February, a time for hunting, fishing and shooting. Hunting for new business, fishing for compliments (Campaign's 'school report' next week) and hopefully shooting noteworthy scripts in warmer climes.
Unless, of course, you're back in Blighty, toasting your toes and playing every creative director's favourite game of the season: 'creative categories' - the challenge of entering your most highly rated creative output across as many categories and formats, in as many configurations as is feasibly possible, in order to increase your presence in the annuals.
Nothing compares with the focus and prowess of a creative director's imagination when armed with a bus back proof, a healthy budget and a multi-category awards entry form. Sometimes, just sometimes, you get the feeling the process starts before February. The feeling that work is conceived with esoteric juries front of mind.
I mention this while studying the new Le Creuset press campaign. This is a famous brand and famous brands deserve famous advertising. The campaign of old was just that. The advertising idea came from within the product. The ads were great but not at the expense of the real hero - the pans themselves. This new campaign spends less time extolling the craft of forging a beautiful and indestructible griddle and spends more time promoting the craft of ad layout and typography, to the detriment of the brand.
As way of a contrast, I saw two giant back-lit posters of radical running shoes and the words 'boing! boing!' for Nike last week; and a clearer, more on-brand piece of advertising you couldn't imagine. The TV for the same spring-heeled shoes is less direct and, consequently, less fresh.
Featuring an over-familiar animation style accompanied by a stateside voiceover and culminating in the ultimate sneaker ad cliche...the slam dunk.
The funniest thing out of the box this week has to be for Fish4. Imagine NYPD Blue meets It's a Knockout. There was a time when tapping out a script like this would have got you sectioned. Now, thanks to shows such as Trigger Happy TV and ESPN's 'knowledge' campaign, 'grown-ups' in fish costumes and 'beer bellies' on motorbikes are pretty standard fare. I really hope the people behind this campaign manage to support it with shoals of fish parading the streets.
Do you remember that really sweet Fairy Liquid ad featuring a 'home video' of a little boy waiting for mum to finish the bottle so he could finish making his space rocket? It was quite a departure for the brand at the time and brought a fresh new tone of voice that felt natural and obvious.
Sadly since, the spontaneity that spawned the first film has been driven out by over-analysis of what made it work and the belief that including more specific product information was a good thing. So what felt natural and 'untouched' before now feels 'got at'.
I sat through Babe at the cinema wondering how long it would be before I'd be sitting through ads adopting similar mandible articulation. First off the mark was the ugly kid in those dreary finance ads. But COI Pensions has gone one better by lifting the sheep dog from Babe as well as the technique. Trouble is comparisons are inevitable and a charming feature film will always win over a few corny gags in 30 seconds.
I've left the most interesting work until last. Three films for East West Noodles. A real Hong Kong Chinese cast, speaking in their native tongue without subtitles, makes these films as distinctive as the famous culinary masterpiece Tampopo. Bloody noses, slurping and sucking and licking gravy off cheeks are not conventional triggers of appetite appeal but the authentic charm with which they're produced is striking.
The noodles ads are the most interesting work this week not necessarily because of what they've done but crucially because of what they chose not to do - ie. play it safe.
Clients: Jonathan Lines, marketing and sales director; Nora Sakaan, marketing manager
Brief: Establish Fish4 as the UK's best online resource for cars, homes and jobs
Writer: Chris Aldhous
Art director: Peter Hodgson
Director: Johan Tappert
Exposure: National TV
Project: East West Noodles
Client: Richard Kingsbury, senior brand development manager
Brief: Launch East West Noodles through authenticity and sauciness
Creative team: Mother
Director: Jesse Peretz
Exposure: National TV
Procter & Gamble
Project: Fairy Liquid
Client: Dickie Blades, brand manager, Western Europe
Brief: Demonstrate that the new Fairy lasts even longer than the old one
Agency: Grey London
Writer: Anne-Marie Burrows
Art director: Hayden Rogers
Director: Trevor Melvin
Production company: Blink
Exposure: National TV
Project: Nike Shox
Clients: Phil McAveety, brand communications director, Europe; Cyril Du Cluzeau, brand communications manager
Brief: Launch Nike Shox
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam
Writer: Glenn Cole
Art director: Paul Shearer
Director: Eric Fogel
MTV, New York
Exposure: European TV, cinema
Project: Le Creuset
Client: Michael Sworder, managing director
Brief: Brand reappraisal to attract younger consumers
Writers: Nigel Roberts, Ben Short, Cameron Short
Art director: Paul Belford
Exposure: Style press and lifestyle weekend supplements
Project: Pension information campaign
Clients: John Hosier, senior campaign manager, COI; Deborah Hankins,
marketing communications manager, DSS
Brief: Promote awareness
of pension options
Agency: Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners
Writer: Peter Kew
Art director: Ronnie Brown
Director: Roger Woodburn
Exposure: National TV, cinema.