Chairman and chief creative officer,
When I wandered out of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO to join the circus a few years back, life was simple. The Omnicom agencies – AMV, DDB, TBWA – were all great. And the WPP agencies – Grey, Ogilvy, JWT – were all shit.
I turn my back for five minutes and all hell breaks loose. Now Grey and Ogilvy do some fantastic work, and we had to take TBWA to the menders. I hired Campbell, Doyle, Belford and Carr and now, hopefully, we are better. Lidl, Adidas, Sotheby’s, Harrods, Airbnb – you can’t swing a treat-eating cat (more of which later) in our lobby without hitting a brand new award-winning client. Shouldn’t that mean the WPP agencies will start behaving and get shit again?
Sadly, no sign of that yet in this exquisite little ad for The Sun on Sunday from Grey London. I love Peter Dickson. Just love him. He could read out your death sentence and make it roll-in-the-aisles funny. Great to see him in front of the camera at last, telling us who has got rich through the medium of wine-bottle onanism on a reality TV show. Well done, all.
And what’s this? JWT having a magnificent go at producing a genuinely moving ad for a bunch of bastard bankers. Lovely casting and a sweet thought (mum sneaks rose for first date into dopey son’s pocket). The voiceover struggles a little to justify the heart-warming pictures, though: "We reward our people for giving customers outstanding support." HSBC pays staff for doing job shocker.
Now. Do you want my cat? Here’s the good news: he’s free. In fact, I’ll pay you if you take him off my hands. Which brings me to the bad news. He’s fucking horrible. We named him Chewy when he was a kitten because of the playful bites he gave us when we stroked him. Now he’s a ten-stone monster that terrifies the kids and neighbours with his playful biting. I thought it best to be straight with you since you are thinking of taking him off my hands. I’ll throw in a box of Temptations cat treats if you collect. Mars’ new spot for said treats takes an interesting creative path. Assorted athletic types warm up before tossing compressed cow offal at their kitties. Nicely unlike other pet-food ads. Isn’t that the first thing we should try to be: different? In the middle somewhere, there’s a hilarious shot of woolly mog being dropped from what is clearly quite a height. Adam & Eve/DDB evidently not pitching for the RSPCA account any time soon.
Strolling away from the networks, we encounter the wonderful Lucky Generals, which has made another lovely film. This one for Paddy Power/Stonewall encourages footballers to be less homophobic by observing, rather brilliantly I must say, that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Has any agency got off to a better start in recent years? I can’t think of one.
Finally, I always reckon you should stick to saying largely positive things about other people’s work. Thinking of great ideas is hard. And even when you do, there are many barriers to getting them on screen intact. Reebok Classics has made a film about Manchester. The most positive thing I can think to say in this context is… Adidas makes a splendid range of casual wear that it calls Adidas Originals. You can buy them in shops for a very reasonable price and wear them on your body to impress your friends. Pip pip.
Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
Unlike me, you’ll know by now whether Scotland is going it alone. I’m writing this on the eve of the vote, slap bang in the midst of the last-minute histrionics. But for those of you who had imagined a campaign trail awash with heartstrings-plucking, soul-gripping, grit-in-the-eye appeals to each side’s sense of national identity, I share your sense of deflation.
So what can this week’s crop of adland’s finest do to get the blood flowing again?
There’s an argument that national independence is a slightly more fertile topic than cat treats, but that hasn’t put off the folks at Adam & Eve/DDB from creating this lovely film for Temptations. Kudos for recognising that cat owners are not (all) reclusive, obsessive lunatics who spend their lives knitting kitty cardies. Subverting other genres of advertising can come across as a bit "done", but this is "done" beautifully, with a genuine love and admiration for the cats themselves. Not a jot of factual substantiation, but you can’t stop watching. Kind of the opposite of some of the independence debates. I vote yes.
Next up, The Sun on Sunday is promoting Reality TV’s Richest. The News UK team has a well-deserved shelf-load of awards for its Rich List work in the past few years, so I was looking forward to this one. As it is, the work is fun and does the job well enough, but maybe lacks a touch of the cleverness of its previous great work. I’m sure it will help sell a shedload of papers, but it’s not quite the landslide victory we’re used to.
Reebok, another great Brit(ish) institution, has made a two-minute film for its Classics range going back to its Northern roots. Credit to the brand for wanting to make a brave and distinctive statement but, for me, it feels over-complex, overthought and, to be honest, a little indulgent. True, this is an appeal to the youth vote and so I’m far from the target audience, but there’s an "X" in the "no" box from me.
Like some political parties, banks have a tough job standing out from their stablemates. HSBC has long been an exception. Its unapologetically elitist advertising has appealed as much to those at the gates of the country club as those already in it. It has made some superb, insightful and differentiated work over the years, but I’m not sure this is the best of the bunch. The issue isn’t the ad – it’s nicely observed, well-shot and simple; it’s more the foundations of what it is saying. The message that its staff are rewarded for customer satisfaction all feels a little, well, NatWest-ish, and it seems to have lost its clear position and point of view in the world. I’m still a yes, but hoping there’s more to come.
The final candidate is Stonewall and Paddy Power, a brand that has burst into our lives with the subtlety, impact and entertainment of Screaming Lord Sutch. This latest film, supporting the hugely successful Rainbow Laces campaign, is fantastic. It’s not fantastic because it has managed to get footballers to act (incredibly) or because it’s so well-put-together (unsurprisingly), but because of what Paddy Power has done. It has real confidence but it has also in recent years developed real purpose. In a market that is effectively parasitic, it has had the guts to take a stance, to believe in something and to bring people along with it with huge amounts of conviction, charm and wit.
And that, dear Holyrood, Cardiff and Westminster, is all that we will ever ask of you.