Executive creative director,
I still haven't made that many friends in London and yet here I am about to do one of the most annoying things a creative can do: sit down and criticise someone else's work without taking into consideration all those things that got in the way of the idea along the way.
Anyway, I promise I'll at least write with love and consideration, if not great English.
Jammie Dodgers. Anything with singing biscuit-monkeys selling jam-filled biscuits should be great for me.
I have to admit, I smiled when I first saw the biscuit-monkey playing his white piano. "Great!" I thought. Quirky, funny, crazy and stupid (stupid is good for me too).
And then, another biscuit-monkey, and another one, and another ...
and it was too much. Somehow, the magic was lost and I stopped watching funny biscuit-monkeys and started seeing a TV ad selling jam-filled biscuits.
Fortunately, I found out there's a place where singing monkey-biscuits live happily in a simpler, funnier and less "ad-y" way, on their web page.
Stella Artois Cidre. This has my respect for being another elegant, clever, smart and funny piece from Stella Artois. I know I'm judging this on its own, but it's almost impossible to view it without considering the campaign as a whole. It's part of a great Italian family (should be French, even Belgian; but, for me, great families are Italian families).
Anyway, this ad talks about Stella's premiumness (is that a word?) and its quality without betraying Stella's style and values. It probably won't change the world, but I just liked it.
Thinkbox. Something weird happened to me with this one. I spent the whole spot watching it, and enjoying it a bit, and thinking to myself "interesante, interesante ..." (I think in Spanish).
You know ... a dog, a catchy song, a puppet, no product ...
Was looking good, and it was. Not great. Not bad. Good. There was only one problem with it. The TV was powerful enough to save the rabbit in the spot, but not to make me believe in the power of TV advertising. I don't want to become too strategic or boring or anything like that, but I feel we need to emphasise the fact that TV is ready and able to stand up to the social networks out there.
Ribena. It's really hard for me to talk about this one. Privately (and this is Private View), I am not a big fan of this kind of advertising. I love animation if there's a great idea behind it but, in this case, I feel there isn't. Simple as that. It's another brand trying to be young, fresh, loose and engaging and, from my point of view, not getting there.
Ambrosia. OK, I got it. It's creamy and naturally low in fat. I can't say they didn't deliver the message. I can't say I liked it, either. Sorry. It's just that, when you have a bizarre combination of a spoon, a piece of pastry, a thermos and a boiled egg with eyes and mouth, you'd hope they would say something odder than merely "it's creamy and naturally low fat".
Carphone Warehouse. This is probably the result of a client falling in love with the deal it has to offer, and the agency knowing that this love is strong and impossible to take apart.
I understand that, but I tend to believe (and perhaps I'm too naive) that there are always more creatively clever, sharp or beautiful ways to talk about price than literally just showing a price. Aldi is doing it well at the moment. Tesco used to do it well in print. "Surprisingly ordinary prices" ...
"Reassuringly expensive" ... you get the idea.
And that's it.
I hope I still make friends in London.
Most of these commercials have a retro theme - this must be the current zeitgeist as, strangely, the one ad that seems the most contemporary and has no retro-irony is the one that feels most old-fashioned. Perhaps we have become so sophisticated and ubiquitous with our special effects, have made so many fantasies realistically believable, that the way to be different is to have a naive approach to the visuals?
Ambrosia reaches the furthest back for its creative inspiration - the black-and-white, silent-era special effects of Georges Melies, now in colour, still give an amusing, surreal impression. Eggs and spoons with faces feel like a scene from Lewis Carroll as well. Nice.
I think the idea with Jammie Dodgers is for kids to get "involved" online and vote for which monkey with a Jammie Dodger head is making the best music video. I like the setting: a bored kid waiting for the parent to try on clothes in a depressing-looking clothes shop, the bizarre Monkey Dodgers coming to the rescue with mad entertainment. The puppetry, endearingly retro, seems to be inspired by early Gerry Anderson - Supercar, perhaps. Nice.
Difficult to be impartial: if I had a choice in front of me of a glass of Ribena, a pot of Ambrosia, a Jammie Dodger or a Stella ... not being a kid, I'm personally most likely to like Stella Artois Cidre (3), and I do. The most knowingly retro-ironic, it's nicely done - a sort of cut-glass Miss Moneypenny is tutored by a frog in specs, back projection, excellent picnic case and the line "er, er, er, re, re, re" sounds humorously like the gaseous repercussion of drinking the beverage itself. Nice.
Thinkbox continues its former great work with Harvey the dog demonstrating, via a "commercial" on TV, why its master shouldn't throw away its disgusting toy, and it does make you think "don't do it" at the end. The look of the commercial is decidedly retro-ironic - 70s, I'd say - very flatly graded, but all the better for it. I like the song, and it's a good performance from the dog. The ad Harvey shows is on a TV that stays visible the whole time on our TV - this makes it a bit static, but it's probably to emphasise the idea that this is to promote TV ads and it fits with the 70s style of photography. Perhaps there should have been a scene of the dog and its toy watching home movies of themselves on TV on the TV on our TV. Anyway, nice.
Ribena has no retro allusion I can see and perhaps, because of that, and although impeccably created, staged and executed, this is the one that feels more old school. I'm sure kids may like it and parents get the vitamin message. Niceish.
Carphone Warehouse is unabashed in its retro-ness, using the irritating 70s children's characters The Wombles in its press work. I didn't like The Wombles when they first came out, I hated them when they started releasing crap records in the 70s, jumping about in grubby velour on Top Of The Pops; they even made me rethink my admiration for Bernard Cribbins. Early proponents of recycling, these Wombles seem to be hoovering up and wheelbarrowing away piles of money, to be recycled by the shareholders of Carphone Warehouse, no doubt. I get the irony, though. Nice enough.