PRIVATE VIEW: James Lowther, the chairman of M&C Saatchi

Being in advertising during a recession is like running up the down escalator. To make progress you've got to run like buggery or Linford Christie, whichever's faster. What's more, Martin Sorrell thought it was going to be a bath-shaped recession. Now, apparently, it's going to be a double-dip affair (in plumbing terms, that means toilet-shaped). But is there a creative recession, I ask myself?

If you saw the Spitfire ads, you'd probably say "roger". Not because of the parsimonious production budget - great ideas are often in inverse proportion to the size of the budget - but because of the paucity of puns about the French Resistance, Secret Service and The Joystick. Victoria Cross was the best one, but even that made Reviewer Tetchy. Generally enough to make Douglas Bader want to saw off his drinking arm as well.

During recessions and other times of strife, we're told, we revert to family values, and Weetabix has stampeded back to home territory, with a campaign that uses children's imaginary games to steer mum towards the energy-giving properties of the brand. Now I personally worship and adore Weetabix but imagine it has all the energy-giving properties of a Spotted Dick. That niggle aside, it's well targeted, nicely art directed and charming enough. If not quite as Withabix as it was before.

Womankind reminds us that it's not all soft focus in the real world that women inhabit today. The other world of domestic violence, rape and murder is all too common. The juxtaposition of sensual cosmetic pictures and brutal facts makes the point strongly. But does showing the sexualised packaging of women make Womankind as much a part of the problem as part of the solution?

Another thing people do in a recession is drink. This Christmas' Drink Drive campaign is sensibly aimed at the toping masses, who believe that all drink drive advertising is aimed at everyone in the known universe except their good selves, because they can hold their drink. A man, who has just "had a couple", is following a kid cyclist down the street. The nail is accurately aimed at the heart but when the inevitable denouement happens, it is tapped in rather gently rather than being smashed in with a hammer.

One strange thing about this recession is that the "consumer" (OK, I mean my wife) hasn't really caught on yet and is still spending as if there is no tomorrow (mind you, with Dubya around, there probably won't be one). Barclaycard, unsurprisingly, is trying to encourage this trend, with its three new spots. The best shows a couple measuring up the Mona Lisa for the front room on the grounds that it matches their skirting boards. Nicely acted and a gentle smile. Will it work? If my wife buys The Blue Woman to match the toilet cleaner, I'll let you know.

Finally, a triumphant "No" to the question I posed at the beginning.

As long as there are ads like Nike's latest two around, there is no creative recession. Nike knows there is only one thing to do when the climate, either economic or actual, turns nasty - put your running shoes on. These spots positively revel in crappy weather and it is a tribute to the ideas and stunning photography that they do it so triumphantly. In their way, they are an anthem not just to sport but to bad times and how to get through them.

Martin, the recession is not bath- or toilet-shaped. It is puddle-shaped. Splash through them and you'll win through. If you have a blonde with you, it could even be fun.


Project: White ribbon campaign

Client: Maggie Baxter, executive director

Brief: Make people aware that violence against women is rife and random

throughout the UK

Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

Writer: Mike Boles

Art director: Jerry Hollens

Typographer: Lee Aldridge

Photographers: Christopher Lane, Nick Clements and Pablo Alfaro

Exposure: National magazines, press and posters


Project: Drink Drive campaign

Client: Tony Allsworth, head of transport publicity

Brief: Help persuade 17- to 25-year-old males not to drink and drive

Agency: D'Arcy

Writer: Simon Impey

Art director: Jon Daniel

Director: Simon Aboud

Production company: Union

Exposure: Satellite and national TV


Project: Weetabix

Client: Tony Corp, marketing controller

Brief: Communicate Weetabix's healthy energy provision for young


Agency: Banks Hoggins O'Shea/FCB

Writer: Bryn Attewell

Art director: Mark Robinson

Typographer: Martin Crockatt

Photographer: Harriet Logan

Exposure: Monthly perinatal press


Project: Value

Client: Deborah Wood, head of advertising brand strategy team

Brief: Demonstrate that Barclaycard has some very competitive

price-related offers

Agency: BMP DDB

Writer: Dan Hubert

Art director: Amber Casey

Director: Shane Meadows

Production company: JFA

Exposure: Satellite and national TV


Project: "Streams" and "puddles"

Clients: Paulo Tubito, brand communication manager; Stefan Olander,

brand communication director

Brief: Just do it in bad weather

Agency: Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam

Writers: Joe Ventura, Carlo Cavallone and Paul Shearer

Art directors: Rachid Ahouyek and Paul Shearer

Directors: Dom & Nic

Production company: Outsider

Exposure: Selected European TV


Project: Spitfire TV

Client: Mark McJennett, sales and marketing director

Brief: Bring the essence of the poster campaign to life on TV

Agency: RPM3

Writers: Steve McCabe and Ian Pittams

Art directors: Russell Wailes, Keith Otter and Denis Williams

Directors: Ravi Swami and Alon Ziv

Production company: Unity Pictures

Exposure: Satellite and London TV

Become a member of Campaign

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a member

What is Campaign AI?

Our new premium service offering bespoke monitoring reports for your company.

Find out more

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content