14 March 2013
Last week, my therapist said this to me: "Santi, perhaps you need to stop giving your opinion on everything to everyone. You spend so much time at work saying what is right and what is wrong that you think you have to do the same thing in real life."
A week after that conversation, I receive an invitation to give my opinion on other people’s work from across the industry. Is this some kind of a test? Is my therapist behind this?
Whatever, let’s do it.
The Territorial Army. I can’t just give an opinion on the creativity of this as if it were an ad for sausages or something. It’s really hard for me to just say "nicely shot, good endline" when it comes to an ad designed to get young people to join the army. I know this is the TA, so it’s a little different, but I still find it tricky that there’s no mention of the risks involved in army life. I mean, it’s about going to war, working in areas of conflict, risking your life.
Am I wrong or is joining the army, even the TA, fundamentally about that? I just don’t feel comfortable about the notion that joining the army is about driving cool trucks, flying expensive helicopters, playing cards at night and doing things you can’t tell your relatives about, as if you were some kind of James Bond.
I understand countries need armies, but I would like to "sell" the idea of joining by painting the whole picture.
Jameson. Nice piece of advertising. A well-written story, nicely shot, elegant sense of humour, good joke at the end. I Iike it, but I don’t love it, perhaps because I tend to prefer advertising that doesn’t look so much like advertising – or maybe it’s because I just don’t like whiskey…
Sainsbury’s. This isn’t an easy brief. It would be very easy to be cheesy if you play it too sensitive. And equally easy to make a mistake if you try something brave or new.
So I am in a bit of a dilemma on this one. It tries to be nice and warm. Harmless. No-one will be upset by it. No-one will complain. But, for me, this kind of message deserves to take some risks to make it more memorable, to make people remember the ad and talk about it in order to get more money for the kids.
Marie Curie. I could do a copy-and-paste of what I wrote about the previous one, although this is a much more difficult subject to work on. The reason I’m not doing a copy-and-paste is because I like this. It depressed me, yes, but congratulations to the director – it’s not easy to get this kind of performance.
NFU Mutual. I saw this the other day on TV and I found it a bit weird that it was an ad for an insurance company given all the beautifully shot tea-making involved.
That happened because I wasn’t paying too much attention and I missed most of the voiceover. This time, I listened more carefully, so I got it, I understood the metaphor, I enjoyed the beautiful preparation of tea – but I still found it a bit weird that it ended up being an ad for an insurance company.
So that’s it. As my therapist said: "Santi, you shouldn’t give your opinions all the time. Wait till someone asks for them." Well, you did ask…
While Britain’s political leadership merrily commits our armed forces to a multitude of trouble spots around the world, it’s blithely slashing defence spending and laying off 54,000 personnel.
Maybe it thinks the Shoemaker’s Elves might be as handy at desert warfare as they are at cobbling. Failing that, thank heavens for the Territorial Army. However, the key challenge has always been how to make the TA seem less like a weekend hobby and more like an authentic part of the armed forces. This campaign delivers beautifully.
Everything about it, from the "live" content idea to the treatment idea to the (smart and cost-efficient) use of ITN as the production partner, nails the comms task. It’s left me with a yen to sign up at my local Scout hut.
Marie Curie's new campaign powerfully makes the point that people’s last moments should mean as much as their first. It’s full of pathos and poignancy, but handles itself with great sensitivity. Not an easy balancing act to get right without a delicate hand on the creative tiller. I’m happy to say that it made me double the amount I put in the Great Daffodil Appeal collection tin in our reception.
Maybe it will buy me an upgrade so I can avoid somebody like that Ben Stiller character in Happy Gilmore nursing me through my final moments. I’ve always been told that my palate would, one day, become accustomed to the harsh, fiery devil water that is whiskey. Unfortunately, I still can’t handle anything rougher than a pina colada.
Mind you, Irish whiskey is meant to be smoother than Scotch, isn’t it? But that’s a bit like having to choose between getting your throat assaulted with hydrochloric or sulphuric acid. So, Jameson's assertion of "taste above all else" is a bit of a non-starter for me. Mind you, it has tried to entertain me with another of its "tall tales".
This one has all the expensive production values afforded by a generous budget that can be amortised over multiple local markets. But, in the battle to optimise a global brand across different cultures (without going to the marketing expense of bespoke campaigns), this offering feels like it will disappear into the great swirl of similar fare. I’ve just seen that Domino’s is now offering to stuff your pizza crust with a hot dog. So, anything that encourages kids to focus on the "calories out" part of the healthy-living equation has to be applauded.
Sainsbury’s latest Active Kids campaign pays tribute to childhood activities, and it does so charmingly. It has even got Ellie Simmonds and David Beckham, making relevant contributions. I’m genuinely pleased to report that Beckham’s "storytelling" voice has finally developed beyond the monotone. Mark my words, he’ll be doing Shakespeare next.
Launching a new positioning with the line "It’s about time" suggests that NFU Mutual will be challenging all of the squalid, profiteering behaviour that so characterises our financial institutions. Unfortunately, the launch ad promises to do nothing more than have a chat with me to really understand what I need. Just like every other faux-matey financial provider.
To distract me from the lack of any compelling, differentiating message, we’re treated to an elegantly shot tea-making sequence that acts as a metaphor for the values NFU will bring to the market. Maybe the client fell for the snake oil that’s so often sold by our friends in the brand consultancy sector. If that’s the case, it was always going to be difficult for the ad agency to stem the madness.