, and we feel bad because we thought we were staring into the face of Pure Evil. We are shallow and prejudiced and obsessed with appearance. Who knew?
The Sunday Times uses neat cropping to tease the publication of its famous Rich List. Could have been a little more challenging to decode, but hey. Like a sleek and playful Labrador, this campaign sniffs the bottom of genius without actually mounting that elusive beast and consummating its greatness. Maybe next year?
There are some cracking briefs around at the moment. Recession and weather notwithstanding, summer 2012 is already burgeoning with opportunity as the stage is set for what's going to be a huge showcase for UK plc, our industry and our agencies.
The Sunday Times Rich List 2012 is one such dream brief. With big names, big numbers and big egos at stake, the campaign has to land carefully. We're in a recession, after all. CHI & Partners' ads answer the brief visually, simply and beautifully, resizing celebrities by wealth. The insight is that it's the relative, not absolute, statistics that we're really interested in - and the executions are fresh and fun, allowing us to gawp and gasp away at the giants and the dwarfs and draw our own conclusions. A big, confident, campaignable idea.
There's another peach of a brief from Changing Faces, the charity campaigning for "face equality" and those with facial disfigurement. And a dream client in the inspirational James Partridge, himself a burns victim who founded and leads the charity. It's a tough subject and a topical issue in a world where obsession with looks and body image are on the agenda. The cinema ad sets us up for horror: girl alone at night with disfigured guy lurking, we assume, with evil intent. But the reveal shows him to be anything but. A pre-judice dramatised, then debunked. Point well made, DDB.
The Adidas "take the stage" campaign, created by the Canadian hotshop Sid Lee, captures the energy, excitement and cool of London 2012 - and invites everyone to participate, whether they're into sport, street or style. Big line, impressive array of Team GB athletes, A-list celebs and the rapper Wretch 32 with the backing track, inspiring young people to follow their dreams. It's a big, blockbuster number. But, for me, the more engaging, fresh treatments are in the accompanying backstage spots, where the wonderful Keith Lemon hilariously interviews Tom Daley, Victoria Pendleton, Ellie Simmonds, Louis Smith and others. Take a look. They're great.
Still in London, and the party political broadcast for the Ken Livingstone mayoral campaign by BETC. This one caused a giant fuss in the press because he cried when he saw it, and the "ordinary Londoners" in it were scripted. It didn't make me cry but it's uncomfortably long. The "ordinary Londoners" look distinctly ill-at-ease with their lines, even when they burst into cheesy "Come on Ken" encouragement. I think it would have worked better if they had chucked away the script and the autocue and got people to talk for real, Ken included.
Two retail campaigns. The brief for the B&Q spring/summer campaign is to "help inspire people to feel confident enough to improve their homes". With the wonderful Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's Our House as backing track, the ads can't fail to be sweetly emotive. And the faces of delight at what has been achieved are warming and sentimental, especially the little girl with her tomato plant. But I miss the single-minded, ballsy confidence of the original "You can do it" line, and I can't help but feel it's been softened and awkwardly sidetracked by the "I did that" thought in these ads.
Finally, the Argos alien family campaign, encouraging us to "Argos it" this summer by ordering online and picking up in-store (I think - it's not that clear). There's a range of summer stuff on show in the ad, including the ubiquitous giant trampoline that would be a mighty faff to pick up in-store, surely? I'm not yet wild about the aliens personally, but it's a vehicle and it has charm, and it's still early days in the campaign, so let's see.
Anyway, here's to summer 2012 and more great briefs with promise for us all in adland.
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