Joint executive creative director,
Right, eyes down…
To be honest, I’m more of a footy man than a rugby man, but I guess ex-public schoolboys up and down the land will be getting all hot under their jockstraps now the Six Nations is upon us. Though I don’t see many of them, or their jockstraps, in O2’s latest ad, which asks us all to "wear the rose". Instead, my eyelids get heavier through a series of visually anonymous vignettes of people finding power from being supported.
The next ad for McDonald’s/Hovis/McCain/Heinz/KFC aims to moisten the eyes with an emotional little story about an adopted boy and his new mum and dad, who no doubt hid from social services the fact that they live on fast food. It’s nicely shot, like all these ads usually are, and the little lad is well-cast, as they usually are. But, unlike all the other ads like this, the brand just seems a bit shoehorned.
Next, we get to feast our eyes on the wrinkly visage of 96-year-old sexpot Dame Helen Mirren donning her leather jacket for L’Oréal. Normally, when these kinds of ad feature ladies of a certain age, they still seem a bit impossibly smooth-skinned –maybe a micro laughter line and that’s it. So I think it’s great that they haven’t overcooked the grading or retouching and have gone in for some very tight close-ups.
She’s a beautiful actress, even with all the wrinkles. And she’s evidently still a right goer – eyeing up a young bloke with big feet at the end. God, no wonder she’s looking a bit baggy.
I went a bit cross-eyed when I watched the new Mirror ad, trying to work out just what I was meant to think. The "intelligent tabloid" positioning is a perfectly solid place to start. I’m just a bit baffled as to why it has ended up showing someone saying something dumb and then spending the rest of the time showing her being awkwardly embarrassed about it. The Mirror has always had good credentials as a campaigning rag and I can’t help feeling it might find more fruit in that. A working-class Guardian, if you like.
Finally, my eyes settled on the new Skoda online interactive ad. Or, rather, they didn’t. Using a nifty piece of eye-tracking software, we are asked to watch a piece of split-screen film in which two different-coloured Skoda Fabias fight for our attention. After 90 seconds or so, we’re informed which side grabbed our eyes the most.
Mother New York did a nice thing with eye-tracking last year for a telephone company in which, every time you blinked, the edit changed before your eyes – and I’m sure we’re only just at the beginning of a whole series of online ads that employ the same tech. This ad is quite playful and is more interesting than the usual car stuff out there at the moment, though perhaps not quite as pure as the Honda R interactive film, "the other side", that graced our screens recently. My one gripe is that it’s actually all the graphic elements the cars are driving among that actually grab our attention, rather than the very plain Fabias themselves. But, in the end, I guess that’s our jobs – grabbing eyeballs and keeping them lingering just enough before they are off to check out Helen Mirren’s arse.
Executive creative director,
Adam & Eve/DDB
As I write this, I am sitting at an overly long, overly distressed kitchen table in a slightly twatty cottage in the Cotswolds. We’ve come away for the weekend with very good friends who have nothing to do with the industry and, if I’m honest, I think they view what I do as a little bit of a non-job. "What, so you sit around thinking of ads all day?" "No, there’s more to it than that." "Like what?" "Errrmmmm, errrr…"
So trying to explain to them the notion of reviewing ads – well, this blows their electrical cable-selling minds. But they sort of have a point – all we do is make ads. That being said, whatever you do, you should always strive to make it the best you can. And everybody whose work is slowly and painfully being downloaded via a very disdainful Wi-Fi as I type has tried to do that.
First to download is L’Oréal. Here’s one of those beauty ads where we see a celebrity harping on about how the reason they’re amazing-looking is because they shmear this whiz-bang science stuff all over their famous faces/hair. Before she met L’Oréal, she was just normal Helen Mirren. One shmear later and she is transformed into a leather jacket-wearing minx of a Helen Mirren, perving after a Lycra’d-up City boy on the South Bank. There is definitely a formula to these ads and, in this one, at least it’s trying to push that – which has to be admired – but there’s still a part of me that just wants to see something new in this category.
Next to squeeze itself out of the router is an ad for O2 and its sponsorship of the Six Nations. This ad is all about support – a boy is supported by his dad, a dad is supported by his boy and a girl is supported by her friends. Over the top of these vignettes is the familiar voice of Sean Bean eulogising the importance of support. It feels a bit like the brief is on show here; but it’s well put together and you aren’t left wondering what it was about.
Which leads me on to the Mirror. Maybe it’s me, in my country chilledness, but I didn’t get it. In fairness, I don’t think it’s the execution; I think it’s more that it is positioning the Mirror as the intelligent tabloid, which is probably the last strategy I would have associated with the Mirror. Now, I realise it has a tough job to take on The Sun, which in recent years has produced some great work, but this just feels a bit too much. A bit of a stretch.
The new Skoda ad is playing all kinds of merry hell with this middle-of-nowhere modem as not only is it a film but it’s a website that tracks your eye movement. I love this sort of stuff, so I persevere. The site loads, I follow a green dot with my eyes and the film plays. Now I have to keep my head still for 90 seconds, which is near impossible for ADHD me, but I managed. When the film finished, a slick infographic tells me which car I had been looking at the most during the film… and that was it. It did feel a bit tech for tech’s sake and I was left feeling a tad cheated. However, I love the ambition and the whole thing looked brilliant.
Now I come on to KFC. I didn’t need to download this as I had already seen it quite a few times. I love it. A lot of people I have spoken to thought it was OK, but didn’t understand why I liked it so much. I’m a sucker for this sort of ad. Maybe it’s because it’s a subject close to my heart (not fried chicken) or maybe it’s just great storytelling. I’m not sure. I just know that, when I saw it, it stayed with me – and that, surely, is what our job is.
That’s me done. I’m off to find a greige-painted artisanal gastropub.