14 October 2012
Of all of the philosophies, postulations and "visions" on how a creative director can improve an agency's product and, consequently, its reputation, I heard by far the best just recently: "Don't let any shit out."
Isn't that beautiful? It's simple, direct and genuinely gets to the heart of why good agencies are good.
They don't let any shit out.
With this in mind, I thought it might be opportune to use this week's Private View to measure the health of our industry's rectal brawn.
Worryingly, the initial prognosis isn't good. The film for the Rugby Football League does not bode well for the security of our collective chocolate tea-towel-holder.
It's nearly two minutes long and establishes nothing more than the fact that the Rugby League is played by men who pass a ball around with their hands.
It's a shame because I'd like to know more about the Rugby League. But this does little to differentiate, inform or excite me whatsoever.
Next in the medical stirrups comes a spot for Weetos - little brown hoops, would you believe?
It's a cautionary tale of a young lad confronted by "a tough guy's moooostache". Pumped full of Vitamin D, he kicks the 'tache's butt with ease. The dirty sanchez then comes back later for round two, only to get another battering around the ring - the crafty kid has a pocket full of Weetos to snack on throughout the day.
It's classic upselling of both usage and occasion and follows the creative mantra that states: "If you've got something really straight to say, tell it really bent."
Further concerns about the early signs of anal seepage are provoked by Thomson and YouView.
Both are guilty of discovering that there's a new knob in Soho. I know, I know - Soho is full of knobs. But push the one that they have found and it maps projections on to any object you like - planes, buildings, whatever.
In fairness to Thomson, the home-movie-style use of projections is at least relevant. But how it ended up on an ad for what purports to be a state-of-the-art television provider is beyond me.
It's not all bad news, though. Films for TalkTalk and St John Ambulance would suggest that adland's poo-scissors can still cut the mustard.
The TalkTalk film is a triumph of craft, if not concept. Exquisitely made, it builds on the visual language and retro music established in the (equally beautiful) "doll's house" spot of last year. As such, there is a real sense of a "brand for the home" being built here. No mean feat when you consider that TalkTalk is a service provider primarily associated with mobile communications.
There's also no doubting the quality of the St John Ambulance piece. Or its effectiveness. It provoked an all-staffer offering first-aid courses to the Leo Burnett Massive just a day after it broke. But, despite the fact that it's very well-executed and an extremely powerful idea, there's something about the way cancer is leveraged that doesn't sit well with me. Maybe it's a personal thing and maybe, with an issue like this, effectiveness is all that matters. To be honest, I find it hard to articulate. It just feels wrong.
Now, I'm happy to admit that the drawstring on my creative Gary has failed me many times. But, on this evidence, the industry's balloon-knot isn't looking too leaky. No need to swap the quilted Andrex for an incontinence pant just yet. Rather, have a pack of those moist baby-bum wipes handy, just in case. The problem is they feel so good.
It wasn't that long ago that the death of the 30- second ad was being predicted. The march of the digital revolution was to sweep aside the old for the new. TV channels were haemorrhaging viewers as they fled to pastures new, with advertisers trying to follow them. For a moment, it looked like the writing was on the wall. I thought I might have to return to flogging groceries in the family business.
But then the commercial was given a stay of execution. TV channels fought back. They upped their game. They started airing shows people wanted to see. Viewers returned in their millions, as did advertisers.
You must be thinking: what the hell has any of this got to do with Private View? I'll tell you ... it's crucial we get back to making commercials people want to watch. Not once in a blue moon, but at least once in the commercial break. If people aren't going to reach for the "FWD" every time there's an ad break, advertising has to up its game. This week, there appears to be some evidence of this.
St John Ambulance. This powerful idea has been beautifully crafted. I can't help feeling, though, that St John's hard-earned donations might have been better spent showing the millions watching this ad what to do to stop this poor bugger choking to death. The Heimlich manoeuvre: five hard back-slaps, followed by five abdominal thrusts.
Weetos. How do you get kids to eat Weetos for breakfast, lunch, tea and supper? You threaten them with a tough-guy moustache. I liked this spot a lot. Of all the client briefs, this probably was the hardest to crack - so, well done, creative team, whoever you are. The tone and the humour are spot on. Although I would have made the fight scenes slightly hairier!
TalkTalk. We see a lot of people making their way home on a cold and wet autumn night to the warm welcome of their families - and, of course, TalkTalk phone and broadband. But these aren't ordinary folk; these are ordinary folk made of lead. Had they been real flesh and blood, I probably would have been reaching for my sick bag. Instead, I was reaching for my hankie. I was charmed, although I'm still trying to work out the role of the live-action squirrel.
The Rugby Football League. I grew some chest hair watching this one.
Thomson. Instead of showing family movies inside the cabin of their planes, Thomson is showing them on the outside. Nostalgic Bolex Super 8 footage of family holidays is cleverly projected over the fuselage, the tail and the cockpit.
YouView. Projection seems to be the new black this week. YouView catch-up TV has spent its production budget wisely on this excellently crafted and paced spot. The message comes across large and clear. With so much great TV out there these days, I am definitely sold on getting one of these boxes. Let's hope our commercials can keep up.