24 January 2013
As 2013 arrived, people the world over exclaimed what an epic year lay ahead. No matter the economic climate, no matter how many more independent agencies were bought by farmers keen on milking them into submission, no matter that there would only be the same 365 days as in any other year – the resolutions rang out as ever. "2013 will be huge. Fantastic. Best year ever. Epic!"
The theme has carried over on to our screens, and not just in Sir David Attenborough’s remarkable Africa – a truly epic production with a reassuringly epic audience of 6.5 million. Thanks to the likes of Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Mother, brands such as The Guardian, Moneysupermarket.com, Lucozade and even Ready Brek have all embraced the optimism of the new year and gone full-on "epic".
For starters, to illustrate just how "epic" Alan feels after saving £300 on his car insurance, Mother has shown him flipping the space shuttle launch switch. Imagine the feeling. Being the one to let loose all 25 meganewtons of Top Gear-topping thrust to blast the shuttle into orbit. Epic! And the smallest scene of the film, where we see Alan’s nonchalant expression as he casually flips that switch, is what makes the ad. With that kind of production, Moneysupermarket.com will certainly be hoping for epic results too.
101 takes the theme in a slightly different direction, challenging anyone to find a lump in Ready Brek porridge. If you do, Ready Brek promises employees will perform a ridiculous – possibly even epic – forfeit, such as Alex turning up to perform a ballet piece on your birthday. Or maybe his colleague Steve will take on two huge Scottish wrestlers. Alas, when you go to Nickelodeon.com to see the rest of the "forfeits", they’re a bit, erm, lumpy.
Lucozade is up for it. In its new ad from Grey, a team of yellow-shorted, Lucozade Sport-guzzling runners do battle with a team of white-shorts-wearing, water-guzzling runners in a gym-styled "last man standing". The outcome of this epic human endeavour? Take note, since you’ll need all the fuel you can get to survive the marathon year ahead: 1-0 to Lucozade Sport.
In a brief interlude from our upbeat 2013 theme, Leo Burnett and The Co-operative Funeralcare take us on a sobering journey as they explain the thoughtfulness of The Co-op’s funeral directors, who appreciate that funerals are more than just "flowers, cars and music". The film shows a widow and her son taking a different route past their loved one’s favourite fishing spot, where we see the lads stand to pay their respect. Unlike anything else this week, it’s underplayed and the better for it.
WCRS serves up three spots for Warburtons – "Half & Half", "crumpets" and "Soft White Farmhouse". The campaign features people writing to Jonathan Warburton to share their appreciation of Warburtons’ loaves. Jenny Newman is impressed that the new Half & Half loaf means her two pint-sized Sherlock Holmes boys cannot detect the goodness of wholegrain flour that Jonathan has slipped into his recipe. Surely that’s an epic achievement? And if not, the fact they’ve made three spots – a campaign, dammit – surely qualifies.
Finally, BBH and Guardian News & Media have come out all guns blazing in their three-minute, Hugh-Grant-intro’d, Jerry-Bruckheimer-blockbuster-trailer-inspired, Michael-Bay-exploding-edit advertisement. In this feature-length spot, "Ben" discovers, much to his chagrin, that all 52 weekends of 2013 will be known as "The Guardian and Observer weekend". And that they will be huge, thanks to the content of these papers. Weekends are now "owned", not by you or anybody else, but by The Guardian/The Observer. Thanks to The Guardian and The Observer, we are all now certain to have the huge year we hope for. Epic!
Just one small point: I do hope BBH left some of The Guardian/The Observer’s budget aside for media, or else things might not pan out to be so grand after all.
When I got a call asking me to contribute to Private View, I was flattered, as it’s usually the bit I read first. I said yes, of course – after all, I hadn’t seen many directors doing it. Maybe there’s good reason for that, not wanting to bite the hand that feeds you. I sought some advice from various industry folk – "be honest", "be positive", " have a point of view", "be funny", "pull out". One colleague tells me of a director who managed to alienate a whole agency with one withering comment. Blimey! So, as I weigh into a pretty impressive line-up of work, I am going for what I will call selective honesty.
Guardian News & Media. The "three little pigs" spot is a hard act to follow, but no-one can accuse Bartle Bogle Hegarty of ducking the challenge here. The claim to "own the weekend" wrapped up in a movie-trailer pastiche is ballsy and risky. Thankfully, there is much to enjoy. It feels long, because it is long, but all the parts are in themselves funny. On a second viewing, I already started to have my favourite bits: the guy with the zombie eyes, the manic laughter in the lift. Then I caught a section online, the couple at breakfast presented as a standalone ad, and it really worked. So, unlike "three little pigs", which inevitably lost some of its power in a cutdown, this monster is clearly designed to spawn several ads that will live happily on their own. Oh, and having Mr Grant up front is a real coup, but he is the least essential part – in a good way.
Warburtons. This is a sweet piece of work that manages to feel bigger than its 40 seconds. It conjures up a typical (but not stereotypical) family that revolves around twins who are a blend of cute and scary. I love the way the twins are introduced with a slight of hand that makes them a little otherworldly. The mum’s voiceover grounds the whole thing while keeping the product forefront. The pay-off with the homecoming dad is nicely bittersweet – as with the rest, it’s funny because it feels truthful.
Moneysupermarket.com. This is a campaign where one looks forward to the next instalment. While this is not my favourite of the bunch – after a set-up that I felt could have been clearer – it delivers its matter-of-fact absurdity with wonderful scale and brio. The dad is great value and the car key ending is inspired.
Lucozade. In spite of the high-tech nature of the science on show here, there is something reassuringly old-fashioned about the claims and methodology. I wonder if the science is a bit too straight-faced. But it looks good and it rattles along with some striking images – the chair hurled at the camera sticks in the mind.
The Co-operative Funeralcare. Selling a funeral service has got to be a tough brief. So finding this particular USP (that The Co-op will make the funeral route meaningful) must have been a "God"-send. Woven around that idea is a touching story about legacy and memory. I feel the actual moment of seeing the fishermen on the riverbank could have had more impact. Nevertheless, the widow brings authenticity to her part and the filming is suitably warm and unfussy.
Ready Brek. Wasn’t sure about this one. The idea seemed strong, but I found it hard to connect with the characters and the humour. Then I looked up the director and there, on the production company website, was a longer cut that made a world of difference. The extra ten seconds allowed a proper set-up, time to understand the characters and room for the quirkiness to shine. Funnily enough, it made the 30 seconds seem better.
As my teacher would have said to a class hungry for praise: "Lots of good work there, chaps – keep it up. Class dismissed – not you, Lydon!"