So how much does a designer who records most of the TV he watches

and fast-forwards through the commercials know about advertising? Not a

huge amount, it's true. But I do know a bit about what makes

communication work and, in particular, the way that humour - and its

slightly more sophisticated elder sibling, wit - can help to engage the

sympathy and interest of an audience. So, sticking with what I know (and

hoping to conceal my bottomless ignorance of your chosen calling), let's

see if this week's ads make us laugh .

How funny do you find the idea of a seal having its skull caved in with

a baseball bat? For me, it's something less than a thigh-slapper. So the

Nescafe Ice posters, appropriately enough, leave me very cold


Presumably this is aimed at kids, so there's always the "hey, grandad,

you just don't get it" defence. Er, no, I don't; and I also think the

illustration is quite nasty - falling quite definitely on the wrong side

of the poorly drawn/naively charming divide.

Right, a little bit of politics next. And Labour would like us to join

them in ribald hoots of derision at the thought of a Conservative


But, really, film poster pastiches! If this had been a student brief,

it's the kind of solution I would expect half of the class to come up

with; the top-of-head idea that needs to be put aside before the real

work begins. It's crudely executed, too, with a fraction of the bite

that political cartoonists such as Steve Riddell or Peter Brookes get

into their work, day after day. Laugh? I nearly took the Conservatives


The Foster's commercial shows us an Australian-drinking-and-thinking

feng shui consultant at work. Quite a funny idea, I suppose. But the

punchline seems to be slightly thrown away - with a wide shot of our

hero's work that doesn't really register until you've seen it a few

times. At least the lavatorial humour is appropriate, though.

The campaign for Fox's Biscuits is, frankly, mystifying. Whatever

possessed the client to spend huge sums on a series of commercials in

which dysfunctional people, maddened by modern technology, are treated

by therapists from the Fox's biscuit factory? To make matters worse, the

treatment doesn't even work; the nutcases remain nuts. I can only

explain this campaign by imagining a newly promoted marketing director,

brow-beaten by his agency into believing that this approach - radical!

Zeitgeisty! Off the wall! - was the perfect way to make his mark. Sadly,


Just as you're starting to wonder why Campaign invited this curmudgeonly

know-nothing to give his uninformed and ungracious opinions ... relief,

in the form of the Aero hula-hooping mouse ad. It's very funny,

flawlessly executed (with a mini classic of a performance from the

slobbish Geordie bloke) and totally charming. Now that's what I call a

successful use of humour.

Which brings me, finally, to a totally unfunny commercial. But that's

OK, because the last thing the new Jaguar X-type wants us to do is


Lustful and lascivious feelings are the kind this aims to evoke; and,

speaking for myself - sadly no longer a member of the "new Jag

generation" that's being seduced here - it's pretty successful in this.

It's highly atmospheric, the visuals and music combining to create a

powerfully amoral mood of incipient depravity. (Or is that just me?)

Anyway, thanks very much for having me. And, before I head back to my

own parallel universe, let me leave you with this thought: like any

sharp-edged tool, humour needs to be handled with the greatest



Project: X-type

Client: Phil Cazaly, director, global marketing

Brief: Create an advertising campaign for the launch of the Jaguar


Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

Writer: Marwan Khuri

Art director: Jill Applebaum

Director: Jeff Darling

Production company:

Exposure: National TV


Project: Election campaign

Client: The Labour Party

Brief: "You can't trust the Tories on the economy"

Agency: TBWA/London

Writer: Alan Moseley

Art director: Graham Cappi

Typographer: Dan Beckett

Exposure: National 48-sheet posters


Project: Foster's Instant Karma

Client: John Boatia, brands director

Brief: Continue to promote Foster's through the "He who drinks

Australian, thinks Australian" campaign

Agency: M&C Saatchi

Writer: Johnny Lander

Art director: Steve Paskin

Director: Danny Kleinman

Production company: Spectre

Exposure: National terrestrial and Sky TV


Project: Nescafe Ice: seal

Client: Katy Hilditch, senior category manager, impulse drinks

Brief: Further the image of Nescafe Ice as a young urban drink

Agency: McCann-Erickson

Creative team: Rob Brown and Damon Hutson-Slinn

Animator/illustrator: Damon Hutson-Slinn

Exposure: National urban poster sites


Project: Aero

Client: Andy Groves, brand manager

Brief: Make Aero stand out in a crowded marketplace

Agency: Lowe Lintas

Writer: Vince Squibb

Art director: Vince Squibb

Director: Vince Squibb

Production companies: Paul Weiland Film Company, Glassworks, Passion


Exposure: National TV


Project: Brand campaign

Client: Neil Hepplewhite, marketing manager

Brief: Continue to express Fox's mission in a relevant and contemporary


Agency: St Luke's

Writer: Alistair Campbell

Art director: Suzanne Hails

Director: Declan Lowney

Production company: Tomboy Films

Exposure: Regional TV