Executive creative director,
For anyone working in advertising, a cab journey across town can often throw up two moments of reckoning. The first is the realisation that you’ve probably just spent half a day’s wages on a 20-minute ride.
The second, which can be equally toe-curling, is when, during the conversation, the driver asks: "So… you’re in advertising, eh? Which ones have you done, then?"
Suddenly, there’s no hiding behind creative awards or tracking scores or planning case-study papers. It comes down to this moment… has all your hard work been noticed by Gary the driver?
Born out of this experience, there’s a rough and ready test we use when we’re contemplating TV ideas at script stage: is there a singularly memorable element that you could use to describe your ad to Gary? If there is, there’s a good chance he’ll remember it. As will others when they’re talking about ads. So, come on, jump in and we’ll give this week’s selection the "cab" test.
Freesat. Well, it’s nicely written, with a wry sense of humour. It’s keenly observed and directed with a deft hand. But I think this could be in danger of disappearing into a lot of the other ads on TV. How would you describe it to a cab driver if you’d worked on it? "It’s the one where…"
Freeview. Now this is better, I think, and for much the same product – a free TV service. "It’s the one where the tadpoles all do a dance to the Kinks song."
Lovingly put together, it’s just… well, it’s very watchable. And simple. Which is not a bad promise for a TV platform and, as such, is much more likely to stand out.
Baileys. This is a nice follow-up to the last, Busby Berkeley-esque ad. "You know, that one where the lady dressed in cream silk dives out of the giant Baileys bottle." This new execution is "cooler", in a very high-end fashion way, and immaculately art directed – like a top-notch Bond film title. I prefer this one by far, however – I’m a fella and I hope this still appeals to the ladies as much as the last one.
Mercedes-Benz – "sound with power". This is expertly filmed and takes a highly inventive approach.
I’ve really enjoyed watching how Mercedes has tried new, bold, experimental kinds of ads in the past couple of years. The agency and client deserve much credit for this. It’s good to try new stuff. The latest ad for the new E63 AMG is interesting to watch – though, somehow, I’m just not left feeling much, probably because I’m watching someone else feeling something… I’m one step removed. I just can’t help but compare it to the recent Audi ad, where I’m allowed, for 60 seconds, to experience nothing but the exquisite, filthy exhaust note of an R8 V10. A lot of cab drivers know this one when you mention it.
Aunt Bessie’s. Again, a tough one to describe as you’re inching along through the sclerotic arteries of our wonderful city. "It’s the one with the granny on the souped-up mobility scooter. Have you seen it? No? Well, I suppose you’re out working late and that." Hmmm… perhaps they could have made more of a feature of the mobility scooter – the only thing here that had any chance of standing out in the ad.
You know, agencies and clients could save a bomb on research by just jumping in a cab for 20 minutes and running stuff by Gary. Though, actually, on second thoughts, no, maybe not. "You want a receipt, mate?"
Adam & Eve/DDB
It’s always exciting getting the links for Private View. What you really want is some good stuff to enthuse about and some poor stuff that you can playfully dismember with a well-turned phrase. On first glance, I’m feeling frustrated – this week’s work contains no dramatic peaks or troughs… well, perhaps one trough.
Most visually striking is Freeview "tadpoles" – two spawn meet in a murky pond and this sets off a synchronised dance spectacular. This is all watched by a young boy through his scuba mask. The lad doesn’t have to pay a penny for this feast of entertainment. This is a lot like Freesat. Why? Because you just buy the box and then the entertainment is free – no pernicious contract or stealth charges. And this is the dilemma when you’re selling TV services such as this – the product is merely the interface to great entertainment. If you show the interface, it’s boring and technical, and if you show the content, it’s generic and doesn’t actually belong to the brand. Solution: a metaphor – and why not make it a bunch of tadpoles doing Busby Berkeley underwater. Duh!
The presence of the new Freesat campaign in the PV goody bag means the chance to do a side-by-side competitive comparison. No amphibian metaphors here – just a series of funny observations about us mammals. These neatly get the idea that we all do a lot of silly things every day but paying for telly needn’t be one of them. It’s subtly acted and filmed – a lovely piece of telly, no less, so just what Freesat is about.
I’m salivating at the prospect of Baileys’ Chocolat Luxe product, made with Belgian chocolate. I’m also a big fan of the "cream with spirit" work done on Baileys’ main brand. So this glossy piece of Bond title-type film leaves me a bit short-changed. The talent at this agency have done chocolate in many more amazing ways than this.
The disappointment in the batch is Mercedes-Benz. An amazing car brand and an amazing agency, and an ad that lives up to neither. It’s a lovely idea to capture the emotion and excitement generated by the sound of a performance car. We see a test driver wearing some kind of cyber-suit in an experimental lab that illuminates according to his arousal to sound. This could have been visually and aurally epic but it descends into a bit of an ordinary car ad. Perhaps the clue is in the PR blurb, which describes the film as a mash-up featuring Tinie Tempah. It’s certainly a mash-up.
Cue more salivation, care of Aunt Bessie’s, which knows it’s hard to resist a beautifully crispy golden Yorkshire pudding. It’s also hard to resist a visual gag involving a granny getting roasted on her mobility scooter. This is the latest instalment in the Aunt Bessie’s blockbuster franchise starring Margaret and Mabel. And, yet again, we find the stealthy septuagenarian duo indulging in some covert surveillance of a young family’s home. It’s as if Operation Yewtree had never happened. It’s great that this is all delivered with plenty of verve and gusto, and the action is interspersed with appetising beauty shots of Yorkshire puds rising in the oven. I’m guessing this spot has been crafted very skilfully to storm through some kind of pretesting. Dynamic action, driven by the lovable and recognisable brand characters and constantly cutting back to see the tumescent Yorkshires swelling in the oven. I’m also imagining the presentation of the first rough cut where the client is banging the table, shouting: "Where’s me beautiful batter? I want more of me batter – much more."