Creative partner, Enter
I am once again lucky to have been asked to judge D&AD this week and there is no greater sobering experience than to see the standard at the top. It makes you revaluate a lot of what you think is award-winning. So it’s with clear-ish vision and honest heart that I click on to this week’s Campaign URL of work. On the face of it, I am pleased with the line-up.
First up are spots from the astonishingly good Skittles campaign. This time, they depict the comings and goings of an old lady and her pet, which is oddly a Skittle-emitting cloud. Here’s the thing. These ads are good and do not shame the brilliance of the original work. But they are, in my view, 20th-best on the all-time Skittles parade. To challenge the best, you have to go harder and further. These spots do not give me chest-pain laughter like "everything I touch turns to Skittles" or "Skittle piñata man" did. Even their titles sound funny.
Next is a spot from Barnardo’s. Again, its previous work has been outstanding and I am eager to see what it has done. The idea is all about giving children the right support so they can reach their goals – like standing up on stage at school or, in some terrible cases, standing up to the bad things that are happening to them at home. This is a nice spot that has a perfectly sound strategy. It may have lost some of the braveness of the original Barnardo’s work but none of the executional quality.
Up next is work from McCain. In my humble opinion, a modern-day classic British ad campaign. Everything I have seen from this brand has been gloriously uplifting. Full of warmth and exactly the feeling a good plate of chips gives you. This campaign may not have won a truckful of awards like Skittles or Barnardo’s, but it has never let the viewer down in terms of entertainment. In this execution, we see four farmers walking across a potato field in a scene reminiscent of The Beatles’ Abbey Road cover. It looks fun and tells a positive story. This is a company whose chip pan is always half full.
Moving on to the last two bits of work, we have a brand in Nivea that really should have a famous long-running ad campaign. It has been in the game for a long time now and does its fair share of spending. This work is social media-based and has the ex-footballer Jamie Redknapp giving scathing reviews of amateur players on a fake Match Of The Day set. You nominate your mate online and Jamie will lay into them. Did Jamie ever lay into anyone on the field, never mind on the telly? It’s meant to encourage men to moisturise every day. I very much like the social side of this campaign. I am still surprised today when social media is not leading the way in every campaign. I have also had plenty of experience of team-mates taking the proverbial out of me, so I think this is a great way to engage with the target audience online.
Lastly, we have a campaign for McCoy’s crisps. Another one of those brands that is crying out for a great long-running campaign. In this ad, promoting the Ultimate range, we see a man who is being challenged by his inner beast. This is done by representing our hero bloke as half-man, half-tiger. The ad is fun and gives the brand an ownable tone of voice and, apart from a dodgy bit of CGI as he runs through the kiddie’s paddling pool, it could be the start of something. How big that something is is up to how much they want it. More importantly, how much they want to look at the best work at the top.
Executive creative director, Arc London
For about eight months of the year, my Sundays are spent barking orders at my ten-year-old son from the touchlines of his rugby club. He’s a big athletic forward brimming with potential. But, in my overly critical eyes, he sometimes tries to do too much – or does too little. Doing exactly the right amount to make ground, keep possession and ultimately win takes talent and dedication. Fortunately, I don’t bring my parental deficiencies into work. But I do on occasion show my frustrations with ideas that try too hard or simply don’t try enough…
Starting with McCain, every time I see its endline "Happy days", I can’t help but unleash my inner Fonz. With this print ad, I get from Milwaukee to Abbey Road quickly enough thanks to a warm, fun and faithfully produced execution – but that’s about it. "As British as The Beatles" isn’t a new enough idea to make a generation of Take That-loving mums rush out to buy McCain over own-label.
From inner Fonz to inner man, being a little too food-obsessed myself, I get the insight in the McCoy’s Ultimate ad. But the execution featuring a Thundercat/Tony the Tiger inner man emerging from the bushes felt clunky, and I was expecting a flurry of humorous observations in this film that never materialised. It awkwardly cut to pack shot at the pivotal point of "Tygra" pouncing on his prey. Then the slightly desperate cut back to our hero in the tree made him look like he was having a stroke. So much of the 30 seconds was invested in establishing the comedy tiger that the ad felt hurried and what potential humour there was fell flat.
Staying with humour, Skittles has been cracking out weird and wonderful for years now. This is apparently its first global TV campaign – and, thankfully, it has avoided the temptation to dumb down for a wider audience. It’s suitably bonkers and the Golden Girls-type granny is brilliantly cast. Only Skittles can make an ad with a granny look cool. For sheer entertainment value, this is big cats versus kittens when compared with McCoy’s. If I had to pick an ad that makes it look easy today, I’d go for this. Yes, the film was great, but, like all good communications, I was given the opportunity for deeper and richer engagement online.
Nivea Men makes me cringe in much the same way as 30-odd thousand Norwich City fans did when Delia yelped: "Let’s be havin’ you." As part of a social campaign, this work asks amateur footballers to send personalised dressing-downs to poorly performing team-mates from a very bunged-up-sounding Jamie Redknapp. Metrosexual Jamie and Sunday-league footballers? "Fackin’ ponce," I hear them cry on Hackney Marshes. I’m all for brilliant engagement ideas and this would be a good one if the brand was, say, Lucozade Sport and the casting was more Stuart Pearce than chandelier Jamie.
Barnardo’s was by far the trickiest ad to review. The deeply moving performance of the teenage girl set to an elegant score etches into your mind. What unravelled it, I’m sad to say, was the metaphorical subplot of the little boy overcoming a crisis of confidence. The contrasting performances and two completely unrelated stories made the film confusing. I had to view it a couple of times simply for comprehension. The idea is simple, the acting is heartfelt but, without a very big media spend, I wonder how many people will act if viewing it only once.