Executive creative director,
Adam & Eve/DDB
Chatting to my dad the other day, I explained that advertising isn’t a science. It’s a craft. It’s subjective, not objective. And there’s no magic formula for success. "Bollocks," Dad said. He knows the rules of advertising and he has never been afraid to tell me.
In fact, he has written me a handy guide. Page one of Dad’s Ad Rulebook says the perfect ad formula is a cute baby/cute animal/massive celebrity. Insert any of these and you’ve got a sure-fire way to get the cash tills ringing.
So the new ad for the Post Office should stack up pretty well, then. The celebrity comedian Robert Webb strides around the set, dressed as a cross between Willy Wonka and Doctor Who. He’s talking quickly because he has only 60 seconds to cram in a trillion different sales messages. The likeable Webb feels like a good fit for this brand and the verbal barrage made me chuckle. Top marks to the set designer for disguising a legal disclaimer as a Christmas tree decoration.
Now let’s see how the rest of this week’s ads stand up against pages two to five of Dad’s Ad Rulebook. (It’s not a very thick book. My dad doesn’t think advertising is a very complicated business.)
The next ad is absolutely beautiful. Which is lucky, because it goes on for two-and-a-half minutes. We see Llewellyn’s hot pepper sauce being shipped around the world so that chilli lovers can get their fix. But wait a minute. What’s this? It’s not actually an ad for Llewellyn’s sauce at all. It’s for FedEx, and those clever ad folk have hidden tiny FedEx logos all over the film. There’s one! Peeking out of the shadows. There’s another! Hiding behind a bush. The beautifully crafted endline is: "Show the world." "Show me the damn product," Dad’s Ad Rulebook says.
I’m sure Turkish Airlines is really happy with its new spot. It’s the latest execution in a much-loved campaign and I expect zillions of people will be guffawing into their ganoush from the off. But the gag about two top-class footballers competing to get the best meal at restaurants around the world was lost on me. What’s it got to do with Turkish Airlines? The rulebook says: "Keep it relevant." Dad’s right. Don’t they all fly by private jet, anyway?
And on to J2O. There’s joy in the blend, apparently. And there’s a lot of joy in the ad too. "Youthful breakdancers meet ageing Irish jiggers" is a neat piece of ad-world confection. While I don’t really buy it for a moment, the spot is fun and energetic, and they all get on like a community hall on fire. Dad’s Ad Rulebook says: "If in doubt, have a song and a dance." Which is a pretty lame rule, but I reckon he’d be happy with this ad.
Finally, we have an ad for House of Fraser. Some models pull questions out of a hat, then they each gives their favourite relative a Christmas present. It’s a surprisingly charming film, if slightly misshapen. But with every other retailer making so much noise at Christmas, this quiet little ad may get a bit lost. Dad’s Ad Rulebook is of absolutely no use on this one. He doesn’t really do fashion.
You won’t be surprised to hear that Dad’s handy guide isn’t for sale. He’s sticking to the day job. But if you fancy reading some words that are genuinely worthwhile and entertaining, give my creative partner’s new book a try – The Super Amazing Adventures Of Me, Pig by Emer Stamp. Out now.
Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
This selection of ads feels a bit Boxing Day. We’ve seen all the big commercials, the splendid Christmas Day roasts from the major retailers; now, it’s time to settle down with the equivalent of cold cuts and The Great Escape.
House of Fraser hasn’t run a big Christmas campaign for more than a decade. Given this lack of activity, the campaign is better than expected. Especially when you consider that the group has gone down a documentary route, featuring models talking to camera. Models, eh? They’re just normal people, you know. Between the meeting-amazing-people and international travel, they’ve got nans and boyfriends to buy stuff for. This could have been a disaster but it’s well-executed with good performances communicating that this is a retailer with more style, and more range, than you might have thought.
Now we’ve got those presents, there comes the worry about getting them to friends, family, godchildren and uncles in prison. To make things easier, hopefully I’ll have a nice new parcel drone waiting for me under the Christmas tree. That way, I won’t have to worry about delivery ever again. Just whack the goods on the back of my programmable airborne device and away you go.
Until then, there’s always the Post Office. Now, this is the one time of the year I really engage with snail mail and, hurrah, the Post Office is finally moving with the rest of the high street and doing some new things such as opening on Sunday. So I should have been clapping like a seal that it has "Christmas all wrapped up". However, I found myself wishing for a delivery drone more than ever. The frantic, shouty performance from Robert Webb and clumsy pun-based gag on Pixie Lott’s name really grated. A missed opportunity.
FedEx is similar to the Post Office. It does boring but necessary stuff, only making headlines when things go wrong in holiday time. And, given that I’m not sure my drone will be capable of crossing oceans, I’ll give this a chance. Rather than using a dry, corporate tone, it has gone for the storytelling approach, trying to imbue the brand with a bit of warmth. While I’m not sure many will have the stamina to watch this lengthy film in its entirety, it’s well-executed and the "show the world" idea has legs.
More travel-based antics in the Turkish Airlines online film, the follow-up to a viral sensation featuring Lionel Messi. This time, his football rival Didier Drogba chases Messi across the world, popping "selfies" in different restaurants. It’s unclear why either of them would bother doing this, but that’s not the point. This is a short, snappy piece of clickbait backed with suitably cheap music designed to pull in the online views. How many of its audience will fly Turkish Airlines is another matter.
Last up, J2O. As a frequent visitor to Ireland’s west coast, I’m a sure believer that a little bit of "diddly-eye" never hurt anyone – and smashing it together with some street-dance competently makes the point about the blend in the drink. In all fairness, this does nudge the brand on from kiddy beverage of choice to a more adult place. However, I’m not sure it captures the "joy" that the brand wants to represent. The audience in the ad seem to shift from bafflement to something resembling acceptance – which, I suppose, is some sort of progression. Frankly, I’d be a bit frightened in that scenario. Just show me the way to a nice fire and that Boxing Day film.