A man so fixated with motoring racing that he talks like a Formula 1 car and a woman on the end of a sex line admitting to having "hips that are spreading like an oil slick".
Both were scenarios heard at this year's annual Aerial Awards, held by the Radio Advertising Bureau in association with Campaign at London's UCL Bloomsbury Theatre on 4 November. With ads such as these (for Foster's and Ginsters, respectively) creatives demonstrated that radio ads could be imaginatively conceived, excellently written and well directed.
During its first ten years, the RAB focused on media agencies, with some time spent convincing advertisers and creative agencies to invest more in the medium. Now, the equation has been turned around with significant emphasis on creative agencies and the appointment of Chris O'Shea, the creative director of Banks Hoggins O'Shea/FCB, as the president of the Aerials Foundation, a body that will "encourage radio advertising to be proud of".
The category winners, chosen by the assembled throng of 560 creatives via electronic keypads, gave positive signals for the future.
A spot for Ginsters pasties, by the Bartle Bogle Hegarty duo Justin Moore and Steve Robertson, took the Grand Prix gold award for best ad. The ad was in line with the general tone of spots that do well at the Aerials: well produced but playing for laughs.
However, some observers said this year was less predictable and offered more variety. O'Shea says: "It's become a cliche to say this, but I'd say it was not a vintage year. But there was some good stuff in there. There was no discernible trend, which was a good thing. There have been years where one idea has dominated but this time there was no movement for one thing, no definite direction."
The excellent Ginsters spot not withstanding, there were fewer ads that had the audience rolling around with laughter. Andrew Ingram, the director of the Aerials Foundation at the RAB, says: "It's easy for funny jokes to come through but there was more serious stuff in there from advertisers such as Honda and Prudential."
Keith Terry and Julian Dyer of Saatchi & Saatchi created the winning ad in the charity and public service category with their powerful spot, "child minder", for the National Aids Trust. It juxtaposes two women, a feckless party-going teenager with a caring, well-qualified childminder, and asks which the audience would choose to look after a child. Then we learn that the more qualified woman is HIV positive, before being asked if this will affect the decision.
The Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners team Ken Sara and Joe Elsom managed to combine humour with a serious message with their series of ads for COI Communications/Department of Health. The ads, designed to promote issues of adult sexual health, were part of a multimedia campaign developed by the pair using the theme of the "sex lottery". The spots won best overall campaign, voted for by the Aerials judging panel.
A key feature of the evening was an increased emphasis on craft skills. In previous years, the craft section of the night was almost buried away, selected by a different jury and not involving the audience at all. This year, the three categories (casting, direction and sound design) were moved to the start of proceedings and voted on by the audience.
O'Shea says: "Almost every awards scheme has a craft section but it's often seen as the poor relation, a sop to stop the techies getting the hump. That's a mistake, so we brought the craft skills into the main event because it's important. They can stop a good script from becoming a mediocre commercial."
Winners in the craft categories were among the strongest of the night. The BBH team Sam Oliver and Shishir Patel took the Aerial for best direction thanks to brilliant performances from a grandmother and a belligerent grandson in the "polite" spot for KFC.
These are the kind of ads that the Aerials Foundation hopes to encourage more of. It will do so with a two-step programme of "education" (training for creatives, producers and account managers) and "inspiration". Ingram says: "The biggest single barrier is an emotional barrier. A lot of people in the business don't like radio advertising, arguing: 'It's not bad, it's just not good enough.' If we can get people to like radio advertising, there will be more confidence about it."
O'Shea adds: "There's a truism with TV that the public says commercials are often better than the programmes. I want to achieve that with radio."
SEXUAL HEALTH AWARENESS
Date: February 2003
Agency: Delaney Lund Knox Warren
Length: 50 seconds
Title: "genital warts"
SFX: Drum roll.
Male voice: (Enthusiastic, as though advertising a fantastic new game) This Valentine's, if you have sex without a condom, you're playing ... (The "Sex Lottery" jingle).
Which of 25 sexually transmitted infections could Cupid bring you tonight? Genital warts!
MV: Yes, this Valentine's, don't forget those three little words - human papilloma virus. Surprise your loved one with cauliflower-like lumps on your genitals. And - warts this? They could spread to your bottom and scrotum. Have them cut off, but they may not leave for good. It's perfect for incurable romantics - an incurable virus. You can be together forever.
SFX: Naff organ salute followed by a clash of cymbals.
VO: Don't play the Sex Lottery. Use a condom. For more advice visit playingsafely.co.uk or call 0800 567123.
Date: November 2002
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Length: 20 seconds
Title: "sex line"
In each of the Ginsters scripts the "honest" character is talking with their mouth full.
Phone girl: So what does my big, strong loverman want me to do for him?
Punter: Tell me what you look like.
Phone girl: I've got dank, mousy hair, hips that are spreading like an oil slick, three chins and I'm wearing leggings.
SFX: Phone line goes dead.
VO: Ginsters. Real honest food.