Chief creative officer, Europe, SapientNitro
Is there anybody out there? Or are you all in the South of France soaking up the creativity? On the off chance that some folks are still here, let’s take a look at what brands are getting up to, week in, week out.
First up is McDonald’s. It has paid UK broadcasters a handsome sum to "reach" a said number of people to tell them: "We all have McDonald’s in common." This spot attempts to prove it by showing the parallel lives of a bunch of young council-estate lads and an elderly resident. Guess what? They all end up at McDonald’s and, just as one of the lads shakes his fries out of the carton, the old guy does the same. There’s a "connection" when they knowingly acknowledge each other. It somehow comes across as contrived (probably because it is) and lacks the kind of charm I expect from McDonald’s. It has struck a chord before, and no doubt it will do it again. It just seems to have missed it this time.
Nivea’s "man of the match" takes a different approach to reaching its audience. Opting not to spend its pennies on renting eyeballs from TV broadcasters, Nivea puts its faith in YouTube, Sky Sports online and the likes of Telegraph.co.uk and Guardian.co.uk. Ten points for fishing where the fish are. The rest of the money gets thrown at a live stunt in which hapless males in a shopping centre are lured into a Nivea tent by promo girls. The punters then emerge to a rousing celebration from a crowd chanting their names. A fake sportscaster proclaims them "man of the match" and shoves a mic in their faces, asking: "Will you be moisturising every day?" All very metrosexual and amusing to the few passers-by at the time. However, would you really watch 3:16 of a predictable "live stunt" before you got to the football content you were after? I love my sport too much, so delays and interruptions like this get the red card.
Confused.com. In this spot, Confused.com appears to be building a decidedly 80s version of a robot. His name is Brian. He’s a bit slow and, to make matters worse, he gets a lobotomy. After his lobotomy, there’s a flash across his circuitry and he asks: "How may I save you pounds?" Then his creator says: "You’re ready, Brian. You’re ready." I’m not convinced this script was ready before the shoot. Confused.com – I certainly am.
I thought Ibis were birds of the Threskiornithidae variety. Apparently, they’re rabbits. Nope, wait a minute – Ibis is a hotel. While the rabbits are charming, I don’t imagine the online views will multiply at quite the same rate.
Carling. Creature. A £9.6 million campaign. A 40-second spot. A new line: "Refreshingly perfect."
We’ve had forgettable lines such as "Belong" and "Brilliantly British, brilliantly refreshing" and, now, to launch "Refreshingly perfect", we have an ad that isn’t, because it isn’t supposed to be. I only wish it reminded me more of Carling and less of "cog", "this too shall pass" and the countless other films over the years that have mimicked The Way Things Go. All these years later, at a single mention of Carling, the first thing I think of is: "I bet he drinks Carling Black Label."
And that, folks, is why the work that wins at Cannes wins. It’s fresh. It inspires. And the people are gathered there to challenge, provoke, discuss and make better work in the year to come. I fear too many people are in the office reading this and not soaking it all up in Cannes.
Managing director, Brothers and Sisters
Sometimes, it feels like us advertising folk think there’s a magical kingdom where there are no people, just people-shaped beings called consumers, wandering about in a Prozac haze waiting for the next advertising campaign to appear in a halo of light.
Back in the real world, there are people, not consumers. In this respect, it doesn’t matter whether they’re AB1s, or over 35 but under 40. It matters that they all have ideas, emotions and stresses. Most of them have stuff to be getting on with. Spare time is precious.
That’s why everything we make should offer a little bit of value. If we’re going to move people, we need to entertain, say something interesting or show them something beautiful.
This is particularly true for online content. The problem is that successful examples such as the launch stunt for the Belgian TV channel TNT spawned inanumerable copycat versions. There’s nothing wrong with using real-world events to generate content but, if you’re going to go there, you need to add something new. Nivea doesn’t do this and the pay-off lacks the scale it needs to be properly entertaining.
Ibis’ "snuggling bunnies" is a beautifully crafted little film; care has been lavished on it. It’s a fine blend of brand and product. It’s elegant in an old-school kind of a way. Is it interesting enough? Not sure, but we have to factor in the bunny effect. The popularity of cute, furry animals on the web is not to be underestimated – just Google cat videos.
McDonald’s is another lovely-looking spot. This campaign sees beauty in real life and humanity. It’s well-observed. It doesn’t present an idealised world, but shines the spotlight on the good bits of the actual one. The only thing that jarred was the slightly heavy-handed "Everyone has McDonald’s in common". After such a visual bit of storytelling, I’m not sure you need to ram the point home at the end.
Carling’s "trick shot" feels a little different. There’s something contrived about it. It’s all a bit knowing. It’s the slightly faux "live" setting, the slightly forced reactions of the hot girls, the references to the old campaign. It makes its point, I guess, but it feels like formulaic beer-type advertising. I’m not sure what I’m taking away from this one, but I’m not a beer-drinking bloke.
That’s not to say that real or believable is always good, while flights of fancy are bad. Confused.com’s imaginary lab is the start of a story. It took a couple of views to spot some nuances and glimpse flashes of Brian the robot’s personality, but it’s an engaging enough beginning. Without seeing the rest of the campaign, it’s difficult to judge Brian’s potential to inject something compelling into the brand long term. He’s Tweeting away (166 to date) – you have got to give him credit for that. Although time will tell whether his next 166 Tweets are worth spending our spare time on.