THE CREAM OF 1997: Out with the old, clapped-out pop tunes and in with the new wit and style. As the IPA exhibits 20 top creative directors’ favourite ads of the year, Tony Brignull discovers that simplicity is the key. But a little more controver

You could call it the new simplicity. Or the old. It really doesn’t matter. As many of the top creative directors found when choosing their ad of the year, the simplicity of great ideas is timeless.

You could call it the new simplicity. Or the old. It really doesn’t

matter. As many of the top creative directors found when choosing their

ad of the year, the simplicity of great ideas is timeless.

Commercials such as VW’s ’hiccups’, Alka Seltzer’s ’lifeboat’, the

entire Fiesta campaign, ’amore’ from Whiskas and ’skid marks’ from

Mercedes would feature in any awards ceremony of the past 30 years. Or

the next.

Like the best comedians, they let the audience supply the punchline and,

having done so and laughed, it’s fixed in our memories. Perhaps this is

the true meaning of interactive television.

The advantage of short spots such as these is that the product is


Ironically, this seems harder to achieve with longer films. Although

Tango, Ford Puma, VW Passat and One-2-One manage to do so with great

style, in a few of the favoured commercials the product comes second to

the camera’s brilliance.

VW’s ’protection’, for example, risks confusion with safety films for

smoke alarms, while Virgin’s ’grim reaper’ takes too long to say too

little (losing out in comparison with the Helen Mirren spots). Then

Nike’s ’park life’ may be the best film featuring famous footballers

but, even to soccer fans, the brands are surely tending to merge,

because their commercials are so alike.

Now, admittedly, the motoring sector is the second biggest spender after

retail (nil points) but it’s still remarkable that 12 creative directors

chose a car ad. Of these, congratulations to BMP DDB, which picked up

half the votes.

But does this imply that other sectors are barren? Groceries,

publishing, financial, clothing don’t feature, while even alcoholic

beverages is left to drown its sorrows with a solitary Guinness.

Nonetheless, this year has seen the sea-change we’ve been waiting


Out goes the ’I dazzle therefore I sell’ school of commercials with a

thousand cuts (’and how would you like them edited, sir?’). Out, too,

are moody actors miming to old pop songs. In has come a wit and a

pared-down style where product and idea are inseparable.

Of course, the choices of the creative directors don’t just tell us

something about the state of the advertising industry, they also tell us

about the state of the creative directors. Alas, for those of you who

like to see them fall on their famous mug-shots, none of them chooses

anything execrable.

There is commonality of view on what is good. Perhaps - just perhaps -

too much agreement.

Aren’t we lacking a strong opposition - the sort that used to be

supplied by the likes of Don White and Peter Marsh?

Isn’t it time for another guy or girl with attitude to strut on, kick

sand, tell clients that the rest of us are wet dreamers, and do work

that’s so ballsy and so uncool that we cringe while we find ourselves

saying the words on the postcard in Bill Bernbach’s wallet, ’Maybe he’s


Tony Brignull is a copywriter and advertising consultant

Nike Parklife

’At least three teams in BMP told me I’d like this commercial. So word

of mouth had already prepared me for the seemingly effortless way in

which Nike has forged this emotional bond with its audience. It’s a joy

to watch and to listen to. Its use of personalities is original. The

opening shot is a corker. And the endline is the perfect summation of

all that’s gone before it. What more can I say?’ Tony Cox, BMP DDB

Agency: TBWA Simons Palmer

Art director: Guy Moore

Copywriter: Tony Malcolm

Production company: Academy

Director: Jonathan Glazer

Ford Puma Steve McQueen

’Putting one of the biggest movie stars of all time into the car to

demonstrate it seems like a very good idea to me. Brilliantly executed

and very watchable.’

Jaspar Shelbourne, J. Walter Thompson

Agency: Young & Rubicam

Art director: Lee Goulding

Copywriter: Leighton Ballett

Production company: Streetlight Partnership

Director: Paul Street

Ford Fiesta

TV/print launch campaign

’Ford is not the world’s most exciting brand, the Fiesta is not its most

exciting car, and Ogilvy & Mather is not always included in lists of the

most exciting agencies (erroneously, I believe). However, this is quite

simply the best campaign I’ve seen so far this year.’

Peter Souter, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Art director: Dorte Nielson

Copywriters: Meg Roscoff, Vicki Maguire

Production companies: Pink, Outsider

Directors: Harald Zwart, Stein Leikangert

Blackcurrant Tango St George

’We open on the marketing manager of Tango talking about his new

blackcurrant flavour. Not the most promising start to a script. But the

commercial that evolved was just about perfect. Full marks to the

creative team, director and brave client. Nil points to the D&AD jury

who decided not to give it a gold.’

Mike Cozens, Young & Rubicam

Agency: HHCL & Partners

Art director: Jim Bolton

Copywriter: Chas Bayfield

Production company: Eclipse

Director: Colin Gregg

Alka Seltzer Lifeboat

’Simple, audacious and memorable. Three good reasons for liking anything

- and, of course, I wish I’d done it.’

John Hegarty, Bartle Bogle Hegarty

’A great idea can be extremely simple. Here is the definitive


Jeremy Pemberton, DMB&B

Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

Art director: Patricia Doherty

Copywriter: Greg Martin

Production company: Park Village

Director: Roger Woodburn

Virgin Atlantic Grim Reaper

’It’s a very lateral and intriguing way to sell an airline, but it fits

the Virgin brand and is endlessly enjoyable to watch as the frenetic

memories are counter-pointed by the gradual wearing down of the reaper.

Did they ever consider Blue Oyster Cult’s memorable Don’t Fear The

Reaper as a soundtrack?’ Nick Welch, Ammirati Puris Lintas

Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe

Art director: Andy Blood

Copywriter: Richard Beesening

Production company: The Paul Weiland Film Company

Director: Frank Budgen

Whiskas Amore

’The Whiskas ’catisfaction’ campaign sells catfood with charm and humour

(not many petfood ads do that). Lovely soundtrack. Great, seductive

cat-acting. Wish I’d done it.’

John Kelley, TBWA Simons Palmer

Agency: M&C Saatchi

Art director: Kevin Thomas

Copywriter: Kevin Thomas

Production company: Park Village

Director: Roger Woodburn

Wallis Metro

’Shot in a very distinctive, unconventional style by Bob Carlos Clarke -

a famous fashion photographer - they have deliberately decided not to

make the clothes the focus of the ads. In each execution, a

well-dressed, self-assured woman is oblivious to the excitement she’s

causing as she walks by in everyday situations. In that snapshot, we are

seeing something before the ensuing mayhem. I’ve always thought of

Wallis as older women’s attire, but these ads really reposition it.’

Adrian Kemsley, CDP

Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty

Art director: Steve Hudson

Copywriter: Victoria Fallon

Guinness Statistics

’I find this seriously entertaining. It can stand repeat viewing. It’s

beautifully and cleverly shot and it leaves me feeling very well

disposed towards the product.’

Richard Myers,

Saatchi & Saatchi

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather

Art director: Clive Yaxley

Copywriter: Jerry Gallaher

Production company: Gorgeous

Director: Chris Palmer


The Commentary

’It’s powerful, bold and thought-provoking.’

Larry Barker, WCRS

Agency: Wieden & Kennedy

Art director: Ollie Watson

Copywriter: Nick Wray

Production company: @ radical Media

Director: Lenny Dorfman

Mercedes Benz SLK

Skid Marks

’It’s instant.’

Simon Dicketts,

M&C Saatchi

Agency: Leo Burnett

Art director: Mark Tutssel

Copywriter: Nick Bell

VW Passat Test Track

’The Passat advertisement is a breath of fresh air. Unlike a great deal

of today’s commercials, it is not coy, but celebratory about the


It has none of the moody, po-faced attitude so evident elsewhere,

choosing instead to speak with wit and charm. Most refreshingly of all,

it has a plot that the consumer actually has a chance of following. I am

not saying it is the greatest commercial ever made. But at least it

faces in the right direction.’

Paul Weinberger, Lowe Howard-Spink

Agency: BMP DDB.

Art director: Richard Flintham

Copywriters: Andy McLeod, Nick Gill

Production company: Limelight

Director: Daniel Kleinman

VW Polo Hiccups

’It’s a simple, pure idea. And it makes me laugh.’

Rooney Carruthers, WCRS

’This is a campaign that actually credits the viewer with a modicum of

intelligence. Imagine how crass it would have become if the endline

spelt it out for you (’You too will be shocked by our prices’). A brave

client gets a brilliant ad.’ Gerard Stamp, Leo Burnett

Agency: BMP DDB

Art director: Andrew Fraser

Copywriter: Andrew Fraser

Production company: Outsider

Director: Paul Gray

VW Polo Chair

’Low price is never the most promising brief. This campaign achieves its

objectives with economy, wit and the rarest of all advertising

qualities, surprise.’

Gerry Moira, Publicis

Agency: BMP DDB

Art director: Andrew Fraser

Copywriter: Andrew Fraser

Production company: Outsider

Director: Paul Gay

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