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The great US comedian, Bob Hope, wouldn’t go near the stage without the best gags from his team of writers. His extraordinary career was based on topicality, timing, one-liners and being friendly with presidents.

The great US comedian, Bob Hope, wouldn’t go near the stage without

the best gags from his team of writers. His extraordinary career was

based on topicality, timing, one-liners and being friendly with


His act today, if compared with Izzard, Hughes and their ilk, would

appear to be locked in a certain time that has since passed us by.

However, they all have one thing in common: we laugh. They get paid and

we come back for more. So, what can we witty, amusing, clever,

humour-literate ad folk learn from our more illustrious and tormented

humorists? Quite a lot.

Let us begin with Ikea.

Previous campaigns for Ikea have been quirky, funny and involve us in

the peculiarities of the Swedes. Now we are subjected to a quasi-social

study of the English as seen through the eyes of a pantomime Swede.

We were always going to feel uneasy about Mr and Mrs True Brit, being

bashed around by some Swede under the guise of humour. And anyway,

what’s so funny about getting sunburned and splashing brown sauce on yer


The humour in Norwich Union is not so obvious. Here we see a motley

cast, twanging their red braces in a piece of corporate symbolism and

human bonding which has only been bettered by Coca-Cola.

The urbane humour nearly escaped me until the musical theme became a

raucous jingle or, perhaps I should say, joyous chorus that is so

reminiscent of the Tooheys beer theme tune that nearly became the

Australian national anthem. This won’t threaten the status and respect

that we’ve accorded the Vindaloo song, but it’s sure to have them

tapping their feet in Threadneedle Street.

Just like the Swedes in Ikea, it’s Audi’s turn to ridicule the English,

and a thorough job they do. A golf club in the Home Counties. No doubt

inspired by the documentary, the Golf Club, this scores a direct hit on

the target market and I hope they all join in the fun and realise it’s

just a couple of lads at BBH dressed in German uniforms having a laugh

at our expense. Quite funny, unless you’re a member of Little Twitford

Golf Club.

Many years ago the Spitting Image team created a series of programmes

that, for a number of reasons, have become classics. The combination of

royalty, politicians, stars, etc, created by superb modelling, spewing

forth amusing dialogue, week after week, was impressive. But, it’s easy

to overlook the important aspect: the writing.

And so it is with Vauxhall Masterfit. All the component parts are


Well made. Well directed. Sex-crazed woman, piano-playing dogs.

Nevertheless, the valiant attempt at entwining all this with the

Vauxhall Masterfit in the name of humour would strain the pen of the

very best writers at Spitting Image.

When Courts moved on to Brucie from their original campaign, I was

disappointed with the shift of style from high camp to a bit of Carry

On. So it was with baited breath I awaited the current campaign for


Were they going to return to the high-camp arena and attempt a ’Shake’n’

Vac’? No, too risky. Instead, they’ve done the sensible thing and

written a commercial rather than lift a bit of humour and hope that it

coincides with the product.

They’ve created their own character through clever casting. Production

values and intelligent direction send out all the signals of a

long-running, amusing campaign. The ’Shake’n’ Vac’ crown remains


Nothing so trivial as humour is going to interfere with the Procter &

Gamble doctrine and here, for Fairy Liquid, we see the delightfully

filmed mother and child theme that expects no more from us than a wry


All in all, a batch of work that reminds us of the difficulties of

transferring humour from paper to celluloid. Those stand-up comedians

have it easy, they only transfer it from paper to mouth.

Norwich Union

Project: Investment services

Client: Thomas Cowper Johnson, group brand manager

Brief: Change people’s perception of Norwich Union as just an insurance

company and boost its investment credentials

Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi

Writer: Kes Gray

Art director: Dennis Willison

Director: Nick Lewin

Production company: Cowboy Films

Exposure: National TV


Project: Vauxhall Masterfits

Client: n/s

Brief: Communicate the customer-friendly approach of Masterfit alongside

the hard product benefits

Agency: Broadway Writer: Jacqui Rainfray

Art director: Richard Wilmot

Director: Steve Bendelack

Production company: Baby Films

Exposure: National TV


Project: Ikea

Client: Matti Naar, marketing manager

Brief: Help English people progress into the 21st century by encouraging

them to shop at Ikea

Agency: St Luke’s

Writer: Alan Young

Art director: Julian Vizard

Director: Jesse Peretz Production company: Cowboy Films

Exposure: National TV


Project: Audi

Client: Sally Mawson, marketing communications manager

Brief: Reinforce Audi’s credentials as the world’s most progressive car


Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty

Writer: Rob Jack

Art director: Paul Shearer

Director: Peter Cattaneo

Production company: Academy

Exposure: National TV and satellite TV


Project: Consumer campaign

Client: Chris Coote, marketing director

Brief: Demonstrate that at Courts, home-making is made easy

Agency: Lowe Howard-Spink

Writer: Kevin Kneale

Art director: Don Barclay

Director: Peter Richardson

Production company: n/s

Exposure: National TV

Procter & Gamble

Project: Fairy Liquid

Client: n/s

Brief: n/s

Agency: Grey

Writer: Kay Truelove

Art director: Mike Keane

Director: Tony Eslinger

Production company: Map Films

Exposure: National TV

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