The ads, luv. The ads.
This is a terrible shame. Because, in my experience, great creativity needn't cost any more than bad creativity. Sometimes it costs less. Yet great creativity can be the magic ingredient that turns a recession-slashed marketing budget into gold. Think of it as free money. So why is it at times like this that the ads and the strategies behind them get worse, not better? One word. Fear. Right now, fear stalks the corridors of advertising agencies and client companies. And it's fucking up the ads.
Nissan Micra. At first viewing, this appears to be fearless. Surreal in the extreme, a big blue post-production mouth asks the question: "Do you speak Micra?" Let me explain. "Micra" is a new language, consisting of words such as "spafe" and "symbology". "Spafe" being a portmanteau of "spontaneous" and "space". "Symbology", "simple" and "technology".
Actually, what the big blue mouth really means is: "At Nissan, we're crapping ourselves that no-one wants to buy cars at the moment. Please listen to this marketing babble we've made our advertising agency cram into our ad."
Rover. Just like a Volkswagen ad this Rover ad relies on amusing vignettes.
Each one demonstrates that owners of the Rover 25 think their car is bigger than it actually is. The easily fooled owners mistakenly assume their car won't fit under bridges, can't squeeze into parking spaces, etc. It's a "you get a lot of motor for your money" proposition. It lacks confidence. In a derivative kind of way, it's a perfectly respectable ad. But I smell a whiff of fear.
Take a Break magazine. Set on a rainy housing estate. We see a meals-on-wheels delivery driver engrossed in her copy of Take a Break magazine.
She forgets to deliver food to an old lady. The ad is sweet enough. But, to be honest, I'd rather see footage of the holiday in Thailand I could win if I bought a copy of Take a Break. Right now, escapism, not rainy housing estates, rings my bell.
Silk Cut. Three pretty good posters. Still hanging on to the original principles of the highly successful Silk Cut campaign that was established in the early 80s. Let's hear it for a client who has bravely stuck to his guns through more than one recession.
Swan Hellenic cruises. Some timid, fearful little press ads. I almost overlooked them in the Private View jiffy bag. They are so box ticking and polite. They trembled ever so slightly as I read them.
British Board of Film Classification. Now here's an ad that is actually about fear. It makes the point that you can find out how scary a film is before you watch it by looking at what certification it has. Forgive me, but I did already know that. But the production of the commercial is ambitious and, in that sense, brave.
I've got an idea for a really scary commercial. It is set in an advertising agency boardroom. It features a client and the chief executive of an agency. Dialogue: "You want us to make a loss on your business, Mr Client? No problem! You want us to abandon our better judgment and let you write the ads and the strategy?
No problem either. We'll do anything for income right now. There's a recession on!" Visual: Advertising chief executive cutting his own throat.
So. Let's make February "be brave" month. You go first.
Project: Silk Cut
Client: Lesley Stears, marketing controller
Brief: Re-energise young adult smokers' relationship with the brand
Writers: Tony Burke and Milo Campbell
Art directors: Tony Burke and Milo Campbell
Photographer: Martin Hooper
Exposure: National press and posters
Client: Steve Robertson, brand strategy and communications general
Brief: Bring potential buyers' attention to the fact that the Rover 25,
while being a small car, feels bigger than it looks
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writer: Tom Spicer
Art director: Sergio Martin
Director: Peter Thwaites
Production company: Gorgeous
Exposure: National TV
Project: Brand campaign
Client: Carolanne Dieleman, sales and marketing director
Brief: Demonstrate that Swan Hellenic is not your conventional cruise by
focusing on its differentiators
Art director: Banc
Photographer: Adam Hinton
Exposure: National press
BRITISH BOARD OF FILM CLASSIFICATION
Client: Sue Clark, head of communications
Brief: Raise awareness and understanding of the BBFC and its role in the
classification of films
Writer: Paul Grubb
Art director: Dave Waters
Director: Joe Roman
Production company: Rose Hackney Barber
Project: Nissan Europe
Client: Neil Burrows, general manager
Brief: Develop a strong, distinctive campaign to promote the Micra as a
product, while also developing its character and unique personality
Agency: TBWA/G1 Europe
Writers: Gerd Turetschek and Gary Pescoe
Art directors: Jan Dirk Snel, Nick Hine, Jake Rusznyak and John Payne
Director: David Lynch
Production company: Plein Soleil
Exposure: Pan-European TV
Project: Take a Break
Client: David Goodchild, group publishing director
Writers: Paul Westmoreland and Neame Ingram
Art directors: Paul Westmoreland and Neame Ingram
Director: Johann Tappert
Production company: Rogue Films
Exposure: National TV