Private view: Mick Mahoney and Jamie Elliott


Mick Mahoney

Chief creative officer, Ogilvy & Mather

Thank f*** for that.

I don’t need to convolute a theme for this week’s assortment. There’s a screamingly obvious one already. With one anomaly.

Let me deal with the anomaly first. 

Waitrose (5). What wonderfully dull ads. However, Waitrose is being a lot braver than the executions suggest. A cow, in Newbury, filming its day live for Waitrose TV with a GoPro tells me they have nothing to hide. Anything could happen. (Google David Truscott, cow slurry fetishist.) They’re proving their commitment to animal welfare. Set this against the backdrop of Tesco, which was recently caught out for making up farm names to hoodwink you into thinking that its food is locally sourced and farm-reared. It becomes clear how timely and smart this work is. It is socially relevant. The best work always is. It generates or feeds into a conversation bigger than the advertising. Work that isn’t socially relevant has no life past its paid-for slot.

Now for the theme. The following ads are all the latest instalments of great campaigns that don’t really live up to their previous high standards.  And, in each case, it’s because they lack the social relevance that has powered their siblings. Let me explain.

The Sunday Times (3). This has been an annual creative tour de force for a number of years now. Both CHI & Partners and Grey have done great things with the brief. And, by the standards of what has gone before, this isn’t one of the better ones. Feels dated in execution and in the examples used. The best of this campaign has felt almost editorial in the topicality of its insight and revelled in its caustic, spiky sense of fun. This is just an ad. Neither generates nor feeds.

Evian’s (1) babies campaign has given us some absolute crackers over the years. "Roller babies" and "baby & me" have racked up more than a third-of-a-billion views between them. They are both titans of social relevance. Joyful films that hit a relevant nerve and make you want to reclaim a simple childish joy. But the latest exposition of the campaign, "baby bay", falls a little flat. It’s no less thoughtfully produced but somehow doesn’t tweak the same nerve. Perhaps again because it just feels a little more ad-like in construction. And less like the kind of content you’ll share to make someone’s day.

Ikea (2). The charming photography, cute track and gently paced edit all serve to create a warm slice of easy watching from Ikea. There’s nothing wrong with it – it just suffers in comparison to its siblings. Ikea has created some of my favourite ads in the past ten years. But, unlike its brilliant predecessors, this feels a little familiar. The insight it’s working from is too broad to form a hook pointed enough to firmly attach itself to an existing conversation, or cut through to generate its own.

BMW (4). My daughter is thinking of coming into advertising after studying psychology and human behaviour. I really hope she does. She is exactly the kind of smart and punchy millennial who simply won’t tolerate the lazy objectification of women in advertising. An astonishing 60 per cent of the world’s ads still
objectify women as sex objects, while only 3 per cent show women in a position of authority. Come on, guys, is this really how we want to present ourselves in 2016? It makes BMW and us, as an industry, look dangerously socially irrelevant. The only conversations this will feed or generate are unlikely to be helpful.


Jamie Elliott

Chief executive, MullenLowe London

Currently: one new company is born in the UK every minute of every day; the world’s population is hurtling towards the ten billion mark; and messages are being spawned in greater volumes than ever.

In this context, space is our final frontier. This is not about voyages to new worlds, though. Instead, it’s the brutal battle for the physical space that’s left on this planet or the mental space that’s left in people’s minds. It applies to us as individuals, as brands and as companies.

Spatial awareness will be a must-have skill in the battle. You can see its value in modern football, where the increasing speed, strength and size of modern players are, in real terms, shrinking the space on the pitch. So, great teams such as Bayern Munich have players like Thomas Müller, the Raumdeuter ("space interpreter"), and Juventus of old, Andrea Pirlo, the "space conductor", who combine the ability to see space with the creativity to exploit it. Just like us at our best.

Ikea (2) gets this. They have loads of ideas for what we can do with space and, in "the wonderful everyday", a great idea for building theirs. Which makes "wonderful life" a bit puzzling; it’s like a folly stylistically at odds with the architecture of the main house. There’s an interesting thought – "enjoy the beautiful little things in life; maybe they are really the big things" – that feels right from the brand, but the beautiful, emotional film it’s hidden in belongs to someone else.  

Work with visual punch has been produced in the past for the launch of The Sunday Times (3) Rich List. This year, little tales are told of how celebrity fortunes have been amassed ("fortunes told") through a richly illustrated set of tarot cards. It’s well-crafted work, but some diversity in the rich folk chosen and a point of view on the subject matter may have elevated it beyond the tactical and added some muscle to the brand’s fight for space.  

Does whacking some GoPros on its cows and streaming live feeds from its chicken farms do enough for Waitrose (5) to get across the truth of its sustainable advantage? Yes, it does. It’s an intelligent and simple use of technology from a brand that knows who it is and how to protect its niche from those space-guzzling discounters.

BMW’s (4) "eyes on Gigi" pairs the oldest trick in the book (contrast beautiful woman with beast of a car) with the second-oldest (find the lady) to launch its new M2 Coupé. The new trick is the interactivity of the 360-degree film. There will always be an audience for this sort of thing (five million views so far) but they’re not there for the brand, they’re there for Gigi.  

And Gigi, being a canny Raumdeuter, has already moved on to occupy the posters in the next instalment of the Evian (1) "live young" story. Any criticism of the surfing babies in "baby bay" would be a bit petty. I’m sure it will add plenty of views to the hundreds of millions that the campaign has had over time. However, I wonder if its global strength comes with the weakness of not being able to counter small brands’ incursions into its space at a local market level. Time, I guess, will tell. 

There’s nothing in this selection that boldly goes where no man has gone before. But, to be fair, that’s not always what’s required. Equally valid, in the battle for diminishing mental and physical space, is creativity that equips man to more boldly stay where he is and protect the space already won.