Managing partner, creative, AIS London
Like everyone who checks their phone every eight seconds in the desperate hope that something – anything – might have happened, I am severely lacking patience. I fear boredom like other people fear heights. I actually think ahead to situations I think could get boring and feel mildly panicked. The biggest challenge ahead of me this week was to sit through all five of the films I’d been asked to review and not get distracted before the end and miss something amazing. I checked the list: a PlayStation ad, an Xbox ad, a global sponsorship, the latest from Specsavers and a car ad. I felt a rare flicker of optimism. To prepare myself, I stole some Ritalin from my kids and downed it with a camomile tea – I was as ready as I would ever be.
I started with the PlayStation ad. I say ad – it’s an epic three-and-a-half-minute job. We start in a teenager’s bedroom in ’95 with the PS1 and track through to the present day, the console and the stuff in the room changing as we go based on memories people have Tweeted. It’s a good premise and a good way to reward the PlayStation fans with a bit of nostalgia, but it’s insanely long. Boredom forced me to twat about on my phone from about a minute in. What I did catch was a bit one-paced and drawn out for something as potentially exciting as a new console launch.
No such problem with the Xbox ad I went for next. A tedious-looking meeting is interrupted by a huge robot crashing through the ceiling – it was like watching my internal monologue come to life. The robot beckons the meeting attendee to enter him (not like that) and they presumably head off to smash up other people’s meetings. So far, so good – but then, randomly, Steven Gerrard appears on a CGI pitch. It then cuts to Spock on a railway platform and then to a car in a desert, where they beckon bemused bystanders to get involved. That same idea is repeated relentlessly with a product demo uncomfortably wedged in halfway through. It doesn’t quite communicate why I would want an Xbox versus a PlayStation and it doesn’t quite entertain me enough to make me care.
Barclays wants to say "thank you" to the fans around the world that make the Premier League what it is. Really? How do they do that? I guess they’ve created a massive influx of cash by buying a load of kit, but I’m not sure why Barclays would thank them for that (unless part of the deal is that all footballers have to bank with Barclays). Putting aside the fact that the premise makes no sense at all, it’s a good bit of film. It looks great, builds nicely and conveys all the emotion of sweating over a result you care about. I wasn’t bored, but it doesn’t feel like something I’d seek out either.
I like Specsavers ads. I like the fact they do them themselves and they obviously have fun doing it.
This isn’t their finest hour, though (it felt like an hour). An aerobics instructor turns up at an old-people’s home and gets them all dancing and working up a sweat. She’s blind, you see, and doesn’t know she’s in an old-people’s home. How she got there in the first place is never explained and I don’t really get why it’s a particularly bad thing that the pensioners got a workout.
I’ve just read this back to myself and I sound a bit downbeat – sorry about that. I was going to finish by telling you about the Jeep ad with a dog hanging out of the window, but I can’t think of anything more to say about it… and my phone just buzzed.
Creative and strategic partner, Creature London
Somewhere in the murky backstreets of YouTube is a channel called Hot Pepper Game Reviews, a place where plucky young Harry Potter lookalikes attempt to give considered reviews of current computer games after having eaten whole, high-heat chilli peppers. Like much of the internet (or, indeed, running a small agency), it manages to be simultaneously hilarious, baffling and faintly tragic. But it is interesting how intense physical pain, streaming eyes and a burning desire to stop the burning seems to focus these pioneering pundits on the details that really matter.
Inspired, I’ve asked Joe Stone, Creature’s resident capsicum addict (it’s the endorphins, apparently), to provide something with a high enough Scoville rating to give me some much-needed focus. So, in front of me is a wrinkled red habanero (100k-350k Scoville) from Joe’s personal stash.
In she goes. And on to the work.
As a worrying, blank numbness spreads through my mouth and throat, let’s start with PlayStation.
Bloody hell, blank numbness is right – it goes on a bit, doesn’t it? I grew up with PlayStations so I should leave this ad punching the air at my excellent taste in consoles, not yawning. Also, by my calculations, the every-gamer in the middle of this seems to still be living in his parents’ attic in his mid-thirties – not the aspirational portrait of modern gaming I’m after. "I’ve conquered worlds…" – remember that ghost chilli of an ad? A far cry from this bell pepper, I’m afraid.
On to the competition – Microsoft Xbox . This is more like it! High production values, a sense of humour, giant robots, Steven Gerrard, a worryingly handsy Spock – what’s not to like? Oh, wait, there’s a clunky product demo bit hidden in the middle. Damn it. I really want to like it more than I do, but you can’t escape the faint whiff of dad-in-a-disco box-ticking. C’mon, Xbox, you should have the confidence to be cool. This is ketchup in a Tabasco bottle.
The coughing and gagging have started in earnest but, thankfully, the next spot won’t be contributing to it. I like this (almost cynically) viral Jeep campaign, despite it following the well-trodden "musical animals = megalolz" approach to farming internet eyeballs. It’s joyfully silly and nicely made. However, the dissonance that comes with the radical 180 of the personality I associate with Jeep (which I’m sure is the point) is a bit like discovering that Elton John is also a cage fighter: a loud moment of "eh?" when the brand is revealed. A chocolate poblano of an ad – tasty but perplexing.
Right, two more to get through before my glass of milk. First, Barclays. Well, there’s no denying that it’s a beautifully observed, beautifully shot piece of film, but it makes less sense to me than the previous, British chapter of this campaign. For an ad that’s about pulling heartstrings, there’s less to grab on to here than what the 70-year Everton supporter Billy Ingham gave the sister film. An ornamental chilli, then – pretty but little real spice.
And, lastly, Specsavers. Maybe it’s my jaded palate but, with a campaign that’s all about the unexpected rug-pull, you can see this one coming from a mile away. Which is a shame, as decent performances and funny casting are let down by the absence of the surprise or wit that the best executions in this campaign have delivered. Still funny, but a milder pepper than you’d hope.
Now let’s just wait for those endorphins to kick in.