04 October 2012
I'm going to say it. And I'm fully prepared to go to hell and be the most hated man in advertising. But I really don't care.
I DON'T LIKE THE NEW JOHN LEWIS AD.
The reason: because it's not very good.
John Lewis ads are this year's model and we sit eagerly waiting for the ad as if it's the second coming. Well, we sat. We waited eagerly.
It was like the summer we just had. Disappointing.
Originality and bravery are words that are, sadly, seldom used to describe modern advertising in the UK, but why, oh why is the UK business so boring at the moment?
I think it's because we're all shit-scared. Clients are shit-scared of failing and agencies are just shit-scared. So we find something that works and then wash and repeat. A few years ago, every client wanted a "Cadbury", then it was a "meerkat", now it's a "John Lewis".
John Lewis is now into the third year of doing a John Lewis, and trying to make every over-emotional woman in the South-East burst into tears on command. In the latest beautifully shot offering, we have to sit through a lengthy and predictable love story between a bloke who works at Adam & Eve and a flapper who works as a telephonist at JWT in 1920. They meet, they go to the pictures, they have a row. Finally, they get it together and, after about an hour- and-a-half, we get to the point and realise that it's not an ad for the Time Travel Dating Company - it's actually an ad for John Lewis.
I'm not a huge fan of ads that leave it until the final three seconds to make any sense, and it's very assumptive to think that anyone will sit riveted to the screen waiting, with breath held, to discover the author of such powerful melodrama. Most men would have gone down the pub, and I think most women would have gone down the pub and joined them when the ad didn't make them cry.
The problem for me is it's all getting so predictable. So many ads on air at the minute look like they had a four-word brief: DO A JOHN LEWIS. In fact, there are so many wannabe John Lewis ads, I don't know which one is which. I'll bet John Lewis is even confused.
Shitola! Now I only have about a hundred words to do the rest of the week's offerings.
Sainsbury's asked for a John Lewis. And got it. Almost. Well, not really. Just as schmaltzy and almost as nicely shot, but it has ended up being an ad for the Kite Flying Society of Great Britain and Ireland that has been sponsored by Sainsbury's.
The Heineken and 007 Skyfall ad. Ambitious. Nicely shot.
Complicated brief. Slightly confusing.
Lil-Lets. Nice shots. Nice art direction. Interesting information. But feel like they are ads for women written by men who think they know women but really don't.
The Scottish Government breast cancer campaign. Very informative, ambitious, pragmatic and brave. I liked it. It doesn't have a clumsy ad idea getting in the way of the message, and I really hope it will be very effective.
Finally, Benetton. I really liked this. It's not perfect, but they had a real go, and it's fresh and bold. I have admired Benetton for their bravery over the years and, as a result, you either love them or hate them. I love them. They have so much passion and chutzpah, they don't follow anyone, they do what they want to do and what they think is right. Thank you, Benetton, for talking to your audience and not to people who work in advertising. Thank you, for fighting the corner for originality, bravery and integrity. Would the people who did this please come over to the UK and kick us up the arse. Hard.
I felt there was a bit of a Cosmo spirit to this week's selection of ads: from trying to make periods sexy, to a bold, bare-bosomed campaign against breast cancer, to a hot man and a love story.
I am sure one of the hardest creative briefs must be coming up with a concept for tampons. But how do you get away from leaping women? Lil-Lets has had a good old go. When this ad was first shown to me by my ad director to see if I was happy carrying it in the magazine, I found it hard to believe that we are still so coy about such a basic fact of life. Time to get over it. This refreshing campaign has cute girls, a little bit of science and the surprise factor. I have to admit, I never thought I'd see the word "horny" scrawled large across a tampon ad. Written by a man, interestingly, it's never going to make periods fun but, at last, it feels like a refreshing, modern approach.
From a girl's world to a guy's world - the Heineken ad featuring James Bond jumping off a train while "our hero" has the best journey in the world is bright, fun, frothy, entertaining and glossy, but it made me want to see the movie rather than knock back a beer. If it's glamour by association, though, I guess it'll work - and I doubt I'm the target audience.
Hankies at the ready, I watched the love story unfold in the new John Lewis ad. How much pressure must they have been under to follow up that Christmas ad? Two lovers divided by the past century and a split screen: it's sweet, it's certainly clever, it totally gets across the longevity of the store's reputation and has a great soundtrack.
I know a lot of people love it, but it didn't touch me half as much as the rather schmaltzy but feelgood Sainsbury's ad. I hate to say it, but a dad flying a kite with his daughter, eating sandwiches and then going home to tea, all shot in a warm golden glow to a tune from Mary Poppins, hit the spot.
Maybe it was because I'd just waved my eldest son off to uni and was suffering a bit of maudlin empty-nest syndrome - who knows? - but the kick-ass Benetton ad couldn't have come at a better time. Instead of sinking into a nostalgic personal mope-fest, I loved this ad. It looked cool, it sounded cool and, mobilising social media, it totally plugged into the plight of 100 million young people worldwide who can't find work. Through the "unemployee of the year" campaign, Benetton wants to "champion young people and celebrate their strength and value". And sell some clothes too, presumably - but it's smart, totally relevant, exciting and I want to know what happens next.
It was a close-run contest between this ad and the one for the Scottish Government breast cancer campaign for my favourite.
Featuring the brilliant Elaine C Smith of Rab C Nesbitt fame, it is the first TV ad to show real women's breasts with visible signs of breast cancer. A naked Smith holds photos of different breasts in front of her torso - some are healthy, some are not. I am sure there will be those who complain and find it shocking, but it's so powerful and human, and she has such warmth. It isn't coy; it's ballsy - if that's not an inappropriate expression given the subject matter - but not aggressively so. And how the hell can we be prim about a disease that kills more than 11,000 women every year? Hurrah for Leith.
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