Founding partner and creative director, 101
Having been glued to the BBC and the Olympics, to me this Private View feels like it could be a genuine ad break, popping up in-between coverage of the gymnastics – my current event of choice. Hopefully the five contenders here might be something like US gymnast and superwoman Simone Biles – confident, powerful, crafted, brilliantly entertaining and quite short.
In a move that won’t be confusing at all, I’m going to try to look at the ads roughly through the lens of the gymnastics scoring system. It’s pretty simple. First, there’s the D-score (difficulty of the routine) and then the E-score (execution of the routine – basically, how neat and tidy it is). For various reasons, I will not be mentioning leotards or Lycra at all. Apart from just then.
OK, first to the floor is Marks & Spencer (1) – Uptown Funk is the track. There’ll be lots to pack into this routine. Protectively coated trousers and skirts IN. Non-iron/crease-proof fabrics IN. Stretchy-elasticky stuff IN. Adjustable, if your kids are weird shapes, IN. And a straight ’n’ tidy finish on to the logo. A perfectly competent, well-crafted routine for a box-ticking brief.
Next up on to the mat for a tumble is an online spot for the open University (3). The track is not great – a shaky start. This spot is to highlight that social media can "chew up almost 2 hours a day" – the amount of time it takes to get a degree with The Open University. The execution? Dogs on skateboards, lots of them. It’s an epidemic – they’re everywhere. Down steps, down ramps, going through human legs. A long routine that needs titles to help the audience get it. A good effort but back to the practice mat.
Now the Mexican entry: Danny Trejo (everyone’s favourite baddie) and his Old El Paso (5) Stand ‘N’ Stuff tortillas routine. A new tortilla, shaped just like a bowl – witchcraft. You could just use a normal tortilla and a plate. I’m told there are eight (yes, eight) films and a documentary (WTF?) that accompany these two spots. Why? The ones I watched (and I did look for the others) are short, not sweet and forgettable, I’m afraid. I’d Stand ‘N’ Stuff ’em where no-one can find them – like YouTube. Not the usual high performance from the agency in question, but everyone can have an off-day.
A hashtag leads in our next entry, "#MyFaceShapeIs" – a social campaign from Vision Direct (4). It’s an interactive quiz (well, three simple questions) to help us pick sunglasses to suit our face shape. I have a wife for that. Oh, there’s some paid Instagrammers too. With this campaign, #MyFaceShapeIsDisappointed.
Closing the competition is Subway and Pepsi Max (2) together with Stormzy (the UK’s number-one grime artist) representing. A formidable team. An ad for millennials, the write-up says – so I ask one to join the judging (Spike Elwood, 18): "I think it’s cool; Stormzy is top, so popular right now. And getting fans involved creates a vibrant and inclusive vibe." We finish on a high. Stormzy storms to gold.
Executive creative director, Europe, Huge
All good things must come to an end. With the Olympics now behind us and the summer holidays almost over, change is in the air. As one door closes, another opens, as they say. Oh look, The Great British Bake Off is back on TV.
First up, Marks & Spencer (1) – a montage of bright young things enjoying great larks in their school uniforms, all to the sounds of Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk. Back-to-school briefs are a tough gig and there’s a lot to like here. Like Ronson’s tune, it pulls together a polished combination of snippets, clips and cuts without necessarily coalescing into something that feels completely new. A solid start.
Soaring tuition fees and an explosion in online learning resources mean the time is ripe for the open University (3) to banish its 70s pipe-and-elbow-patch associations and become relevant again to a new audience. And the insight is strong – that you spend two hours a day on social media when you could be earning a degree in the same time. Except that the execution doesn’t truly reflect how the audience spends those two hours and it’s a lot more than just funny pets and skateboarding videos. It could have been so weird and wonderful but the content wasn’t surprising enough to hold my attention. Still, the message is clear and there’s plenty of room for more.
When your product has a particularly long name and you want to get your call to action in there too, it doesn’t always leave a lot of time for much else. So by the time Danny Trejo has told us about new Mini Stand ‘N’ Stuff soft tortillas from Old El Paso (5), he’d run out of breath somewhat. Still, Danny is a good fit for Old El Paso and although the tough-guy-meets-mini-me thing has been done a fair bit recently, the work has plenty of promise.
Vision Direct (4) is helping customers find the best sunglasses for their face shape. Sounds promising, and I was hoping for some clever AR tech or AI bot-thing to do all the hard work and find the perfect shades for my mug. Instead, this clunky experience wants me to tell it what I look like before it spunks out a seemingly random pair of sunnies with little context or inspiration and no alternatives to choose from. As a customer experience, it feels counterintuitive and just a bit dull. In a space where digital natives such as Warby Parker are stealing some serious head space, high-street retailers are desperately trying to engage in new and innovative ways. Unfortunately, this is neither new nor innovative.
Subway and Pepsi Max (2) have launched a "Summer of music" campaign (like Vision Direct, this appears to be running a tad late) and to kick it off they present "#StormzyNo1Fan". The jury’s out on whether Stormzy’s recent leaking of Paul Pogba’s Manchester United transfer was social strategy of the year or just a lucky accident; but he knows how to integrate his audience with a brand without pissing them off. This mini-edition Grime X Factor in what appears to be the busiest Subway in England looks pretty staged, but tapping into the growing grime scene is a clever move and the charismatic Stormzy makes it feel natural enough. Croydon represent.