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

Is it the end-of-summer blues? Am I in the grip of a particularly virulent attack of the male menopause? Or am I not alone in thinking that this country has started to lose its grip on the creative crown?

This reflection is partly brought on by what many think was (with some very notable exceptions ) a rather lacklustre year for great ads at D&AD, the British Television Advertising Awards, the Campaign Press Awards and Cannes. But also, in part, by the contents of this week's envelope.

It's not that there are any stinkers in there. Most of the ads are sensible and well-executed and some are quite sweet. It's just that, with the exception of one campaign, none really trouble the Richter scale.

At least poo has the honesty to stink. Most work, it seems, is odour-free and can be invisible.

Ironically, Flash, the best and most visible campaign of this week's bunch, is all about the invisibility of nasty things. In one ad, we see a dog lick its parts and then the baby's high chair. In another, a kid runs his toy truck through the cat litter and then over the kitchen carving board.

The line "Because you can't see everything" ties up a powerful case for bacterial wipes. Good stuff. And I have definitely banned the kid's gerbils from exercising in the Le Creuset.

The Flash ad is rightly done in the familiar wobbly cam style as it affects to document reality. But when I saw the wobbly Shredded Wheat ad, I yearned for a tripod.

A bloke reading out a pack label to his girlfriend doesn't qualify as "reality" in my book ("Is that Dostoevsky you're reading, darling?" "No, actually it's my genital warts tube copy"). There's some charm in the fact that she's taken umbrage. But the end is twee and it's just ... well, you know.

The camera doesn't actually wobble in the Iceland ads. The cameraman has a firm grip of his fly-on-the-wall camera as he films a family giving spoof award acceptance speeches for their Iceland dinners. Actually, the idea's sweet but the gags don't quite pass the finishing post. Perhaps, they were having a mild attack of the gremlins.

The LearnDirect gremlins have been a strong branding device for the campaign against illiteracy. The new ones, like their predecessors, are well made but this time the hairs on the back of my neck remained somewhat recumbent. Maybe the little blighters are a bit past their scare-by date.

Rather like the publishers of More would have you believe about their rivals. When I saw the line "Frankly, everything else is so last fortnight", I smiled. When I saw the bus side announcing "This shade of red is so last fortnight", I tittered lightly.

Nice, I thought. But when I saw three more versions of the same line, I wilted. Shame.

Mind you, there is no fortnight in which the new Cunard campaign would appear anything but generic and superficial. A wee while ago, I worked on print campaigns for Cunard, so I know how much unique and motivating stuff there is to say about their ships. But, I'm sorry, floating watches, balloons and feathers aren't it. This is a case where less is just that ... less.

Looking back, maybe I've been a bit too cruel. Flash is pretty good. Most of the rest are perfectly respectable. But is that enough?

More than ever, in these jittery economic times, clients need strong, visionary work that rattles the cage and shakes the money out of increasingly apathetic consumers pockets. And if us Brits can't do it, who can?

This is a wake-up call to all of us ... me included. Does anyone out there agree?


Project: Flash Antibacterial Wipes

Client: n/s

Brief: Create a tactical campaign that raises awareness of the

functional benefits of using Flash Antibacterial Wipes

Agency: Grey London

Writer: Lee Brook

Art director: Tony Haigh

Director: Big Soda

Production company: Thomas Thomas

Exposure: Regional TV


Project: Cunard brand campaign

Client: Peter Shanks, senior vice-president

Brief: Communicate that only a Cunard holiday will make you feel this


Agency: TBWA\London

Writers: Rob Turner, Clive Pickering

Art directors: Nick Hutton, Neil Dawson

Photographer: Laurie Haskell

Exposure: National press


Project: Adult Basic Skills

Clients: Samantha Hall, senior publicity manager, Department for

Education and Skills; Paul Harris, senior campaign manager, COI


Brief: Motivate adults with poor literacy and numeracy skills to enrol

on free courses

Agency: St Luke's

Writer: Seyoan Vela

Art director: Colin Lamberton

Director: Chris Dada

Production company: Academy

Exposure: National TV


Project: Yummy Awards

Client: Nick Canning, marketing director

Brief: Increase awareness of the high quality of Iceland products

Agency: HHCL/Red Cell

Writers: Ian Cawley, Jeremy Watson

Art directors: Ian Cawley, Jeremy Watson

Director: Simon Levene

Production company: Therapy

Exposure: National TV


Project: Bitesize Shredded Wheat "The Box"

Client: Dez Timmiss, marketing director

Brief: Excite and recruit a younger group of women to Bitesize

Agency: McCann-Erickson

Writer: John Hurst

Art director: Craig Miller

Director: Simon Cheek

Production company: Spirit Films

Exposure: National TV


Project: More Magazine

Client: Lucy Dryburgh, marketing manager

Brief: Publicise the relaunch of More Magazine, the only women's glossy

to come out fortnightly

Agency: Quiet Storm

Writer: Jo Wallace

Art director: Cat Campbell

Typographer: Simon Clarke

Photographer: Candice

Exposure: National posters and bus-sides

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