Private View: Andy Nairn and Dylan Williams


Andy Nairn

Founding partner, Lucky Generals

I’m writing this on the morning of 19 September. The Tennent’s Super does not feel quite so super any more. Walking 500 miles – or even a couple of feet – is not on the agenda. My kilt has started to wilt. My porridge has gone cold. I’ll have had my tea. Etc.

The truth is, it has been an extraordinary 24 hours for my fellow countrymen – and, in the middle of it, I too have had to make a momentous, potentially world-changing decision: how to theme my Private View. As you’ll have noticed, I have said Yes to a tenuous referendum link and No to the nagging voice in my head that says it will no longer be topical by the time this is published. In particular, let’s see if there’s anything in this week’s ads that will foster the spirit of reconciliation that is needed right now.

First up is Sarson’s. Vinegar isn’t the most obvious way to get rid of the sour taste in some people’s mouths. But this campaign has a smart commercial strategy – promote Friday night as the key usage occasion – and some beautifully designed, wittily constructed print ads. It might not be a world-changer, but maybe what we all need right now is some good old-fashioned fish ’n’ chips, so it gets my vote.

Next are two companies that are literally bringing our countries together: Virgin Trains and easyJet. The former has the better line: "Arrive awesome." I really like this as a suitably camp, Virgin-esque way to capture the way the service makes you feel. I just don’t think the TV execution does it justice. Meanwhile, the airline’s commercial has a strong product claim ("more punctual than BA") and a potentially interesting creative device (the white rabbit from Alice In Wonderland). But isn’t there a logic flaw in depicting people running around for flights that are delayed, while showing our leporine friend sauntering about for a departure that’s on time? Maybe all this currency union stuff has made me over-think things.

Next, send in the Canon, as Cameron might have said if the vote had gone the other way. Nothing brings Scotland and England together like violence at a football match, so this spot – which features the ancient game of calcio storico in Florence – could be just the tonic. It’s beautifully shot (on one of Canon’s products, apparently, although this isn’t made explicit in the film) and very watchable. But I’m not sure that it clarifies what the role is for a digital camera these days or gives the brand a distinct point of view.

Finally, the Westfield campaign is a pretty disparate collection of content, without much of a unifying idea or personality. I know Scotland’s idea of breaking the fashion rules is wee Jimmy Krankie, so maybe I’m not the right person to advise about sartorial iconoclasm. But perhaps the mind-boggling nature of fashion advertising is something we can all agree about.

So there you go, my recipe for national reconciliation: fast food, cheap transport, football and the Krankies. It might need a bit more work, but it’s not a bad start.


Dylan Williams

Chief strategy and innovation officer, Publicis Worldwide

I’ve always liked Private View but often wondered how private, or independent, it is possible to be when viewing a subject. There are at least two types of contributing factor that govern one’s experience. The "bottom up" design of the stimuli itself and the "top down" design of prior knowledge, motive and context. So, as an experiment in transparency, I’ll try to mitigate the top down distortion in advance.

First, I’ve received the work in a format that makes it impossible not to immediately read each agency’s promotional blurb. Second, I’m writing this at home on 21 September, so further context effects will include: 1) Alibaba. Is its VIE structure the biggest time bomb in the US capital markets? Maybe. Did I forget to return the form and so miss the biggest IPO in history? Yes. Yes I did. 2) Instagram. The degree of vitriol it received upon introduction of advertising tonight is further evidence that only businesses "like the ads more than the programmes" these days. 3) West Ham. They’ve just battered my team, Liverpool. These represent the larger smears on the lens as I check out this week’s work.

The new Canon brand spot is a lovely piece of film. But, as a celebration of the higher-order benefits of photography, it initially struck me as just an ad for the aforementioned Instagram. Surely, I thought, there are too many good people around this for it to be so generic, so empty, so… 90s? Thankfully, I accepted the invitation to "come and see" and the richness of the idea then pronounced itself. The web content wasn’t mere ad amplification, it offered genuine utility. I learnt useful stuff. And because these tutorials were drawn from the brand film, I enjoyed them far more than had I just watched an unboxing video on YouTube.

I was chatting with Russ Davies recently about "advertising the asterisk". About the vast amounts of money still spent promoting qualified promises and sneaky caveats. But easyJet’s not-so-manic white rabbit isn’t hiding anything. Ten seconds of further investigation into the source of its punctuality claim and it checks out as genuine. A good example of how the pendulum is slowly swinging from myth creation back to truths well told.

I like everything about this print campaign for Sarson’s vinegar. Friday really should be re-established as the night fish and chips get together. And the decision to use Paul Thurlby’s warm nostalgic illustrations is the kind of call that Graham Watson would have made in his pomp at Bartle Bogle Hegarty. Lovely.

By contrast, I’m struggling with this Virgin Trains film. It’s partly the use of "awesome", I think. It’s a word that feels particularly vulnerable to the law of diminishing returns. And I never really liked Tone Loc the first time around. Certainly, that mix needed to go somewhere, if only because the visual story didn’t.

Westfield’s decision to structure its publishing hub around the season’s fashion talking points is pretty smart. I wasn’t blown away by the video, but editorial themed around pithy disjunctions such as "Flats v Heels" is exactly the kind of snackable content that fashion bloggers will share. It’s in stride with young fast-fashion culture and it’s where retail communication is going.

Overall, even coloured by mood and environment, I’d say there’s some good work around town on this evidence. But here’s the thing: apart from Sarson’s, and barring awards shows, I will never see any of it, ever again. And that’s surely the only contextual factor really worth considering. In my Private View, anyway.