Ah, 2001. The real start of the new millennium. But as I sit back at the office nursing a dyspeptic stomach and a couple of equally sickly New Year's resolutions, no apes are to be seen wandering through reception chucking bones in the air.

Ah, 2001. The real start of the new millennium. But as I sit back at the office nursing a dyspeptic stomach and a couple of equally sickly New Year's resolutions, no apes are to be seen wandering through reception chucking bones in the air.

At least the Toyota Avensis commercial enters into the Kubrickian spirit of the occasion. A man at a space tracker station is asking if there is intelligent life out there. Funnily enough, this was a question I asked myself when I checked out the new train timetables.

In my case, I concluded no. But then, I hadn't discovered the Toyota Avensis, with its satellite navigation, thundering towards me. Our hero runs out of the tracking station and hurls his headphones into the air. Stanley, you would have been proud, son. (Well, quite proud.)

At first glance, the Robinson's Barley Water ads did seem to have New Yeary echoes in that they seemed to represent the instant ageing process that accompanies imbibing of beverages rather stronger than Robinson's.

At second glance, it wasn't so clear quite what they were saying. The pictures were intriguing, the body copy lyrical. The connection between the two - mystifying.

Next up, in tune with the festive mode, a couple of singing commercials.

The first is for Halifax. I read that Howard from the Sheldon branch was chosen from 750 colleagues to be the star of their all-singing, all-dancing ad. And it's got the lot - dandelions, dogs, singing fish, people running backwards and Howard going for his life, all cracking stuff. Just one small question. Why? Somewhere lurking among the performing fauna, there was the fact that the current account pays 4.07 per cent interest. Now isn't that alone worth making a song and dance about? (Howard has not given up his day job but the fish is booked for the next Westlife tour.)

The next singing ad started unpromisingly with Madeleine Albright bopping in a supermarket, singing Respect. She was followed by various artists, journalists, models, Nobel Prize winners, Isabel Allende and Dr Ruth Westheimer all doing the same. I was about to reach for the pot of bile, when the end title said: 'All refugees. All success stories. UNHCR.' It surprised me.

It made me think. So it worked.

Finally, two campaigns in the 'follow that' category. We all know how hard it is to walk in the steps of giants.

Your respectable size 10s tend to look like Ronnie Corbett's trainers.

So pity the poor chaps at The Leith Agency (well, probably not poor, knowing the size of Carling's budget) having to follow, admittedly at some distance, the 'Dambuster' ad et al. The result is three respectable films ('riveting', 'amazing' and 'blinding') which are executionally pleasing, quite amusing and all based on the not unfamiliar wheeze of using letters from the brand name in the endline. And that, for all their good points, made them for me a little, er, disappoint-ing.

No such reservations, however, with the Volkswagen Passat campaign.

Not so much walking in the footsteps of giants as thundering through their tyre tracks. VW just doesn't seem to know how to put a foot, of whatever size, wrong. Like all great campaigns, the thought is wonderfully lateral and deceptively simple: 'The beautifully crafted new Passat. You'll want to keep it that way.' We see a man hiring a cab to take his muddy dog back after a walk, a father trying to persuade a driving instructor to fail his son, and a dad taking his family for a walk in a safari park - all trying to safeguard their beloved Passats. Clever, charming, funny, relevant, brilliant.

In the steps of giants or not, the team(s) responsible for these will walk.

See. There is intelligent life out there.


Project: Halifax''s new current account

Client: James Bolton, marketing communications director

Brief: Position the Halifax as the customer champion by demonstrating

the value in current accounts that they deliver to their customers

Agency: Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners

Writer: Malcolm Green

Art director: Gary Betts

Director: Big TV

Production company: Propaganda

Exposure: National TV


Project: Carling

Client: Kevin Wallace, marketing manager - Carling

Brief: Dramatise the desirability of the UK''s favourite lager

Agency: The Leith Agency

Writer: Dougal Wilson

Art director: Gareth Howells

Director: Calle Astrand

Production company:

Exposure: National and satellite TV


Project: Robinson''s Barley Water

Client: Lizzie Pawsey, brand controller

Brief: Make Robinson''s Barley Water relevant to a new audience of young


Agency: HHCL & Partners

Writer: Justin Hooper

Art director: Christian Cotterill

Photographer: Bobbie Neil Adams

Exposure: National magazines


Project: VW Passat

Clients: Alan Doyle, communications manager; David George,

communications manager for large cars

Brief: Aesthetic engineering from Volkswagen

Agency: BMP DDB

Writer: Ewan Patterson

Art director: Rob Jack

Director: Rocky Morton

Production company: Partisan Midi Minuit

Exposure: National TV


Project: Toyota Avensis

Client: Paul Philpott, marketing director

Brief: Communicate to consumers how the intelligent technology in the

Avensis works with them to make driving stress free

Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi

Writer: Ross Ludwig

Art director: Duncan Marshall

Director: Kevin Thomas

Production company: Thomas & Thomas

Exposure: National TV


Project: UNHCR

Client: Elisabeth Nolet, chief of public affairs

Brief: Celebrate UNHCR''s 50-year success record of helping refugees

Agency: Young & Rubicam Geneva

Writer: Bob Heron

Art director: Karcsi Berczy

Director: Alastair Thain

Production company: Annex Films

Exposure: Donated TV time