These ads for Stella Artois ran last summer, when Lowe London's Interbrew client put £1 million behind a campaign to trumpet the Stella Screen Live Film promotion.
The ads' packed visuals, together with an unvoiced question, certainly caught the nation's imagination. Newspaper readers rang Interbrew, Lowe and the titles in which the ads appeared in their attempts to find out the answers. The campaign attracted enough attention to find its way into The Sun, complete with a picture of Lowe's executive creative director, Ed Morris.
Instead of simply taking a straight-forward, formulaic approach to a promotional campaign brief, the agency decided to make this one different.
The Stella brand aligns itself closely with film and the advertising generally has a filmic look to it, whether it be TV or print work. These ads were designed on a scale to fit the brand image.
Each execution portrays a typically English scene that has been invaded by characters, props and scenarios from classic films. Each of the three executions - "Park", "Town" and "Beach" - features more than 18 movie references of varying degrees of obscurity.
Appearing in national newspapers and style and film magazines throughout May, the ads explained that Live Film offered drinkers the chance to win £20 million-worth of prizes when they purchased a Stella, including a top prize of the chance to see the 1962 classic Birdman of Alcatraz on the island on which the film was set.
Lowe's press work for Stella, including executions in the "reassuringly expensive" campaign, is a tour de force for the agency. Morris and the agency's chairman, Paul Weinberger, have between them overseen many acclaimed press ads. Lowe's newspaper ads for Tesco won gold for best individual advertisement at this year's Campaign Press Awards. Morris is a great fan of newspaper advertising. "It's massive fun," he says, "I love the medium."
REVIEW - Al Young creative director, St Luke's
In selecting a great, recent press campaign, many of our peers would fall over themselves to review Lowe London's work for Tesco. We often tell ourselves how witty and persuasive that campaign is. But are we being honest? Isn't it actually boring?
Can a photo of a 60-watt bulb or, perhaps, some broccoli seize our readers' imaginations and drive them inevitably to the ever-so-witty observational line beneath? No. It's naught but a grotesque love-in for geeky copywriters - no-one else reads that stuff.
OK, maybe I'm on my own here. But just because Lowe is consistently the most brilliant creative agency in the world, we shouldn't brainwash ourselves into thinking that everything it does is brilliant.
Which brings us seamlessly to Lowe's brilliant print campaign for Stella Screen Live Film.
Nowadays, all papers seem to be stuffed with free DVDs - Stella was first - but that's not what makes these ads special. They are special because they break the two cardinal rules - one spoken, the other unspoken - of print promotion advertising.
During their formative years, creatives are birched into believing press advertising is all about brevity/immediacy/reduction. Fortunately, the people behind this campaign didn't worry too much about the first cardinal rule and created something complex, layered and mysterious. They appreciated that brevity should not be the first rule of communication - "know and love thine audience" should.
This idea knows its audience inside out; anyone with a passing interest in film has movie buff pretensions and they'll happily immerse themselves in these ads to congratulate themselves on knowing their stuff.
The gloomy day in the market town, the dreary municipal park; these sinister worlds demand exploration and wouldn't have worked so well outside press.
They need musing over like a cryptic crossword.
The other cardinal rule this work breaks is: always be expedient about promotional stuff. There is a silent understanding between creative people that allows them to clear their desks of the special-offer shite so they can get on with doing award-winning brand ads.
A lesser team would have seen this brief as a freebie ad with a competition bolted on. This team agonised over it and it paid off. It's proof that promotional press can drive a brand's reputation (and the reputation of its agency) to ever new heights.
CREDITS Titles: "Park", "Town", "Beach" Project: Live Film Client Rob Mitchell, senior brand manager, Interbrew UK Agency: Lowe London Writer: Diccon Driver Art director: Alan Wilson Photographer: Andy Glass Typographer: Dave Wakefield