OPINION: Cowen on ... T-Mobile

It's far from revolutionary to suggest ads produced in the UK are inherently superior and inherently more effective than those foisted on this country by international networks. Neither is it unheard of for ad agencies to claim they are worthier guardians of clients' brands than the purveyors of corporate logos and identities.

There's plenty of support for these views thanks to the less than shining examples given by the likes of Ferrero Rocher, Clairol Herbal Essences and the recently rechristened Monday and Consignia. However, it's rare that both points are so comprehensively proven by the same piece of advertising.

But let's start with the good stuff because Bartle Bogle Hegarty's new ad for T-Mobile has about 57 seconds (or 37 if you're watching the shorter cut) of very good stuff indeed. From the start, this spot is simple, stylish and subtly uplifting and it proves that creative artistry isn't just good for impressing awards judges on the back of limited media schedules.

After dubious hypothetical claims about watching movies on mobile handsets from the likes of Nokia, it's refreshing to find an agency isolating and then bringing to life a benefit that's tangible, convincing and available. BBH's ad builds alongside its dangerously catchy, casually hip soundtrack and the intrigue embodied in the direction holds a viewer's interest where a conventional, literal approach would lose it in seconds. The whole is compelling, very human and has great standout.

But then, seconds from the end and just when we're floating in all this visual poetry, a chill wind starts to blow through the whole affair. The first indication of trouble ahead comes with the shot of a city skyline at night that raises disturbing memories of Steffi Graf in a taxicab.

Then, suddenly, the realisation that this is an ad for T-Mobile hits us like a rush of nausea.

The descent from high-style to wince-worthy graphical mediocrity is brutally sudden. There are the moving images of the baby transposed on to that horrific spinning cube. There's that wall of horrific pink - shockingly evocative of mid-European discotheque interiors - and that meaningless logo that screams out the idea of a soulless German phone company.

Finally, there's the pointless xylophone-style musical sign-off, reminiscent of Ruth Madoc alerting the campers in Hi-De-Hi, that's as comfortable in the company of the main musical theme as Big Brother's Jade would be in Mensa. It's like waking from a beautiful dream into the midst of a raging hangover.

In the final few seconds, T-Mobile's global corporate branding achieves something truly exceptional in turning a viewer (well, this one anyway) against an ad that only seconds before was knocking on the door of being inspiring. There can be no greater tribute to the sheer atrociousness of the Andre Agassi/Steffi Graf ads that so brief a reminder of them can produce such violent feelings of antipathy. And there's no better showcasing of the unbridgeable gulf in class between the work of BBH and that of Saatchi & Saatchi Frankfurt than in this ad.

In fact, you have to ask what the point is in retaining a quality local agency, capable of hitting the right notes in such emphatic style, when it's forced to work within such terminally clunky creative parameters and is burdened by association with such a horrific global campaign. Consistent global branding is crucially important - but it's also crucially important that it travels properly.

If it doesn't fit in a market then it shouldn't be used there. A global advertiser can't rely on local work to pull the dodgy global branding through. Even an ad of such high quality as this struggles under such a burden.

Dead cert for a Pencil? If we could trim off the ending and get away
with it.
File under ... S for sabotaged.
What would the chairman's wife say? So, is that Steffi Graf and Andre
Agassi's baby?

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