The sky is blue, Tony Blair is prime minister, Campaign comes out on a Thursday and John Webster is a genius.

The sky is blue, Tony Blair is prime minister, Campaign comes out

on a Thursday and John Webster is a genius.

The first three statements are obvious, but the fourth is a revelation

to me. I mean, of course, I knew that John Webster was a genius (Smash,

Cresta, The Guardian and a thousand others). No, the news to me is that

John Webster is a genius. Right now, today, falling out of the Campaign

jiffy bag and declaring himself through the peerless, seamless

perfection of his new ad for Compaq’s Alta Vista search engine. It’s

like finding out that George Best never touched a drop and is still

playing, more brilliantly than ever, for Manchester United at the age of


I promise I will write about the other ads on this spread somewhere near

the bottom of the page but I’ve really got to talk about every frame of

this 50-second masterpiece. The basic idea is that a determined

blackbird tracks down a worm, but the basic idea is not what’s clever

about this ad. Lycos is also on TV promoting its search engine with a

determined black labrador. Its proposition is identical too: ’we’ll

track it down for you, fast.’ But the executions are worlds apart

because one is written by a genius and the other isn’t. Lycos’s dog acts

like a dog. Compaq’s bird acts like a search engine.

It pops its head up from a bunch of pecking crows and begins to walk at

an unstoppable, constant pace, looking in or under everything it


The bird’s emotionless, systematic determination perfectly mirrors the

way a search engine works. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the

click track for the music was based on the little ticky-wurr noise that

a Mac makes while it is looking for something on the net. The animation

is the communication. Actually, there isn’t much point in going into any

more detail. You have to watch it. And then you have to watch it again

and again, because it teaches you your craft.

Now on to all the other clever people who just aren’t John Webster.

D’Arcy seems to me like a resurgent agency. Do I detect the nicotine

stained hand of Nick Hastings steering the big ship away from the


These Tetley ads are 20 seconds long and really rather good. Tetley man

lost in desert, ’water, water’, gets water, carries on searching,

’Tetley, Tetley’. Funny, simple and well branded.

Kinko’s digital copying is not a well-known brand and these ads are

probably not the best way to change its status. I thought the pubic hair

on the egg was a good way to show that ’presentation is everything’. But

I’m not sure the art director read the headline.

Sky Digital is a well-known brand that thinks it can afford to insult

its potential users by telling us we are dummies. Do you think that’s a

good idea?

Virgin tends to arrive late in the market hoping to mop up the


These commercials for its new mobile phone company are beautifully art

directed, charmingly executed and make good use of the Virgin V to brand

its product claim ’v. different’. I just don’t think they will be quite

different enough to turn Virgin into a major player in this cut-throat


Finally, Heart 106.2 has a sweet ad on air. It’s well shot, cast and

acted, but it also has two faults which undo some of the good work.

Firstly, it is yet another smart girl, stupid bloke ad and secondly, it

features the music of Simply Red and Robbie Williams. You can hear them

on every station, so why should I choose Heart?

Best copywriter of the week, Robbie Williams for: ’In the morning when I

wake up, I look like Kiss but without the make-up.’ Best art director of

this and every other week, Mr John Webster.


Project: Compaq Alta Vista

Client: Debbie Yardley, advertising manager

Brief: Tell IT buyers that Compaq is an important part of the

infrastructure of the internet

Agency: BMP DDB

Writer and art director: John Webster

Director: Mario Cavalli

Production company: aka Pizazz

Exposure: National TV


Project: Kinko’s

Client: Michael Taylor, sales and marketing director

Brief: Create awareness of Kinko’s as the pre-eminent source of visual

communications solutions

Agency: TBWA GGT Simons Palmer

Writer: Ben Priest

Art director: Brian Campbell

Exposure: London press

Chrysalis Group

Project: Heart 106.2

Client: Miriam Neville, marketing and promotions director

Brief: Create reappraisal of the Heart brand by demonstrating an

understanding of our listeners’ lives

Agency: Elliott Borra Perlmutter

Writer: Julian Borra

Art director: Adrian Borra

Director: David Hartley

Production company: Brave Films

Exposure: TV in London region


Project: Sky Digital

Client: Scott Menneer, director of marketing

Brief:Increase Sky Digital’s subscriber base with free dish and box


Agency: St Luke’s

Writer: Seyoan Vela

Art director: Colin Lamberton

Director: John Birkin

Production company: Concrete

Exposure: National TV


Project: Virgin Mobile

Client: James Kydd, brand director

Brief: Communicate the difference of the new Virgin mobile

Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

Writers: Phil Cockrell, Richard Hartley

Art directors: Graham Storey, Giles Hepworth

Director: Kevin Thomas

Production company: Godman

Exposure: National multimedia campaign

Tetley Group

Project: Tetley tea bags

Client: Nigel Holland, marketing director

Brief: Tetley make the best tea

Agency: D’Arcy

Writer: Jonny Pittard

Art director: Steve Wakelam

Director: Richard Ollive

Production company: Richard Ollive Animation

Exposure: Regional TV

Peter Souter is executive creative director of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.

Become a member of Campaign

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a member

What is Campaign AI?

Our new premium service offering bespoke monitoring reports for your company.

Find out more

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content