We Are Social
For this, my first-ever Private View, Campaign apologised that there is no "social" work to get my teeth into. Well, that didn’t bother me, because genuinely great ideas become great social campaigns too.
People "like" them. Share them. Talk about them. And I don’t mean on Facebook or Twitter – I mean at the office, down the pub, wherever. Great ideas break free of their channel – always have. So, let’s see how "social" these TV ads are.
First, a budget-blowing two-minuter for HTC. According to the ad guru, played by Robert Downey Jr, HTC can stand for anything you want, whether it’s "humongous tinfoil catamaran" or "hipster troll carwash". It’s all very entertaining in a Mad Men meets Orange Wednesdays way. So people will probably "like" it. And share it. I just don’t think they will be any wiser about HTC ("hugely tenuous commercial").
In 2008, CHI & Partners won a yellow Pencil for "tide waves", a TV ad for Big Yellow Self Storage. Using stop-motion animation, it showed the many possessions from a home lapping the floor like a beautiful wave. Back then, stop-motion felt fresh and the ad married the technique with a lovely idea. If you don’t remember, Google it. Then watch this ad for John Lewis home insurance. No "like" or share from me. And no idea as far as I can see. Disappointing after all the genius work on this account.
Awkward. Heinz is a client of ours. Luckily, I quite like this one (honest!). A boy explains how his younger brother isn’t terribly good at football, hide-and-seek or… anything, really. So he spoons some beans on to his plate to help grow him up. Awww. I hope my sons will always be best friends like these two. It gets a "like" from me. And a share, if only with my wife.
Now, the latest in a series of offbeat fairytales from Subway. This time, it’s Janet, a ginger girl whose life never goes her way… until she gets to Subway. It’s better than most TV ads. But it feels like yet another brand trying to be "quirky". Nice film craft but, unfortunately, you can’t give half a "like".
I wouldn’t even switch on the TV for football, let alone travel the length of the country like some of the real-life supporters in this ad from Barclays. In thanking the fans for "making the Barclays Premier League what it is", the ad treads a fine line between touching and slushy (my creative partner Graham’s "cheese alarm" would be going off). But, with repeat viewing, it gets better, thanks to all the subtle touches – a glance of annoyance here, empty chair in the living room there. This isn’t an ad about football, it’s about the challenges love brings. And these observations elevate it into something quite poignant and artful.
My only worry is the endline: "To love is to follow." Yes, it sounds profound, but it leaves a lot to interpret. I fear the average fan won’t bother. For me, the simple way Bartle Bogle Hegarty describes the idea on Twitter crystallises the idea: "Love is tough." Still, this one got me thinking, so it gets a "like", a share,a retweet, a Google +1 and I’ll even mention it at the pub. If only to see what others think.
I’ve been thinking about what really influences us in our daily lives a lot recently. Fortunately, so have many others before me, and I particularly like it when you discover someone else’s life work – in this case, that of the great Robert Cialdini, the author of Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion – has been boiled down to six key words. It turns out that what often drives our behaviour is usually down to a mixture of the following: reciprocity, authority, consensus, liking, scarcity and consistency. What better way to evaluate this week’s crop of the best of British advertising than against these universal principles?
So what kind of influence did the latest Heinz beans effort have on me? Well, there’s certainly no scarcity value in either the product or the style of the advertising. But it’s consistent – exactly what I’ve come to expect tonally from the brand and it’s building on a rich heritage of likeability.
As far my kids and I are concerned, Heinz is the authority when it comes to baked beans, and being on TV again simply reinforces this association. However, I don’t think it has ever helped me (or the kids) grow up much – but I’ll let you know if my son’s goalkeeping improves.
The Barclays "thank you" promo piece for the Premier League takes a well-worn path of following "real people" in their Saturday football rituals, but it’s so well done that it creates a sense of authority and consensus (this is how fans like me behave). The real reason it works so well for me, though, is that, by paying what is in effect a great fat compliment to all fans, we can’t help but like it. A small, reciprocal step towards us all feeling better about our banks, perhaps?
The HTC "here’s to change" blockbuster seems to be falling at the first hurdle of "consistency". For those who admire Robert Downey Jr, there’s a huge likeability factor (he’s certainly camping it up to entertaining effect), but trying to make a virtue out of the fact that no-one knows what your company name stands for seems to be missing the point, really. And as for the line, "It can be anything you want it to be", just in case you weren’t getting the acronym game, I just find it a bit of a cop-out. A few years ago, when HTC phones were storming the market, no-one really cared about what HTC literally stood for, but they appreciated the innovative design. Now, I’m not sure what exactly has changed, what the hell it actually stands for or indeed why I should care at all. Shame, as the tinfoil catamaran was impressive.
I’m still a bit bemused by Subway’s mango-chicken ad about Janet, who is always short-changed by life until she discovers Subway. She’s not a likeable character, there is no consensus or authority created – so not very influential, I’m afraid.
Finally to John Lewis insurance. It’s a mesmerising use of anthropomorphism, perhaps subconsciously inspired by Disney classics such as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and I particularly like the contrast between the walking camera tripod and the late arrival of the sleepy teenager still in his bed. But I’m left wincing at the endline: "If it matters to you, it matters to us." Really? It’s a powerful ambition for a retailer to be that concerned about my belongings, but I would rather be reassured that I won’t be undersold (knowingly, and consistently, of course).