Group executive creative director,
Occasionally, people come along who are not content with simply moving things along. They want to take things further. Tear up the plans and start again. They will see the future, knock down the walls to reach it and take a running jump into the uncharted.
Damn, this Kool-Aid tastes good. And it’s not even my Kool-Aid. It’s Nicole Kidman’s in the latest spot from Etihad Airways. If only the copywriter had "torn up the plans and started again" before writing this vacuous drivel masquerading as a manifesto for the brand.
Speaking of vacuous drivel and manifestos, the election will soon be upon us and The Electoral Commission is keen to encourage us to register to vote. As such, we are presented with "CCTV" footage of various "outraged" punters being randomly refused access to an escalator, a park – even some ketchup.
Finally, we happen upon a chap at a polling station being refused the chance to cast his vote because he didn’t register beforehand. "None of us like to be told we can’t do something. It’s the same with the general election," the voiceover says.
No, it isn’t. Being refused the chance to have ketchup with your fry-up and being refused the opportunity to vote are poles apart. People died getting us the vote. It’s a heavyweight issue being dramatised with a bantamweight analogy.
Not to worry, the punchy cats in the online film for the leftfield product Snacky Mouse by Temptations should knock some creative sense into proceedings, right?
This looks like it has spent minutes in creative development. Cat minutes, at that. Really, how long did it take the team to get to a compilation of online cat footage to advertise a cat product online? After all that hard work, I’d slink off and find yourself a nice warm rug to have a lie down on if I were you.
You might fancy the rug in the Homes for Britain campaign. It’s one of a series of posters encouraging us to lobby parliament to build more affordable housing. While, at first sight, the art direction looks considered, it is, at best, misguided. I can’t for the life of me think what informed the choice of typefaces – especially the floorboard execution. And the headline conceit – "£30,000 wouldn’t even buy you floor space the size of this poster in Westminster" – is older than Westminster Cathedral itself.
Somebody who’s also struggling with the cost of a new home is the nicely cast young man in the Bank of Scotland ad. Desperate to escape a life with his parents and their conflicting advice about his house-buying strategy, he teleports himself to an icy crossroads. Waiting for him is James Cosmo of Game Of Thrones fame dressed as an owl. He tells him he needs to "fly the nest for advice, find a wise owl". But who is this wise owl of which he speaks? Surely not Bank of Scotland? Other than asserting that they "help people make the right move", this ad gives no compelling reason why a first-time buyer should choose them at all.
So, another Private View, another bloodbath. If I’ve offended anybody directly associated with any of this week’s work, I sincerely apologise. I know that you haven’t actively entered it to be publicly criticised by me and, of course, I understand that many of the things that I have called out as negatives were, most likely, beyond your control. Take heart from the fact that you don’t have to work for me and put up with this shit on a daily basis.
There were cheers of triumph in the office when I got Pac-Man running on the new 72-inch TV. Watching too much of the little yellow fella has hit home the importance of having a simple great idea and executing it in the simplest way. It is armed with this 8-bit filter (plus a power pill and pair of cherries) that I approach the work.
And it is with heavy heart that I first apply it to this attempt to shift some Bank of Scotland mortgage advice. The solution combines bickering parents, a comedy-faced son blinking into camera, an ethereal snow-strewn crossroads, James Cosmo from Game Of Thrones in feathered battledress delivering hokey bar-room advice and a boom-tish punchline. It’s like several ads have been driven into each other at high speed. Somewhere beneath the wreckage, a single good idea scrabbles to break free, but the petrol hits the sparking wires long before it can make it out.
In contrast, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO nails effective simplicity in its work for Homes for Britain. A series of posters in Westminster Tube station demonstrate the absurdity of the London property market by showing how much each site would cost if it were local real estate. It’s one of those campaigns that’s 95 per cent strategy and 5 per cent creative. They’ve zoomed in on where the audience really are and made the available media in that location part of the message. It all feels like a planner’s success. The creative execution is just the simplest and most effective way of demonstrating great, insightful thinking.
If only Etihad Airways’ simple idea had been able to strip itself of its layers of creative mush. Much as I’m drawn to the idea of an airline striking out to define the future like Steve Jobs dropping MDMA at the 1951 Festival of Britain, the future vision Etihad paints is a rather lonely and humourless one. Maybe Etihad flyers are entirely humourless people (Manuel Pellegrini?) who like to nod their head at vacuous banalities like "knocking down the walls to reach the future", but I hope not. Still, it’s reassuring to know they’re flying Nicole Kidman round the world in almost perpetual slow-motion because clearly someone has to.
The Electoral Commission has a simple story, simply told, but it strays into a dangerous over-simplification. The concept is that most people are blasé about whether they vote or not, but stop them from doing other ordinary things such as using ketchup and they react. The "ordinary people" here, however, are clearly actors. If this concept is about connecting real people with politics, surely you have to use real real people? The general blurring of truth and fiction is part of what’s switching everyone off from politics. DLKW Lowe has also missed the point that most people would care a lot more about being denied ketchup than being denied a vote because politics is generally crap and ketchup is, well, ketchup. The ad can’t tackle the root problem – people feel the system is fucked. This isn’t a comms issue, it’s a product issue. The simplest idea can often be the most dangerous, sometimes excitingly so.
Temptations. Cat vids are the ultimate modern creative cliché, but what to do when you have a new cat treat to sell? It’s a brave creative team prepared to take on the 47 quazillion internet users happily crowdsourcing cat LOLs 24/7, but Adam & Eve/DDB has done just that and pulled it off. Recognisably ’netty, but still with its own style and a real quality of execution, it’s just bloody funny. And it doesn’t get more simple than that.