Co-president and chief creative officer,
So, I’m on holiday this week with my extended family in Scotland. And I believe a rested staff is more productive. Myself included. So I’ve drafted in someone else to do the review for me. My mother-in-law. She is, after all, the best critic I know.
118 118 Money. The trouble is, you’re going to link it to the phone directory thing. But it’s not a directory. It’s a bank loan thing. It’s confusing. I didn’t like those wee men anyway. I wouldn’t take a loan from them. Why are they little? Is that to make them more palatable? It’s tricky to say very much about that ad, anyway. Is it funny? Not sure. Phones and banks. No-goer. Seems a bit weird. Like asking for a loan from your butcher. What they’ve done is, they’ve used the same characters but not mentioned any link. But they’ve still used the same characters. Yeah, but no. So, they used them, but they don’t acknowledge it. Nah. 118 out of ten.
KFC. See what they’re trying to do here, but not convincing. Nice family story, but people stab each other over football stuff in Scotland. Don’t write that, though. We don’t want the people in England thinking we stab each other. But I don’t think it’s something that families can relate to. This would never happen in a real family. Perhaps they’re not, they’re just actors. This is all very subjective. Nah. Chicken schmaltz. It wouldn’t make me go to buy a KFC. Besides, I don’t think there’s a KFC in Stirling.
Haig Club. I loved the beginning of it. Beautiful scenery. It’s shot like a movie. Is it cinematography? Does Beckham drink? What’s he doing in Glen Affric with these models? They look a bit awkward. The scenery’s beautiful. Can you direct scenery? The slideshow thing at the end is a bit phony. Wooden-looking models who don’t look like friends. Is Beckham Scottish? It was wooden. Too London for Laggan or Loch Lochy. The bottle looks like perfume. But you can’t criticise the product – that’s not what Campaign is all about, right? But they’re not convincing as a group of friends. They never took their jackets off. But I like the Scottish bit.
Argos. Like it. Best one so far. How to make household stuff look cool. Oh, is this a John Lewis ad? Argos has just gone upmarket. Rod and Grace have a beautiful new kitchen and have all black De’Longhi appliances. I don’t think they bought them in Argos, though. Can you really buy guys riding bikes in Argos? I don’t get why there are people dancing. It’s just an ad. But I like it. Seems to be trying to attract a younger generation. [Sister-in-law: "Who’s the younger generation, Mum?"] People who are trying to buy a toaster in Argos. There you go. Good ad.
Ballantine’s. I quite liked it. In the beginning. Felt that it lost its way with the silly modern bit in the middle. Should whisky be silly? [Father-in-law: "The style of production quality reflects the point being made."] They tried new stuff, but stuck to the old stuff. More Irn-Bru, less Laphroaig. It is a blend, though. Laphroaig wouldn’t do that. Quite amusing in bits. I liked the Prohibition hammer bit. Is that it?
Yes. That’s it. Thanks, Carol.
No, Carol, nobody will ever read it.
Ogilvy & Mather UK
The strange thing about Argos is that if it were, say, Danish or Californian, and had launched this year, we’d all think it was the coolest brand in the world. Since it’s local and has been around for ages, we take it for granted. It is a glorious anomaly: a physical chain with the third-most-visited retail website in the UK after Amazon and eBay; it even pays tax. Perception can be a bastard sometimes.
I don’t expect the ad industry to shower these ads with praise. But they make perfect sense if: a) you visit one of the revamped stores; and b) you know the American retailer Target and its approach to merchandising and advertising (expect further upmarket brands to feature in future ads). They also resist the urge to focus on rational reasons for shopping at Argos. People like to save time and effort, yes, but we don’t like to be reminded that we are doing something for that reason. It’s a quirk of human psychology.
Like the fact that it is seemingly impossible to advertise whisky without featuring the country of origin. Haig Club has nodded to this convention but ignored most others. The ad features David Beckham and suave friends travelling variously by seaplane and vintage vehicles to a reunion in an unfeasibly attractive (and midge-free) part of the Highlands – all to a soundtrack by an artist young people will recognise. I suspect Scots, whisky purists and many advertising people won’t like the ad or bottle (not that I pay much heed to adland’s views on drink – since, every year, you happily pay a fortune for Cannes rosé that must be the most undrinkable piss produced by the hand of man). I like them. Whisky suffers from a category problem – those traditional drinking occasions where it was the default drink are disappearing. Just as we needed Australian wine to shake up the wine business, Scotch needs more category-busting approaches to bring in converts. The packaging is interesting too. Many people who didn’t like whisky will like it when it comes from a blue bottle. Human perception – psychophysics – is weird like that.
At the other end of the budgetary scale, Ballantine’s offers a Sliding Doors approach to its history – where, in a parallel universe, the brand has been wrecked by fashionable tampering. It’s full of memorable brand factoids that, in this copy-averse age, are often lost: I enjoyed learning that the bottle was reshaped during Prohibition to fit into a briefcase.
118 118 Money is offering high-interest loans to people who have been refused by banks. I rather suspect (if I may reverse-engineer the brief for a moment) that it was desperate to convey the idea of speed without being legally allowed to say anything – hence the F1 forklifts. Nothing to trouble the juries, but it is clear who the ad is talking to, which is something.
Last, an almost wordless but eloquent piece by KFC. Two boys supporting opposing football teams return home from a match – to the same house. In a magnanimous gesture, the brother who supported the winning team shares from his KFC bucket and sanity is restored. It’s a lovely piece of anthropology – the story would be comprehensible to an Amazonian tribesman. It also gets across two useful features of KFC food – it’s shareable and you can take it home. For some reason I don’t understand, McDonald’s, like Pernod, tastes rubbish as soon as you cross your doorstep. Psychophysics again, I suppose.