Private View: We need an idea (with Andy Jex, Dan Norris and Ray Shaughnessy)

Andy Jex

Chief creative officer, TBWA\London

Advertising thrives on truth. And some of the truest words spoken recently were when [David founder and chief creative officer] Anselmo Ramos said: "It’s a pandemic, not a brief."

Sadly, not everyone listened.

The context of the pandemic isn’t the only thing that matters. Normal rules must apply too. You know, bad boys like – insight and being informative, useful and entertaining.

I’ve seen a slew of work that’s cast aside these rules in exchange for context. It’s not enough to just show us what’s happening and to reflect back our lives. This isn’t the 24-hour rolling news, this is advertising – and we need an idea.

No matter how much sympathy, empathy or thanks you douse the work in, it won’t be good enough.

Those who are guilty have forgotten the soul of the brand. Call it purpose. But purpose meaning the reason the brand exists and NOT the good causes it piggybacks.

Great work comes from brands that know their place, that stay true to themselves and show us the way. And dare I say it – entertain us. And dare I even mention the F word – those that can and are funny will reap the benefits.

Oh! Did somebody say Just Eat? Yes, they did, and this makes my case perfectly. I love that they’ve unashamedly got a jingle, I love its self-referential knowingness, but above all I love that this brand and its work is completely unafraid to be itself. It knows exactly who it’s talking to, knows its place in culture and celebrates it. "Tacos to the chateau" indeed.

Same, same for KFC. It stands out brilliantly, is super relevant and it’s all done on KFC’s terms. It has fun with its customers’ homemade attempts at their lauded product. But when customers recreate your packaging as well – you know you’re on fire.

I feel the callous touch of the Durham dasher all over this one. Not sure it’s Waitrose’s place to get the nation to pick its fruit and veg? I think they may be drifting out of their swim lane a bit here. The fact you can barely see their logo means I fear they may know it too.

You won’t catch the meerkats drifting out of their swim lane. Comparethemarket knows itself and its crowd. And being holed up at home has meant they’re all gagging to see the Take That lads all Zoomed up with Robbie playing Back for Good.

Finding an angle for candles to be relevant and executing with wit and aplomb is Earl of East. Having the idea is no longer the hardest bit of our jobs. It’s seeing it out. The energy, drive and determination to actually get this made is brilliant. Many people will sit around saying: "Oh, I thought of that too." Maybe so, but you didn’t make it, did you? Oh, and the writing here is exceptional… and funny.

I really wish the same applied to Durex. It would be gold if it had. Not going back to normal is a great counter-intuitive point of view. I just want a bit more life in the executions, a bit more love. I feel they’ve stopped crafting too soon.

ITV is a brand that’s discovered its soul of late. The latest work here isn’t as good because it has less ITVness. They’re cute insights. There’s an execution about hesitation in making contact, which for someone who used to write down what I’d say in a phone conversation before making the call – that one’s really reaching out.

Visually I like the restraint and quietness of the Lidl ads. But honestly, they’re just saying they’re still open. Your sales have just doubled, of course you’re still open.

The Spotify ads are a bit messy: I’m confused, they’re just a bit boring. It seems they’ve forgotten to be their clear, insightful and funny selves. 

How has the brilliantly creative, inspirational and funny TikTok allowed my uncle to write an ad for them? Because that’s what it looks like – a layman’s attempt at what an ad should be. The essence and soul of TikTok aren’t in evidence. The pandemic hasn’t stopped them being themselves, but their desire to be proper and on telly has. Maybe ask your subscribers to do it next time?

As tragically unfashionable as being funny has become, the more it stands out. Funny is rewatchable, funny stays with you and funny is due a resounding return.


Dan Norris and Ray Shaughnessy

Executive creative directors, McCann London

When this goes out, we’ll have done 94 days as ECDs at McCann London – six of those in an office. The people we now work with won’t recognise us in real life because they now only know us by our buffer face. But they do know the colour of our respective bedrooms. Funny old time, isn’t it?

This Private View is a shout-out to the WFH Advertising Massive, everyone going through new kinds of difficult just to show up today. In ways none of us could have ever anticipated when 2020 rolled round, we know that some of these days have been the longest days of your working life.

And what greater pick-me-up for any creative in these unprecedented of unprecedented times than your hard-grafted work being reviewed by total strangers who know nothing of your struggle to even get it on to the sacrificial Campaign altar. Interesting thing is, we got differentshaped offerings on it right now.

CANDLES. Is this the beautifully scented silver lining of reviewing PV in lockdown? ’Cos you don’t often see candles, three of them, sold for charidee, each scent’s profile based on places we miss. We heart this work for Earl of East. Sharp writing, dreamy design. (We can use the word count to help raise cash for those struggling in the hospitality industry, right?) https://www.earlofeast.com/collections/earl-of-east-xuncommon-creative-studio

CHICKEN. When you can’t get a three-day shoot away, you should totally throw all your $$$ on Celine Dion’s pipes to nail the relief of those who don’t have to make their own fried chicken any more. Love that it came out of KFC nuts sharing their own attempts on social.

BOY BANDS. Not to be outdone by KFC and Celine, Comparethemarket has blown its budget on a live-streamed home Take That gig. Will Mark’s wifi work? Will Robbie and Gary have a virtual punch-up? What colour will Jason Orange’s living room be? And what is the name of the other one? A juicy Brit-tastic chunk of brand generosity that’s a welcome escape from lockdown and, y’know, gives the meerkats a day off.

DATA. Every second on Spotify, 30,000 people around the world press play ON THE SAME SONG. A cute way to use data to make us all feel more connected. Although Selena Gomez could probably up her copywriting game TBF.

SNOOP. As new ECDs of McCann, it’s hard to underestimate how little we did to make this work golden. We can love it because, essentially, we didn’t make it. Riffing off of the constructive feedback from some that Just Eat’s outrageously effective sonic earworm was "driving me up the f***king wall", the Doggfather was drafted in for a refresh. A tightly crafted spot that held back and dropped just at the point when we desperately needed it.

VIBES. TikTok has been an antidote to the longness of lockdown. This work has captured the pep and energy but made it look real klassy. And it ain’t always klassy – that’s why it’s so excellent. Dan’s motherin-law Dee has ditched Joe Wicks in favour of learning TikTok moves. She’s getting realllllllllllly good. Will probably set up a rival Hype House. YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST.

VANS. If TikTok is the antidote to lockdown, then the Lidl van is like the antidote to TikTok. Sparse, quiet and slightly dystopian, it makes a point nicely – and not a Lidl pun in sight.

HEROES. It’s a shame that Waitrose didn’t identify fruit ’n’ veg pickers as mighty key workers before Brexit. The rainbows and the clapping and the heartfelt bits of work like this hopefully help make everyone think about those who keep this country going in ways we have shamefully undervalued.

FEELS. That big ITV Zoom ad might let us rubberneck on our fave slebs, but those quieter texting idents are really quite lovely. We might be tired and emo but it was a proper lump in throat. THX *Heart emoji*

TABOOS. When lockdown ends, think of all that stuff we want to get back to – then think of the stuff that’s best left behind; pointless air miles, underpaying nurses, spraying STIs all over the place on a Saturday night. That stuff. So it’s good to see Durex standing for not going back to the old normal. Good writing, a good cause, good safe sex for all!

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