Opinion: Perspective - Don't turn your nose up at advertising's cliches

"Stereotypes are a bad agency's crack cocaine; they know they shouldn't use it, but they still have to reach for it far too often." So says Fallon's chief executive, Laurence Green, in our feature on adland's creative cliches (page 36).

Now although Green is a very wise man, I'm going to dare to disagree with him in this instance. I don't think the use of cliches is a filthy habit. On the contrary, there are several ad campaigns I admire that use them to great effect: Nationwide's shouty bank manager and BT's bumbling father figure, for instance.

At the risk of cracking off a cliche myself, the reason cliches exist is that they serve a purpose. In adland, they tend to be used to get a clear message across to the greatest amount of people in the shortest amount of time. Though some, no doubt, are lazy and unambitious shortcuts (spinsters with cats and shiny tiled bathrooms spring to mind), others are undeniably effective communications tools.

Sometimes adland appears to exist in two universes. Replete with creative snobbery, we talk about the great work, the Hondas and Sonys of this world, and conveniently forget that they only represent the tiniest portion of the thousands of successful communications messages Britain's agencies produce every year. While the Hondas and Sonys are inspirational pieces of work, let's not forget the value of the bread-and-butter campaigns that surround them.

In not recognising the bulk of the advertising that is presented to consumers every day, adland risks operating in a bubble. It was staggering that adland's internal snobbery prevented Honda "cog" from capturing the Film Grand Prix in Cannes in 2003. Judges, it was whispered, felt the commercial's similarity to an obscure film made by some Swiss conceptual artists meant it was derivative. Purlease. It was a great, spine-tingling, piece of advertising. Who cares where Wieden & Kennedy got the inspiration for Honda "cog"? Certainly not the consumers who were inspired by the commercial to rethink their attitude towards Japanese car marques.

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO's new spot for Choice FM to reduce gun crime is a belting piece of film, but we're already hearing snipey asides about its similarity to Korn's Freak On A Leash promo. Who cares? It just might save lives.

The internet, social networking sites, web 2.0 - it seems they're all infallible concepts at the moment. However, their value as market research tools is just about to be tested in a very high-profile manner. Cadbury has decided to bring back its Wispa brand in response to an internet-based campaign powered entirely by consumers. Poor sales had caused Cadbury to call time on the brand in 2003, but, more recently, consumers have been logging on in their droves to proclaim their affection for the product. There are no fewer than 114 "bring back Wispa" groups on Facebook, and YouTube has also been receiving all sorts of Wispa-related traffic (including more than 13,000 viewings of its Hi-de-Hi-themed launch TV commercial from 1981).

The countline will return to shelves across the nation in October and a few months later, we will all be a lot wiser about the manner in which people actually use social networking sites. If the relaunch turns out to be a rip-roaring success (and the PR value will be a good start), the vogue for social networking sites as key communications tools will continue unquestioned.

However, there's also a big chance that the many members of the various "bring back Wispa" clubs have absolutely no interest in buying a Wispa bar; that the groups are full of people not trying to effect social change, but merely passing the time and joining funny groups for the sake of, well, joining funny groups. Anyone for "I hate Camden Market, bulldoze it and replace it with an SUV dealership"?

- Claire Beale is away.