Private View: Al Young and Hollie Newton


Al Young

Chief creative officer, FCB Inferno

I’m sure it’s not just me. I remember when I would sit down to watch TV. By "watch", I mean stare at a screen, totally absorbed for an hour (or two or three) and view something in its entirety. Not any more.

Now, I channel-hop and try to watch several football matches simultaneously. I watch a TV show with one eye while the second furtively scans a second screen.

The cinema is the only place I give one screen anything like full attention. Even there, my iPhone rarely remains pocketed for the whole movie. We have all lost the ability to focus. There are just too many distractions. Attention deficit disorder is endemic.

So, to ensure consumers have anything resembling a meaningful relationship with the content we create, we have to be more inspiring, interesting and insightful than ever before.

Here, then, is how five brands are trying to compete with all that other stuff for our attention.

British Gas (2) has created a TV spot telling us what we already know: that there really is no place like home. Psyop has done a stunning job on the animation and, just maybe, that will be enough to keep eyeballs focused for the whole 30 seconds. I hope so, because the idea won’t.

Next, a French spot for McDonald’s (1). Again, cool animation and the idea of putting emoji heads on live-action bodies is interesting. But, after several views, I’m still trying to find the emotional reward in the story. Or, indeed, the actual story. In the real world, I fear people might have already flicked over to BBC Three and Don’t Tell The Bride.

Rubicon (3) is having a go. The idea is a bit tortuous (you can tell because they have had to write in a special character who explains it to you) but credit where it’s due: I stuck around until the end. It’s not going to trouble any awards juries but "believe in beach" is an ownable proposition and something for the brand to build on.

And, next, Honda (5) – which, at the very least, always delivers an executional technique that makes us forget all those other distractions vying for our attention.

OK, almost always. This particular spot is a bit flat. Several Honda vehicles line up in the shape of a rocket and we get a mission control-style countdown to a blast off. The build-up is too long, the crescendo too short. The production values are wonderful but the net effect is all a bit ponderous. As I watched, I genuinely wondered whether it was OK to pause for a moment and see what was happening over on Instagram.

Last, and best, is a satnav app for a Swedish insurance company called If (4). It’s like every other satnav app in the world until you drive near a school or a playground. Then the voice guidance switches from an adult to a child. Like most brilliant ideas, it is simple and obvious. It leverages the insight that we are hardwired to care for children. When we hear their voices while driving, we look out for them and drive more carefully. 

As I watched the case film, I was totally absorbed. The whole way through, I was thinking: "Wow, this will work, this will really work!" And, straight after watching it, I posted it on Twitter.

Because, let’s not forget: if the always-on nature of social media is the challenge, it is also the opportunity. When we make interesting work, consumers don’t just watch it, they share it with the rest of the world.


Hollie Newton

Executive creative director, Sunshine

Gardening leave has ruined me. You find me writing this week’s Private View from a chaise longue, reclining in a smoking jacket, MacBook in one hand, small plate of Gouda in the other. Left to my own devices, I seem to have instinctively turned into a French duke… which has put me in an outrageously good mood. I don’t believe any of us sets out to make a bad piece of work so, this week, I’m wheedling out the good bits.  

Not hard in Honda’s (5) new 90-second monster. The sound design. Sweet Jesus Christ of Bethlehem, the sound design. I first saw this in Hammersmith Cineworld, where it threatened to dislodge one of its Dolbys. Intricate, powerful and endlessly inventive. The cinematography is spectacular. And there’s finally a female-sodding-driver in a Honda. And a female-sodding-director at the helm, for that matter. Progress. Say what you will, you can’t ignore this when it turns up in an ad break – and there aren’t a lot of brands that can boast that right now.

On the subject of Frenchness, BETC’s new spot for McDonald’s (1) is pretty much the Frenchest thing I’ve ever seen. And I bloody love it. I say this after a Waterloo-sized inner struggle. I tried my British best to maintain a curled lip of derision, but it won me over with its unscheduled TGV of joy. Hating this would be like hating a puppy that wants to play. Silliness aside, it is crafted impeccably. Layer upon layer of detail that makes it better each time you see it. Bien joué. I now have a craving for a Happy Meal and the world’s worst version of Video Killed The Radio Star stuck in my head.

My favourite bit of the new British Gas (2) TV ad is when the young squirrel hugs a nut. There. At 12 seconds in. Which says a lot about the sophistication of my sense of humour. The rest of the spot feels remarkably like falling asleep in a warm room at your parents’ house. Which is, perhaps, the point.

Rubicon (3): I like the man’s velour tracksuit. 

And, finally, to Forsman & Bodenfors’ app for If (4) insurance. I’m predisposed to like this. It’s not a 30-second TV ad. It’s "advertising doing good". It’s Swedish. And yet… it comes perilously close to fucking me off. I have a rule, you see, for "communications that want you to do something" (in this case, download and use an alternative satnav app on your smartphone), and the rule is thus: would I bother? Brutally, I wouldn’t. I have Google Maps. And the last thing I want is a random child’s voice passive-aggressively berating me every time I drive past a school. I already drive slowly past schools. And I don’t believe that people who hoon past at 60mph will even hear about this, let alone download it. The project doesn’t seem to be based on any firm science. And the film plays like an overly long, self-aggrandising awards submission. 

Hang on. That wasn’t very positive at all. I like the casting of the children. The little chap in the sound booth looks like a dude. I would have liked to see them a bit more. Being themselves rather than the eerie, staring Village Of The Damned version portrayed here. A bit of warmth and humanity. Bloody hell, a giggle. In other words, an emotional reminder of why the issue is important.

I’ve worked myself up now. Time for another lie-down. One more day, then I’m back to make some of this "work" stuff myself. Pass me the Gouda.