Adwatch Review:

LONDON - Jon Howard, strategy director at Quiet Storm, reviews the latest TV commercial

An Adwatch review in August is like the summer TV schedule: there isn't much on.

Maybe that is why Cash4Gold stood out, as its arrival in the UK has made a big impact - a cool 44% awareness, matching that of long-term, heavyweight advertiser B&Q - as it looks to become the UK's biggest direct response advertiser.

Cash4Gold launched in the US, where it has had about 800,000 customers, two years ago.

The UK is mirroring the US template (quite literally, in fact): the same stock shots, salesman's patter and customer testimonials, with the talking heads simply reshot using Brits. Beyond this, there is little to say creatively.

They are what they are: 'a dinosaur of a DRTV ad', according to one direct marketing insider.

So it is more interesting to consider a couple of broader questions raised by Cash4Gold's arrival, and its chosen style of advertising.

Clearly, there is a belief that activity of this kind works, but it 'works' in the same way that online clicks work: it is all down to measurability.

No matter how minimal the response, advocates see this as preferable to the less tangible (even if more significant) impact of other forms of communication.

However, as John Banham said when chairman of the CBI: 'We are in danger of valuing most highly those things we can measure most accurately, which means we are often precisely wrong, rather than approximately right.'

In any case, even if Cash4Gold is working, who does it work for, exactly? This raises the question of whether this kind of activity is 'right' in the first place.

It is obviously a rhetorical question, as in a free market democracy, Cash4Gold is legally allowed to trade and advertise - and people to use its service. Subjectively, though, should the marketing community endorse such activity?

Maybe I am being unfairly judge-mental. For all I know, Cash4Gold's motives are as pure as its bullion - a credible and much appreciated service. 

Or it could be preying cynically on the disadvantaged at a time of financial hardship, looking to make a quick buck from others' misfortune.

The brand arrived on these shores in the depths of a recession, after all. I cannot say, because I don't know the facts. 

Either way, I am not sure this low-rent approach to advertising helps its case, regardless of how much it genuinely wants to help or how 'effective' at lead-generation it might be.