Every Christmas party needs a pooper and this year’s award looks like going to British Airways owner International Airlines Group for making agencies hopeful of winning the business toil over the Christmas break.
It’s not just the thought of a ruined Christmas break that is, anecdotally at least, putting some ad agencies off participating in the process. While BA is one of those brands that is held aloft as an exemplar of brilliant British advertising, in reality most of this is from the long and distant past of M&C Saatchi and more particularly Saatchi & Saatchi before it. After all, other than some nice enough work around the London 2012 Olympics from incumbent Bartle Bogle Hegarty, when was the last time that anyone really saw some decent BA brand advertising – or indeed BA above-the-line advertising of any sort?
It’s revealing that at the same time that the media and creative review was announced, Rob McDonald, BA’s head of loyalty, was made interim marketing director to replace the outgoing Sara Dunham and presumably takes over responsibility for overseeing the review. BA now seems to be very much focussed on customer loyalty and CRM and the pitch is likely to be led by direct agencies – not much there to get the creative juices flowing. After an already exhausting year, agencies might be best off letting their senior talent stay at home waiting for the turkey juices to run clear rather than participate in a process that looks a bit joyless.
One person who most definitely will be celebrating this Christmas however is James Corden, who is fast replacing Stephen Fry as the go-to personality for brands that are struggling to find personalities of their own.
As well as former contracts with Cadbury, he can currently be found as brand spokesman for Apple Music and Confused.com, and is also the voice of Sainsbury’s Christmas campaign; his ubiquity is confirmed as the long-running spokesman for WeBuyAnyCar. Corden, remember, is the man who famously criticised a Microsoft Windows phone ad he featured in as "one of the least creative things" he’d ever been part of. Presumably, then, he rates his WeBuyAnyCar radio ads as up there with the finest work of his oeuvre, such as Lesbian Vampire Killers.
In fairness, it’s to the credit of Corden that he has managed to reinvent himself in the States with his The Late Late Show after those bleak years at the end of the last decade where his vainglorious appearance at the British Comedy Awards threatened to permanently blight what could have been a promising acting career.
While he might not still be to everyone’s taste, it’s possible that taking too much of the advertising dollar will undo this good work – much like Fry before him – as well as undermine those brands and agencies that think he is the easy (lazy?) answer to their marketing conundra.