Group creative director, Publicis UK
Hello. What a lovely job: telling you what I think about the result of others’ blood, sweat and – almost definitely – tears. I’ve got five ads, all different and good in various ways, some more so. The gooder ones have ideas that make sense and stay intact throughout.
But I’m giving the game away. So let’s start. In no particular order.
Eurostar (1). It’s an ad by Somesuch (which features in three of the five ads) so, unsurprisingly, I like it a lot to look at. Even though the borrowed style is well-worn, it’s still a pleasantly crisp and punchy film with a nice, rhythmical wit. By the end, I’ve forgotten the idea, though. The destination is a travel state of mind. I think. Bit tricksy. Sounds like a tough ask to make it live anywhere other than film.
McDonald’s (5). "Shops". Sharp-but-playful satire, beautifully shot, a treasure trove of details. The sort of ad you want to watch again to find something new. And it’s bang-on-brand. Most importantly, it made my wife laugh, so it gets my vote, no question. She has a great laugh. Teeny-weeny niggle – could there have been a better way to show the product at the end? I know what the ad is saying, the idea is cast-iron to the last, but (sadly) I still want to see McDonald’s coffee looking good…
L’Oréal Paris and Prince’s Trust (2). Brilliant cause, no question. The stories are powerful, the idea stays together, but the format of casting shots of everyday heroes, interspliced with celebs (because they’re really just like us, you know)… it makes me wonder whether this will cut through. I just wanted the idea to be more about the Prince’s Trust and what they’re actually doing together. It doesn’t help that I’m reviewing this alongside a causal campaign that’ll knock the best of them out of the ring. More of that in a bit.
Uniqlo (3). A lovely and engaging bit of film (Somesuch, of course). But, again, I’m a bit confused by the end of it – breathing skin, evaporating sweat… cityscapes… moody black-and-white cinegraphs. I think I’m being asked to look at Uniqlo differently – as a grown-up, thoughtful brand, maybe. Then I’m being asked to buy some vests. Doesn’t help that the product shot feels like something that had to be reused from another shoot. But, as mentioned, it is a beautiful film and will most likely be memorable.
Sport England (4). Just stunning (Somesuch…). I keep thinking: what would me and the day-wife do with this brief? And I get a bit panicky. I see what the creatives have done with it and I’m just jealous. Arguably one of the toughest briefs out there, answered by one of the most inspirational campaigns we’ve seen for a while. Building on the success of "This girl can" must have been daunting. But they’ve nailed it. The poem they’ve borrowed is as heartfelt and human as the casting and footage that goes with it. The tone and the pace are gripping. The resulting sense of inspiration is awesome to experience as a viewer. An idea that generously deals out goosebumps from start to finish. An idea that I think can and will – it definitely should – live everywhere.
Creative director, OgilvyOne
Oh, hello. "A travel state of mind". Have you got one of those? If not, it sure looks fun to get one. That’s the feeling I’m left with from Eurostar (1), which offers a pithy antidote to the ongoing detach vs connect debate that’s proliferated over the past year like a bad case of athlete’s foot. "The world opens up, and so do you" rings true. But it’s the layers that underpin this premise, French pastry-like, that are most pleasing. An energy is brought out by the richness of the visuals and the pace of the editing that feels reminiscent of the spontaneity of a Eurostar trip. It’s all sandwiched between bookends that depict the reassuring sense of keeping moving forward that, to me, helps characterise Eurostar over air travel.
But does advertising always need to capture a theme of the moment to cut through and resonate? Well, it definitely helps – as shown by McDonald’s (5). Have we reached peak flat white, it asks, pointing out that sometimes you just want to get your hands on a reasonable cup of coffee rather than fish barista whiskers out from your unnecessarily expensive and overcomplicated skinny-capp. Point succinctly made, at the right time, in a well-observed way, and the performances of the disgruntled punters are suitably blunt enough to help viewers project their own on to them. Cool beans. Oops, that was a pun. Does it matter? I’m told it does. Sorry.
L’Oréal Paris and Prince’s Trust (2), meanwhile, is all about self-worth as opposed to self-doubt. It’s an important theme, definitely of the moment, especially as the propensity for self-doubt has probably never been so high. With the ubiquity of social media, there’s peer pressure from every angle. It could well help give strength to some, thanks to its clarity of message. I do have a gripe with the setting, though – minimalist, photographic backdrop with the lighting exposed at the start, single wooden chair, spokespeople dressed stylishly yet simply to bring out their true character etc. Very well-trodden ground.
Uniqlo (3), conversely, feels unfamiliar. Going against the grain in a sector that can feel awash with gloss and lacking depth, this tries to get under the skin of the product. Benefits are treated in a conventional way among the process – that is, identified, isolated, unmessed-with – but brought to life in way that feels unconventional. However, the functional and practical tone of the brand borders on the utilitarian, and rather makes the spots bereft of warmth. They’re so focused and intent that it’s quite difficult to feel any emotive reaction to them. Maybe that’s intentional. Or maybe they’ve been drinking peak flat whites out of science beakers at hipster coffee joints.
Sport England (4). Inspiring people to get exercising or doing sport must be a very difficult brief indeed. There’s so much other amazing stuff that you’re up against that has gone before. But this is about attitude, isn’t it? So who cares what’s gone before? If you’re up for it, you can do it. That’s what this captures. And it feels different to brand-led stuff, anyway. It’s much more raw. It’s believable, real, with almost palpable emotions. That’s why it works so well. Oh, Zeitgeist. Hello again.