Chief creative officer,
Ogilvy & Mather London
It’s ironic that I’ve been entreated for an "expert" point of view on this week’s commercials. Because my way of evaluating work is anything but professional. I prefer to think like a punter: a slummock on the sofa half-heartedly watching Match Of The Day, or a sweaty Christmas-bag-laden shopper trudging my way to the bus stop, or an eight-year-old scribbling notes to Santa.
I think punter-me is the most valuable critic. At the end of the day, he’s the one who eventually parts with a few shekels. That said, punter-me’s point of view in no way undermines expert-me’s respect, love and admiration for the skill it takes to actually create advertising that millions of ordinary people love.
Now, then. No need to put my gamer hat on to pass comments on PlayStation’s latest ad, because I saw it on telly during The X Factor. I took advantage of the authentic punter moment and asked my eight-year-old daughter what she thought of it. She rated it five out of five "because it’s funny at the end". High praise, indeed. My stuff usually gets an emphatic thumbs down from her. Expert-me also enjoyed watching the Viking romp. It’s well-written, directed and acted, and it gets the product story across neatly.
I have a Mulberry manbag, so I kind of qualify as a genuine punter in this case. The wickedness of the "#WinChristmas" idea appeals to me. It’s a game of one-upmanship during Christmas-present opening time, where Granny’s Mulberry bag gift even trumps… a unicorn. I like that the film breaks the uber-serious fashion category mould, choosing to lampoon its middle-class audience instead.
On the opposite end of the scale is Burberry’s Christmas ad featuring one of David and Victoria Beckham’s children, directed by Christopher Bailey himself. Punter-me overheard a banker in a Canary Wharf drinking establishment say that Burberry paid young Romeo Beckham £45k – hot on the heels of reporting a double-digit fall in pre-tax profits. My professional opinion is that it’s a good PR stunt but fails to deliver anything more. I’m not sure how it ties into "with love from London", but I’d rather not spend another four minutes watching it again to find out.
My besuited friends at that Wharf public house tell me that Debenhams is another struggling retailer hoping for the best this Christmas. Unlike Burberry, it apparently spent way less on this year’s campaign. Expert-me thinks it’s a well-produced, old-fashioned and warm-spirited ad that is helped along by Sir Paul McCartney’s We All Stand Together. The ad, much like its song, feels like an old friend home for the holidays. That’s a sentiment we can all relate to this time of year, punter-me included.
From here on the sofa, this campaign for Guinness gets it right. An afternoon spent watching the rugby is an emotional affair (especially if you’re South African). And these films do a good job of tapping into that spirit. As an ad guy, I like how the campaign forgoes clichéd rough-and-tumble rugby promos in favour of a few stories about real passion and strength of character – not that I didn’t see Jonny Wilkinson coming.
For the most part, both sides of my ad personality have been assuaged by this week’s selection. Unfortunately, the punter in me is going to have to hold off on the Guinness and gaming, as worker-me still has a lot to do at the office. Like I said, everything’s better from the punter’s point of view.
Campaign has been begging me to do one of these for 25 five years now. And, up until now, I have refused. Ever seen me in Cannes? No. Am I in The A List? No.
No, I’m a quiet, private, unassuming family guy. But, y’know, I look around at the trimmings this great profession of ours has afforded me: the kids dressed head to toe in Farrow & Ball, the electric pepper mill, the artisan Scotch eggs. And it’s time.
Yes, it’s time to give something back. My wife and kids have gone out and they are going to be some time. Right, where are my laptop and tissues… it’s time to review some Christmas ads.
PlayStation. The campaign thought for this campaign is "for the players". But, looking at the lads in this ad, it should be "for the dweebs". It has decided to ditch the cool kids and, instead, show actual gamers. Nerds who only go outdoors once a week to get some more World Of Warcraft figurines. I get the premise. You are in the game. You get stuck on something and now you can get help. I just don’t like this particular ad. I think it’s the ingredients: Vikings, nerds and Andi Peters.
Mulberry. Ah, fashion advertising. Tricky. Can you use humour to advertise a fashion brand? Oh, yes, you can, Adam & Eve/DDB says. Some nice Andy McLeod touches too: the waving dog, the unicorn, the unicorn being told to hop it. I like it. I like it a lot.
Burberry. Can you use humour to advertise a fashion brand? No, you certainly cannot… says whoever it was who made this. (It doesn’t say.) Try dance and theatrics, though. It’s called "from London with love" and is billed as "a young couple falling in love against a theatrical backdrop of London", starring Romeo Beckham. If you wanted to torture me, you could sit me on a chair in the middle of the filming of this. Grown men in raincoats hopping about with umbrellas and briefcases to Ed Harcourt. Oh, and Romeo Beckham hanging about kicking up fake snow.
Debenhams. Not sure what to say about this, really. It’s a Christmas advertisement for a shop. It has happy children, Christmas music and presents in it. So within the current Christmas ad climate, in some ways, you could say it’s highly original. Clever, almost. I’m just worried about how it is going to cope with the millions of people who will share its "found it moments". Hope the server doesn’t explode!
Last of all, a love of mine. No, not pastry. Guinness. In all my time in this great business, there has been one beer endline that felt the most right, a product truth that no other beer could say: "Good things come to those who wait." You could write ads off that for the rest of time. And the great Tom and Walt proved it by writing a few good ones, including the nation’s favourite ad, "surfer". Now, the thought is "made of more". Not to say some good stuff hasn’t come out of "made of more". It has. But I just really liked "good things come to those who wait". But that’s not the reason these ads (a set of four ) are lost on me. They are about something called rugby and something called the home nations. As my friends will testify, I don’t do "sport" – I don’t play it and I don’t watch it. Maybe that’s why I am actually "made of more".
Didn’t need the tissues in the end.