Private Hear: February 2013

Featuring work from McDonald's, WWF, The Metropolitan Police, Digital Radio UK, The Sunday Times and Warburton's.

Private Hear: February 2013

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Peter Souter chairman and chief creative officer, TBWA\London

Elspeth Lynn executive creative director, M&C Saatchi

So, I’m a little rusty at this. I’ve actually spent the past three years writing, among other things, radio plays rather than reviewing radio ads. I might creak a bit and drop little rust flakes on your carpet. Apologies in advance.

The cheery thing is a lot of the work I was sent was really very good. Radio 4 (which bought my radio plays but at a price that made working in advertising seem veeeery attractive) has a great mantra for holding an audience: "Give them what they want, but not in the way they expect." I think that applies to radio advertising as well and the best of the below do that incredibly well.

First up is an autopsy. An understated and, I’d guess, accurate performance from the lead actress works smoothly with a spare but compelling script. The yucky tension builds as we hear a pathologist list the various grizzly injuries of the deceased. We could be listening to a description of the victim of a Hackney drive-by shooting (no disrespect intended towards that up-and-coming borough with its eclectic shopping streets and world-renowned gun alley… oops, there I go again). But the last line twists the story and lands it expertly: "Rhino horn absent. Cause of death: lack of public protest." I’d love to have written this ad for WWF and I really hope it works.

Warburtons treads a slightly more well-worn audio path with a cheery Welsh chap fantasising about a midnight cheese toasty. Nice bread, but maybe a tiny bit too much cheese.

The Sunday Times, on the other hand, takes the simplest of ideas, extending the middle of the phrase "God save the Queen", and has a big fistful of fun with it. God is invited to save the Queen and pretty much everyone else who achieved notoriety in 2012 to promote the newspaper’s review of the year. Then it prays for the Queen again because she had "a jolly good year". A cheekily wafted audio Union Jack if ever I heard one.

McDonald’s risks giving the audience what it wants but in exactly the way it expects with a sweet-enough-but-not-hugely-impactful ode to judging people by the coffee they drink. I’m guessing a clever and resourceful creative team with not much time on their hands were responsible.

The pick of a very respectable bunch is the Metropolitan Police’s utterly excellent rape ad (against rather than for, obviously). "He raped me in the kitchen, he raped me on the way to work, he rapes me in my own bed, he rapes me every night" is a fantastic piece of writing, utterly simple and direct. Tim Riley meets Sean Doyle on the way to the podium.

Finally, a rather lazy ad for Digital Radio UK where a pretend sexy black man reads the line: "If you love radio, go digital." Surely, if you love radio… write better radio?

Lovely to be back, off to paint myself liberally in Hammerite. Keep an eye on TBWA.

After several months of waking up and getting utterly depressed listening to Today on Radio 4, we’ve taken to waking up to Classic FM – a decidedly less stressful way to start the day. I gently ask my partner, Nick, to "shush" if I hear what seems to be a decent radio spot. What gets my attention is a well-cast voice, followed by clever writing and then a clear, unexpected idea. I would normally reverse that order if I were judging radio at the office but, in real life, that’s what I go by.

The alarm goes off.

First up, Digital Radio UK. D Love’s voice gets my attention but I struggle to know what he’s yapping about. It’s a mildly funny performance, but I’m not terribly clear what he’s going on about, why I should spread the love or get digital radio.

Next I hear an ad for McDonald’s. But I only tune in halfway as the "everyman" voice doesn’t quite cut through. He matches people to their coffee: "Dennis – short and intense, he’s definitely the espresso." Yes, it’s clear, and I get there’s a coffee for everyone,

but all I can think about is my first cup of tea.

Bach’s Cello Suite No1 plays.

And then we’re back, with God Save The Queen. The voiceover starts naming all the people who made 2012 unforgettable. As the list grows longer, my smile grows wider. It’s simple, funny and I will probably pick up The Sunday Times to see the Year In Review.

I am now fully awake.

A voice gets my attention. It’s Rhod, a Welshman, speaking in a hushed tone leaving a voicemail for Jonathan Warburton. I’m intrigued by the humour in this spot for Warburtons, and the notion of golden-brown sheep popping out of a toaster screaming: "Eat me." It could have sent me back to sleep but does the opposite and I consider having some Toastie with my cup of tea.

I close my eyes to Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel Im Spiegel.

Then they open wide to a very serious-sounding post-mortem. The well-paced, well-performed, well-cast woman’s voice gives a vivid description of what seems to be a 16-year-old human but instead is a rhino. Cause of death: lack of public protest. Must get up and help save a rhino. I go to the WWF Facebook page, as directed. I stay there longer than the radio spot lasted. I sign a petition. Well done.

If I wasn’t sad enough about the rhino, I then hear a woman talk about rape. A rape that happened to her over and over and over again. It’s haunting. It’s insightful. Just like other outstanding ads for the Metropolitan Police. I can imagine that if that happened to me, that is exactly how I would feel.

It’s not that advertising always needs to be funny – and the best spots weren’t – but I have become a bit depressed again.

We tune back into Today. Ed Balls is speaking.

There is humour to be found on Radio 4 in the morning, after all.

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