Private view: Al Young and Jason McCann


Al Young

Executive creative director,
St Luke's

Great work tends to start with great insight. We all know the insight behind the original Always "#LikeAGirl" work: this seemingly innocuous turn of phrase, in truth, is a diabolical insult designed to rob women of self-worth.

Seeing the resulting film for the first time was one of those rare, sweet moments in our industry – when I felt profoundly proud to work in it. This follow-up is slick enough and the kids are great, but it lacks the emotional punch of its predecessor. Yes, we’ve seen its stratospheric viewing figures, but I suspect this roaring success comes in riding on the first film’s coat-tails. In this new one, it has supered: "Always wants every girl to stay confident." Right on! Given the business it is in, you’d kind of hope that’s the case and, really, you’d have to be a real burn-him-on-the-stake psychopath to want the opposite. The insight lacks the original’s contention. There’s no epiphany. "Society limits girls when they should be unstoppable" feels bland and generalised – a far less pointed and discernible brief and, consequently, won’t provoke such a rich debate. Second-album syndrome, perhaps. Heaven knows I may have loved it had I not seen the first.

Harvey Nichols knows all about provoking debate. The insight that drives all its great work is consistent and as daring as it’s true: our brand brings out the worst in people. In this case, not just turning you into a helpless incontinent, a heartless narcissist, a January-sale brawler but a full-blown, cuffs-on outlaw. Great footage, great music. What’s not to love? This latest campaign for its loyalty freebies passes the test and stands up with the rest.

We’ve also come to expect great insight and great work from Ikea. But I’m not so sure what the insight is for this one. You can have fun in a good kitchen? Lots of us are at our happiest in the kitchen’s steamy embrace, so no deep truths revealed here. The film is unquestionably watchable and brilliantly put together. But I’ll bet I’m not the only miserable old killjoy making grumbling comparisons to Karmarama’s magnificent spot for Costa.

I’m not sure there’s any insight whatsoever in this Hyundai stuff. Perhaps it’s that pride doesn’t just make people buy, it also makes people sell. The showroom teams at Hyundai must have been hugging themselves with pride to see their reps snogged by the pneumatic Kelly Brook and stalked by a coy Kimberley Nixon (while being given a damn thorough briefing on the features and benefits of their latest hatchbacks). Terrific in terms of motivating staff but turgid for those of us not listed on Hyundai’s payroll. 

The Doctors of the World work started with a good insight: we are all hardwired to experience distress at the sight and sound of a crying child – but only by overcoming this aversion can we ensure they are properly inoculated. Making any ad to tackle child mortality comes with a grave responsibility not to fuck it up. Far from it here for all concerned – these wonderful, moving portraits are gripping and resolve with deft authenticity.

Start with a good insight and all should end well.


Jason McCann

Executive creative director,
AKQA London

I’m new to the UK, so I’ll apologise straight off for missing any cultural nuances or brand legacies. I arrived most recently from the US but am originally from Canada, which is likely why my very first sentence was an apology…

Hyundai. Longer "content" films often have only subtle references to the brands that created them, but this video series from Hyundai is not that. I’ll use a driving term – it really turned into the skid. Love it or hate it, you have to appreciate its single-mindedness. I liked the collision between the banal lines about car features with the very personal nature of the dialogue between the couple. It’s not every day you hear mention of a sunroof and a "specialist cream" in the same ten seconds.

Ikea. Kitchens take lots of abuse and kids are often the cause. It’s an obvious parallel, but the idea of letting wild animals actually run wild is certainly a fun way to show off the design and durability of sinks, counters, drawers and banana-filled fridges. Like the Hyundai work, it doesn’t feel as if this film is trying to be anything it’s not. It just sets the scene and allows the spectacle of slow-motion monkeys to be as entertaining as only slow-motion monkeys can be.

Doctors of the World. This spot felt like a good piece of graphic design: everything reduced to its essence. Simple and memorable. The framing is stark, with minimal editing. There’s no music, just children crying and a harsh room tone. The reveal at the end is unexpected and sets up the call to action nicely. One challenge is that the final line – "Make a child cry, save his life" – is needlessly gender-specific. "Their life" would have been better. 

Harvey Nichols. This promotional video for its loyalty app works much better as a deterrent to shoplifting. Using real CCTV footage is an interesting choice, and the animated faces and music make the whole thing feel quirky but nefarious. The final line – "Love freebies? Get them legally" – positions the app as an alternative to outright theft. But I’m not sure the free "coffees and smoothies" on offer will change the mind of someone willing to smuggle a £500 sweater out in their pants.

Always. "#LikeAGirl" has resonated so deeply with so many, it feels odd to talk about it in the same context as the other work. It now stands for something bigger – and "unstoppable" feels like a fantastic next chapter. This video is a compelling launch piece but, to me, the more interesting element is the inspirational content partnership with TED. It feels like a perfect and authentic match for a truly global issue. I’m excited to see how this initiative unfolds and (more importantly) to see the difference it makes.