Private View: Jonathan Burley and Neil Christie


Jonathan Burley

Executive creative director,
CHI & Partners

Balls. I’ve been fannying around with various ads and have left this Private View to the very last minute. The deadline passed 24 hours ago. I’m in too much of a rush to come up with a running joke about not being a "shadowy wizard" (a shame, this, as I had an excellent end-gag about "going off now to create something sacred of my own", which would have played off the fact that I had a heavy supper last night). I can’t take a pleasant diversion to celebrate Paul Lawson – deputy chief executive, Leo Burnett Group – for his breathtaking new Co-operative Bank ad. I can’t put a shout-out to Him Indoors. I can’t tell you about the cardigan that Neil Goodlad (our chief strategy officer) bought. I don’t even have the time to shamelessly promote all the new campaigns my agency has been up to (which seems to be de rigueur for any Private View these days). I’ll just have to share my lightly held opinions of the work. Like you’d give a shit, either way.

The new Virgin Media ad unaccountably features that dancing bear from those awful Müller Rice ads. Depressed to the point of suicide by children throwing rocks at him while chanting "Rice, Rice, Baby" in cruelly innocent, high-pitched voices, he has dosed himself up on tramadol and taken to his sofa to watch boxsets of Game Of Thrones. I much prefer the bear in this guise, and it’s a pleasant change not to be constantly assaulted by the unholy trinity of Branson, Bolt and Tennant. Perhaps, in the next ad in the campaign, we will learn that the bear has slaughtered them and they lie carelessly stacked behind the sofa, gathering flies and grinning endlessly in the gloom while the bear dryly knocks one out to the nuddy bits in Thrones.

Speaking of bears, I’ve never really "got" the one in the Fox’s Biscuits ads. The jokes aren’t that great and the way the character says "bisquits" painfully reminds me of those office dickheads who say "no, after you, kind sir" when they open the door and refer to beer as "an alcoholic beverage". I’m not a huge fan.

The pretty new Hiscox ad makes the best use so far of that projection-mapping fad from a couple of years back.

Government ads are terribly difficult things to do well. For every "natural born smoker" (an ad quite literally after my own heart), there are a dozen more forgettable pieces of work. This new Department for Transport spot falls somewhere softly between the two: a simple message and some loving CGI but, if you got rid of the horror-movie soundtrack and replaced it with a bouncy bit of Euro-rock, it could quite happily masquerade as a global car ad. It would need a different end sequence, mind. Not sure that the crash sequence would sell many Vauxhalls.

I really want to love the new BBC Music spot. "Perfect Day" was one of my very favourite ads, and God Only Knows is a beautiful, beautiful song. And yet, for some reason I cannot quite put my nicotine-stained finger on, the ad does nothing for me. Despite having Stevie Wonder in it, despite the appropriately lush production, despite the fact that they haven’t been tempted to fuck up the arrangement of the track and have Dizzee do a rap halfway through and Little Mix perform a chunky-thighed dance routine at the end, I find myself unmoved by it. Perhaps it is nothing more than the law of diminishing returns. It is exactly the same ad, after all – just 17 years later and with a line-up that doesn’t include Heather Small. Thank the baby Jesus.

Done. Out of words and out of time. x


Neil Christie

Managing director,
Wieden & Kennedy London

We’re all busy, so let’s skip the introductory anecdotal musing and get straight to the work. I’ve watched each of these ads once and I’m evaluating them based on what I can remember without referring back.

This week, we have two campaigns featuring anthropomorphic bears. The first is for Virgin Media, and it features Sofa Bear. The supine ursine spends the weekend on the couch watching The Wolf Of Wall Street. There may be some kind of bear/wolf gag going on here, but that’s not clear. Virgin has lots of movies, so Sofa Bear is happy. Are Sofa Bear and The Man Doing Housework in some kind of inter-species gay relationship? Also not clear. This ad does the job but it feels longer than it needs to be. It would have been funnier and more memorably linked to Virgin if it had replaced Sofa Bear with Sofa Branson.

Bear number two is a mafia boss panda who, for no obvious reason, joins the board of Fox’s Biscuits. (Are bears, or mafia bosses, popularly thought to love biscuits?) The boardroom setting is reminiscent of the dinner scene in The Untouchables, where De Niro beats a mafioso to death with a baseball bat, which is perhaps not a happy association for the brand. Why a panda for Fox’s? Why not a fox? (This is the sort of question that gets me withering looks in creative reviews at Wieden & Kennedy.) OK, fine, we’ll go with the panda. But it’s just not very funny or memorable. I can’t see the nation taking Panda Soprano to its heart the way it has Aleksandr the meerkat or Monkey the monkey.

Then there’s a Department for Transport ad with a see-through car and a see-through tractor in a transparent landscape.  The car crashes into the tractor and a line says something like: "If you could see round corners, you wouldn’t drive so fast."

In the ad, we could see round the corner and yet the car still crashed. Some kind of logical/narrative flaw here?

Next up: Hiscox home insurance. Imagery is projected on to a house to create the optical illusion that the house is morphing to tell the life story of its owner. I half-remember a couple of different thoughts being expressed at the end: "As you change, so does your home" and/or "As your home becomes more important, so does your insurer". Not sure how those thoughts relate to each other. Perhaps the agency felt that, to make sense of the visual technique, it needed a line that mentioned "change", but it couldn’t manage to squeeze a mention of insurance into that line, so it added a second one. Suggests to me that it needs to define more clearly the role of the brand in the creative idea.

Finally, this week’s blockbuster is the BBC Music film. Obviously, I had seen this much-trumpeted extravaganza before it was sent to me for Private View, but it’s the only ad this week that I’d choose to watch again. Yes, it’s "only" a remake of the classic "Perfect Day" and, yes, the cover version is rarely as good as the original and, yes, there are some artists in there who probably don’t deserve to be – but it’s still an uplifting piece of film, set to one of the greatest songs of all time. No points for originality, but ten out of ten for the love and care that have gone into it, the sheer entertainment it provides and the fact that only the BBC could have done it, which is the whole point.