Private Hear: April 2014

Featuring work from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Churchill, Home Office,, BBC Sport and TomTom.

Private Hear: April 2014

Malcolm Poynton chief creative officer, Europe, SapientNitro

First, I hear two little words: "I’m pregnant." Not quite what I expect while sat opposite Neil Dawson, our chief strategy officer.

The amusement offered by that particular visual/aural incongruence was the sum total reward I got from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service ad – its voiceover proving that attempting the emotional rollercoaster from excitement, through appropriately depressed tones of an unwanted pregnancy, then sympathy and, finally, the informative tone of a public-service announcement was nothing if not unwise. Apparently, one in three British women have an abortion before they reach 45. The spot itself was decidedly less surprising than this fact.

"It might seem crazy what I’m about to say…" Pharrell Williams pops up to save the day and I listen to the entire three minutes, 53 seconds. The spots I’ve been sent are loaded to my iTunes library and are now playing in random order. Happy.

Bob Mortimer (aka Churchill the dog) offers a deliberately lame mimicry of his favourite 80s tune before a chirpy voiceover explains that Churchill gives 80 per cent off. See what it did there? Eighty per cent off! That’s got to be an attempt to distract drivers so they have an accident, surely.

Home Office. I’m taken to the pub next. I overhear a removal man ask his boss whether he has locked the truck. "No, I’ll only have to unlock it in a bit. Who’s going to want a brand new dishwasher, tumble dryer, 52-inch plasma…?" The male voiceover says we wouldn’t act like this in the real world, so don’t do it online. Yes, we should learn to be CyberStreetwise. Trouble is, these are not the kind of things people steal online. It’s usually more serious: identities, credit-card details and the like.

Speaking of serious, it’s The War Of The Worlds up next… powerful stuff. But there’s not time enough to journey down that legendary path. Jim and his partner have some news. It’s not the pregnancy news that Jim’s friend thinks it is; just that they’re moving house. Foot firmly in mouth, the friend may just want to get out of there quick smart. And that’s just what the spot for TomTom offers: "Quicker journeys when you need them." This is not on the Budweiser "real men of genius" scale of cut-through but, nonetheless, I’d forgotten TomTom existed until I heard these spots. is a new takeaway-of-all-kinds delivery service. Half-sports commentary, half-movie soundtrack, it’s crammed full of words. None of which I can recall.

The BBC knows a thing or two about radio, and BBC Sport’s spot for its Winter Olympics coverage channels Nature herself. A valiant attempt – I only wish it had found a voice of nature with the force that is nature. Like so much radio, victory is in the casting.

Nick Cave just burst into my eardrums. It makes you wonder why we don’t put half the effort into radio that our favourite artists do. With the top ten stations claiming a combined 50 million listeners, clearly we love radio.

Gary Robinson executive creative director, FCB Inferno

"It was the day my grandmother exploded" is one of the great opening lines to a novel. You’re instantly hooked by those first few words from Iain Banks. With radio ads, the opening couple of seconds are every bit as important. They are our shop window. Do any of this week’s selection grab you enough to make you hang around for another 20 seconds? Let’s see.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service starts off well with two powerful words – "I’m pregnant" – and then tells us: "When it’s good news, they’re two little words you want to shout to the world. When it’s not good news, they’re two little words you can’t bring yourself to say out loud."

A lovely insight and, if you’re pregnant or think you might be pregnant, then you will probably be engaged. But after that initial hook, there was a lot of very dry information. But that’s probably because I’m not a pregnant woman or an expectant father.
The Churchill ad takes the "I’m-going-to-be-entertaining-first-and-then-slip-in-the-message" approach.

But will Churchill the dog humming along to Depeche Mode’s Just Can’t Get Enough interest me enough to invest another 20 seconds of attention? No. However, I did find myself whistling the 80s classic on the way to work the next day. So did it work? In a way, yes. Just not an "Oh, yes!" uses the first ten seconds trying to get the attention of fellas who are looking for a romantic night in. So it has recruited the help of a ruthless crime boss: Alan Ford, aka Brick Top from Snatch. A self-professed ’orrible c**t. It’s a brave choice of brand ambassador but, if your target audience is proper geezers, then perhaps he’ll work. I just hope he doesn’t actually turn up on my doorstep clutching a pizza.

TomTom also uses the words: "You’re pregnant." But, this time, it gets a different response: an awkward silence. That’s because she’s not pregnant, just a bit fat. It’s a rather drawn-out sketch and you see the gag coming with a flashing light on because of it. It would have worked better on TV, where you can see the squirm.

BBC Sport’s Winter Olympics spot opens in an epic, Lord Of The Rings-type way and asks: "Who will conquer nature?" A lovely thought, as it’s the battle with the elements that makes the Winter Olympics different to their summer cousin. So, who will conquer it? Well, now we know, and, for us Brits, it was the likeable Lizzy Yarnold. How long before she’s sliding down the aisle in a Morrisons ad?
Home Office. We pitched for CyberStreetwise and didn’t win – so, obviously, whatever it opens its ad with wouldn’t be as good as what we proposed. (Insert: Muttley grumble.) What it has done is draw a comparison between behaviour in the real world and how we behave online. It’s a simple idea and I hope it works.

So, overall, a nice try but not quite any bona fide exploding grandmothers today.

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