Private Hear: June 2012

This month featuring work from Snickers, Scottish Government, National Blood Service, British Heart Foundation, Department of Health and BBC.

Private Hear: June 2012

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Nick Darken executive creative director, Albion

Howard Willmott global creative director, DDB

A year ago, one of my creative teams noted that the UK had not won a single Radio Lion. UK radio was in the toilet. Seeing the opportunity, they made a conscious effort to do one great radio spot. This year, they won a bronze Lion. So why is radio so unloved in this country? My first thought is to ring Absolute Radio’s Clive Dickens. He said if we asked 100 consumers for their favourite radio spot, it would be a radio station promo: "We know how to write radio better." Ouch. But I’m not buying it. We’re just not trying. So, let’s jump to Cannes 2013 to see how this lot do. I’m joined on the judging panel by an international contingent of radio bad-arses. First up is the Scottish Government’s "Dr Dunn" spot. Brazil: There is no idea in this ad.

US: Dull.

UK: My old man was exactly the sort of guy this spot is aimed at. He didn’t see a doctor until a tumour nearly fell out of him. He hated doctors. The beauty of this spot is that it is under-produced. The doctor is real and kinda saucy-sounding. It will work like hell and save lives.

Romania: It’s shit – let’s move on.

Next is the Department of Health’s "cough".

US: It’s a great brief, but not a great response.

UK: It’s respectable, but maybe they should have saved their money on the entry.

Brazil: You’re deluded by national pride. It’s crap.

Romania: I need a cigarette.

Then the British Heart Foundation’s "59 seconds".

UK: That’s Tommy Cooper, a comedian who died of a heart attack on national TV in the 80s. Pretty brave.

US: The jokes are very cheesy, but I guess if you knew the voice, it would be powerful.

Romania: Didn’t you already bring back a comedian from the dead?

Brazil: Bob Monkhouse. It’s not an original idea. Let’s move on.

UK: Harsh…

The National Blood Service’s "perfect storm".

Brazil: This is a real mess.

US: It’s very clunky.

UK: I’m gonna take the hit here, guys – flog me. I apologise.

Romania: I’m stubbing my cigarette on you.

The BBC’s "kitchen" spot.

Brazil: The first example – why do politics decide how much water I put in my kettle? They don’t; I do.

US: And why do they assume I’m in my kitchen?

UK: Politics everywhere is not a new idea.

Romania: I’ll be back in ten…

And, finally, Snickers’ "film trailer".

Brazil: This is better.

UK: It’s a great insight and a perfect example of extending a TV idea into the theatre of the mind. Cut me a shortlist here, guys.

Romania: It’s good, but not a patch on the work my countrymen did for Rom chocolate bar.

US: Yeah, it’s good, but the movie announcer pastiche feels lazy.

All: Shortlist.

I’m busy, a lot of personal stuff on my mind. I’ve got the radio on while I’m doing something in the kitchen because that’s quite soothing.

Tommy Cooper’s great. I love his voice, and his bewildered fool personality in that menacing body conjures up lovely memories. (Is that really him, though, in the British Heart Foundation ad?) Then comes something about heart medication and cholesterol.

I’m not in the mood for a Snickers right now, but its ad is pretty funny and it’s true that I’m not me when I’m hungry. Tommy Cooper died of a heart attack – that makes more sense, then.

Politicians disappoint me, but the BBC "kitchen" ad makes me think politics shouldn’t be tarred by my prejudice – and they do make boring stuff quite interesting at the BBC. Maybe the Snickers ad wasn’t the best example they could have chosen.

Dr Dunn doesn’t disappoint – she makes me believe I wouldn’t be wasting her time with a problem. I’ll remember that. This Scottish Government spot didn’t even feel like an ad.

I won’t give blood – not with those needles. I didn’t know that National Blood Service donations go down during major events. Not sure I really like them using old Tommy now he’s gone, even if he did go in a relevant way – maybe they got permission from his family.

Cinema announcer voices – I’ve heard loads of ads with that idea. Would Tommy have taken his medicine? I’m not mad about the Olympics, but would rather watch it than face the needle.

I saw the coughing ad on TV a lot, and this radio version from the Department of Health reminds me of it and I’m now very aware that it could be cancer, but Dr Dunn wouldn’t mind me popping in.

That’s how the radio ads this month struck me on the first listen.

I am not a great believer in research groups (especially made up of one person). I don’t think people overanalyse ads in that way – they come at them unexpectedly and carry on with their lives.

But this is Private Hear. So the age-old comments that any reasonable person would make about these ads (hone jokes ’til they are the very best they can be; hone first thoughts to the same degree; make it more inspirational; make sure your link or hook is not just relevant but unarguably convincing; make them unforgettable, funny or thought-provoking) are not about winning awards, but inspiring real people to act by cutting through the huge demands on their brain with something clear, simple, unusual and memorable.

Easy for me to say and much harder for an overworked, time-poor team to come up with and then steer successfully across all the hurdles they face. But anyone would have killed to have had these briefs on their desks. And therefore a more worrying comment would be that nothing here really challenges. Nothing takes the category to a new place, or truly astonishes the listener.

There are both comedy and tragedy available across these briefs. In fact, every single one has the extreme subject matter (death, energy, politics, death, life and death, in the order that I heard them) that is the stuff of captivating, enthralling, cathartic and inspiring writing.

If we are going to interrupt people’s listening with our message, we need to do it with more charm, wit and grace.

Snickers 'film trailer' by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

Client: Olivia Cheng, European brand director, Mars

Brief: Remind people they’re not themselves when they’re hungry

Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

Creative team: Zac Ellis, Rich Littler

Producer: Paul Burke

Sound studio: Jungle

Engineer: Graeme Elston

Campaign exposure: Radio

Scottish Government 'Dr Dunn' by The Leith Agency

Client: Jill Walker, marketing health team leader, Scottish Government

Brief: Encourage people to become more proactive in early cancer detection

Agency: The Leith Agency

Creative: Gerry Farrell

Sound studio: Red Facilities

Engineer: James Lyons

Campaign exposure: Radio

National Blood Service 'perfect storm' by DLKW Lowe

Client: Jon Latham, director of session strategy and marketing, NHS Blood and Transplant

Brief: An appeal for people to give blood now to ensure blood stocks are kept up during the summer

Agency: DLKW Lowe

Creative team: Stanley Cheung, Jonathan Benson

Producers: Sue Lee-Stern, Emma Cornish

Sound studio: Scramble

Engineers: Russell Bradley, Sue Lee-Stern

Campaign exposure: National radio

British Heart Foundation '59 seconds' by Grey London

Clients: Nick Radmore, head of social marketing and brand; Vishnee Sauntoo, marketing manager, British Heart Foundation

Brief: Encourage heart patients to contact the BHF for advice

Agency: Grey London

Creative team: Nils Leonard, Vicki Maguire, Clemmie Telford, Lex Firth

Producer: Daisy Mellors

Sound studio: Grand Central

Engineers: Ben Leeves, Tristan Rose

Campaign exposure: Radio, door-drops and inserts

Department of Health 'cough' by M&C Saatchi

Client: James Brandon, head of marketing, Department of Health

Brief: Encourage people to see their GP if they’ve had a cough for three weeks or more

Agency: M&C Saatchi

Creative team: Dan McCormack, Luke Boggins

Producer: Simon Blaxland

Sound studio: Soho Square Studios

Engineer: Adam Smyth

Campaign exposure: National radio

BBC 'kitchen' by Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

Client: Dina Rana, creative marketing manager, BBC

Brief: Persuade audiences that the BBC helps them understand how politics relate to their lives

Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

Creative team: Mike Boles, Jerry Hollens

Producer: Dan Snaith

Sound studio: Wave Studios

Engineer: BBC Radio Cross Trails

Campaign exposure: Radio

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