Tham Khai Meng
Worldwide chief creative officer,
Ogilvy & Mather
The late, great British comedian Tommy Cooper used to tell the following joke:
I went to see my doctor. He said: "Say ‘ah!’" I said: "Why?" He said: "My dog died this morning."
I was reminded of that when reviewing these ads – many of them, in one way or another, featured dogs or animals. That’s usually a gift to advertisers because we’re all suckers for animals – they make us go "ah!" But do these ads make us all go "ahhh!"?
First up is for Pedigree (5) dog food. Opening in a tough neighbourhood, a fight breaks out between two young punks. They break off the fight when a dog runs into the road. It’s edgy, gritty and real – more Reservoir Dogs than Lassie – and a million miles away from the traditional dog-food values of happy kids and dogs fetching sticks. You certainly notice it, and it has a nice dog. But is it Pedigree Chum? Ah, I’m not sure.
The next spot is for John Smith’s (2) beer and features a cow. I laughed when I read that it was about a man who had trained his cow to do gymnastic dance routines. It got me excited – I’ve always wanted to see a dancing cow. But, alas, the cow doesn’t do the gymnastic routines; the man does. The cow just stands there looking a bit lost, wagging his tail. I’m afraid there is a world of difference between a cow dancing and a man dancing next to a cow.
A similar feeling of anticlimax attends to the WWF (3) Twitter campaign. It features emoji characters for endangered animals: monkeys, dolphins, pandas etc. The deal is you sign up with the WWF and Tweet these emojis and, at the end of the month, it sends you a "voluntary" bill of 10p for each emoji you Tweeted.
I must say I don’t really get this because the emojis already exist in the public domain so, if you want to Tweet a monkey, you can anyway. There doesn’t seem to be any compelling need to visit the WWF website in order to do it. Still, for the sake of the pandas, I hope it does well. Let’s hope it’s not a case of "if you pay emojis, you get peanuts".
The Chobani (4) commercial doesn’t feature animals and I’m afraid I don’t understand it. Some filmic shots of a family frolicking in the countryside while a guitarist sits in a field playing a song about natural living. The family are covered in mud and then they are not and then they are again. There is no discernible narrative to provide a clue. It ends with a solitary word, Chobani, which is the name of a yoghurt. It doesn’t say anything about the yoghurt. It just left me confused. An idea clear as mud, perhaps.
Finally, an ad for a different sort of animal: the trouser snake. This spot from Australia for the testicular-cancer charity Blue Ball Foundation (1) is a brilliant piece of creative thinking. Imagine you are watching an online porn movie – bear with me on this. You see a naked actress kneeling before a naked man, holding what Aussies call his "crown jewels". She is about to perform an act we can’t mention in a family magazine but, instead, she turns to the camera and demonstrates how to check yourself for testicular cancer. The naughty bits are covered by a rather funny cartoon sock. I love it. Funny, clever and relevant. The broad humour is spot-on for Aussie blokes. I guarantee a lot more guys down under checked themselves down under after hearing about this. Indeed, the blurb says it got a ton of media coverage and I can believe it. Sounds like the whole country went: "Ahhh!"
Director of creativity,
Havas Worldwide UK
You’re in Cannes. (Just pretend.) Your duty-free Clubmasters are struggling to cope with the reflected glare of the white-linen tablecloth spread before you. Your nostrils flare slightly to absorb the scent of freshly laundered expenses with top notes of Lancaster SPF30. Is there a headier combination? A sense of entitlement floods your tense shoulder muscles with relaxing endorphins. This is where you belong. A waiter presents the menu of mouth-watering delicacies at eye-watering prices. You’ve earned this and now someone else will have to pay.
Pour commencer, nous vous proposons un amuse bouche. To whet your appetite, we have a short film for Chobani (4). American delegates will know this to be a brand of Greek yoghurt. The rest of you will be none the wiser after several viewings. This sloppily edited tale of a runaway calf returning to the fold intrigues without rewarding our natural desire to comprehend. Do you detect a subplot of marital discord slowly soldered by the redemptive warmth of family values? Maybe. Do you care? No.
Pour les entrées, we move from WTF to WWF (3). At first, your interest is piqued by the notion that the World Wrestling Federation has chosen to communicate via emojis. The language for people who find words just too damn hard. Allow yourself a small moue of disappointment as you realise that it is in fact the World Wildlife Fund that has co-opted the little creatures to remind us of our endangered species. I must admit I found the fundraising part of this scheme hard to fathom, but it makes a change from rhinos with their faces chopped off. Let’s hope it’s more effective.
And now, monsieur, le plat principal. A traditional dish, this: the beer commercial. John Smith’s (2) keeps the sponsored sketch alive with this story of the farmer Keith Beasley told through the medium of gymnastic dance. This is a well-made spot featuring a charming central performance. If not quite in the John Webster class of ’81, or up to the later Jack Dee and Peter Kay productions, it’s not entirely out of place in that category. And that’s my point: it could have been made 40 years ago. Surely shit has happened since then? The world’s major brewers are snapping up craft-beer companies by the dozen. There has never been more interest in Goldings and Fuggles. An opportunity for John Smith’s to enlighten as well as entertain? Vous vous demandez.
Trust the French to bring the fromage course before le dessert. The cheese comes in the form of a Pedigree (5) dog-food spot that reminds us how much we all love the little mutts. A slightly unconvincing street fight is broken up when both protagonists unite to rescue a dog trapped in traffic. This probably won’t be troubling the festival jury, but it is such a move on for a conservative advertiser that it deserves your jaded applause.
Last, la pièce de résistance. Testicular cancer is 21 per cent more prevalent among Australian males than the rest of the world. Seventy per cent of young Australian men watch porn. Put these two stats together and you have the weaponised strategy deployed by the Blue Ball Foundation (1). Its life-saving self-examination technique is expertly demonstrated by Eva Lovia in a seminal scene from Game Of Balls. Everything is right about this work: the cause, the placement, the execution, the timing, the distribution, the publicity. This is what our German cousins call Gesamtkunstwerk. A piece of art that works on every level.
L’addition, s’il vous plait!