CAMPAIGN CRAFT: THE CREATIVE ISSUE - Is being bad a good thing for improving the impact of ads? As Dave Trott rails against crappy ads, many defend them, Emma Hall finds out

’Crappy on purpose rather than crappy by accident,’ is how Dave Trott, the creative director of Walsh Trott Chick Smith, classified much of today’s advertising in his controversial Private View (Campaign, 15 August).

’Crappy on purpose rather than crappy by accident,’ is how Dave

Trott, the creative director of Walsh Trott Chick Smith, classified much

of today’s advertising in his controversial Private View (Campaign, 15


A lot of current ads are dripping with irony and teeming with


Tony’s Freezer Cocktails provided Trott’s clearest example, with its

campaign set in naff American sitcom land using badly timed visual


Trott isn’t worried about being called an old fart, and rails openly

about the prevalence of what he calls the ’Vic and Bob’ approach to


’I don’t blame the youngsters,’ he says. ’They don’t remember the crap

sitcoms of the 50s, so they think it’s all fresh and new. I used to

follow fashion too.’

Plenty of advertising fits into this ’crappy’ category. The Labbatt’s

Ice work by Lowe Howard-Spink is set up around the idea that it is so

cool you have to be warm to drink it. One execution has a man ballooning

with extra jumpers and, in another, a hug from the postman is required

for extra insulation. Then there is the latest Virgin Cola work from

Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, made up of spoofs on trash television and

bad music.

Mother’s campaign for Magic AM also captures the same mood. A dog’s ears

flap mechanically to the song, I Believe I Can Fly, and a small child

plays the drums with some very obvious help from an adult behind the


’It is about entertaining people and making them smile,’ says Robert

Saville, who worked on the Magic campaign, and has made ads with humour

ranging from the smart-arse tones of Denis Leary to the wry wit of Jack


Consumers love the Virgin Cola work, according to Robert Campbell, a

creative partner at Rainey Kelly, much as he hates to resort to


’It’s part of the post-everything world. Clothes have got crappy on

purpose, and when the Big Breakfast launched, it brought the idea to


’The relationship between the media, the consumer and the viewer has

changed a lot. The media no longer has to maintain a facade or struggle

to keep up the impression that ’we’re God and you’re the humble


There is more interaction now and ’crappy on purpose’ acknowledges


Saville also attributes the trend to wider cultural influences,

including fashion, but points out that the definition of quality is so

much broader than it used to be. Not everyone wears the same clothes,

for instance.

’People go and see The Full Monty because it makes them laugh, and then

they go and see Batman because they love the special effects. Tastes are

eclectic and the BBC costume drama department no longer sets the


Kate Stanners, who created the Tony’s Freezer Cocktails series with Tim

Hearn, a fellow St Luke’s creative director, is a self-confessed ’Trotty

disciple’, having worked with him for six years at GGT. She says that

although Trott is right about the ’crappy’ execution, the thinking

behind the campaign is all exactly in accordance with his teaching,

using impeccable logic and an idea that came straight out of the


The kitsch look of the ads matches the 50s design of the pack, and the

whole campaign was made to fit in with a host of restrictions. It is

showing everywhere from Thailand to Belgium, so it had to work without


With a very low budget, 12 spots - made with a series of bizarre

alternative endings ranging from the hostess being chased by a Yeti to a

Riverdance rip-off - were shot in only three weeks. St Luke’s needed to

create a drinking occasion around the product and make it appeal to

young women.

But Trott is harder to convince, and blames bad planning for a lot of

the ads he sees. By defining the problem, he says, planners think they

have come up with the solution and their job is done. And then there are

the account men who could sell fridges to eskimos, intimidating

middle-aged clients into believing that the campaign in question really

will be the next big thing, when it is just jumping on the bandwagon and

leaving the punter out of the equation.

’Crap comedy is not new - look at George and Mildred and The Good Life -

it’s just that people now pretend they meant it to be crap. Advertising

is pandering to the lowest common denominator,’ he says.

By colluding so much with other media, he adds, creatives put too much

effort into publicising themselves and their work, thinking that just

because they are in the papers or on television, their ads must be


’Advertising is disappearing up its rear end,’ Trott complains. He is

horrified that in the process of searching for a new team, a lot of the

books he has seen contain as many articles about the creatives

themselves as they do examples of their work.

People are scared to be left out, and end up being fashion sheep, he

says. They want to do work that makes them look clever, rather than work

that makes consumers want to buy the product. Trott is harsh in his

judgment, but Saville and Stanners are not surprised.

’His Private View only said what he used to say in all our GGT reviews

anyway,’ Stanners laughs.