Saatchi & Saatchi
Chemical weapons. They’re not just in Syria, you know. Adland has got them too and, judging by this week’s new releases, it is not afraid to use them.
Best soak yourself in chlorine and put on a wetsuit – this is going to get messy.
KABOOM! Hear that? That’s our first chemical weapon going off. It’s an Altered Reality Bomb. Beattie McGuinness Bungay has dropped it on East Coast and you now live in a world where train companies are happy to let you treat their property as if it were your own. Really? I was once chucked off a train at Basingstoke at midnight for putting my feet on the seat opposite, so forgive me if I don’t believe East Coast is about to let me get all comfy on one of its trains and attempt to cook a fry-up wearing just my boxers like I would do at home. On the plus side, BMB’s use of the Altered Reality Bomb is nicely shot and, in the alternative universe it seems to have created, Saatchi & Saatchi’s Christmas party is in Mauritius.
Pssstttttttttt. Gas. Coming from the east. Smirnoff. It can only mean one thing: not Chechen rebels, thankfully, but the welcome return of Mother and its patented brand of deadly Laughing Gas, as the UK’s most irreverent agency once again proceeds to make us all wet ourselves uncontrollably. But, no. What’s this? Some peacenik has decided to use a different gas: Art Gas. It’s shiny, it’s cool, it has got snakes and stuff and Station To Station-era Bowie haircuts. However, Art Gas also has a tendency to go straight over your head and leave you none the wiser at the end of it. You can pick it up in Saint Martins if you know the right people.
Bartle Bogle Hegarty clearly thought the dodgy bloke in the sheepskin coat sitting in the corner of the Blue Posts had sold it a Smart Bomb to unleash on its new British Airways ad. But, tick-tick-tick… parp. It has been flogged an Arse Bomb instead. This ad, beautifully shot as it is, seems to have left its humility on the cutting-room floor. This isn’t just any airline, this is British Airways. Marks & Spencer with wings on. We don’t fly. We soar. Explorers of the skies, more out there than Nasa and so on. Listen to the voiceover: "To pioneer… to engineer… to innovate… to imagine." Getting people safely from one side of the Atlantic to the other isn’t rocket science, you know. It’s aerodynamics.
The Reverend Henry Duncan believed in the dignity of the ordinary working man. A drawback if you want to manufacture training shoes in China, a bonus if you want to start a bank that actually exists to help the working classes. He’s one of the good guys. So is Damon Collins, so it comes as no surprise that the chemical weapon the People’s Democratic Republic of Joint has chosen to lob for the return of TSB and local banking is a Good Guy Grenade. If aimed correctly, it results in the public believing that the brand is in your corner and has got your back. I, for one, hope it works. Incidentally, having gone through the changeover from Lloyds to TSB myself, my nearest local bank is now five miles from my flat. Cheers, Rev.
The National Accident Helpline. Dogs. Bandages. Joe Pasquale. Brian Blessed. All in the same 30 seconds. I don’t know exactly which chemical weapons were used but Tony Blair will be sniffing around this one like a dog around shit.
Chief executive, Isobar
The work on show this week demonstrates the enduring power of film to beguile, persuade and, in some cases, leave a person wondering if perhaps all that creative effort and energy might have been better spent doing, rather than saying.
TSB. The head of retail banking at Lloyds was on the Today programme last week, conceding that spinning off TSB was always plan "B". So far, so cynical. Unfortunately, I find it hard to decouple the advertising from this context – and I suspect that the rest of the audience will too. A brand that has been reanimated at the behest of regulators after a £20 billion UK taxpayer bailout isn’t the most naturally sympathetic protagonist around which to spin yarns about the noble intent of your vision. That said, it’s a really lovely film in many other respects: it’s elegant and charming – and, if you’re going to try to convince the unconvincible, you can do no worse than choose Sir Patrick Stewart himself to deliver your heart-tugging voiceover. But it places rather too much faith in the power of propaganda over substance – and wasn’t that how the world of finance almost brought an end to life as we know it in the first place?
Smirnoff. Booze advertising has all gone a bit Jean-Pierre Jeunet lately. It all started with Heineken’s "the entrance" by Wieden & Kennedy, and a few of these now familiar signifiers are reprised here. There’s the backstage vibe of sophisticated, sexually ambiguous transgression; there’s the cavernous, edgily chic venue; there’s the all-ages cast of anti-bourgeois misfits, the Bowie-a-like bartender – and, of course, the velvet-tuxedoed stage act. Into all this wanders the most vanilla-looking couple imaginable, their role telegraphed by the fact that they are literally beige. Then a big pink snake emerges from between the barman’s buttons and cracks some apple-flavoured venom into their beverages, her pupils dilate and some surreal hedonism ensues. Despite the undeniable gorgeousness of it all, personally, I’d like a little more to tax my psychotherapist with. It may be vanilla with apple sauce, but it’s still a little too vanilla for me.
East Coast. I saw this one on TV and remembered it because it’s sweet, simple, direct and pleasing. I liked it because it’s honest – it’s a simple idea, delivered well, by the looks of it for not much budget. And it made me feel good about East Coast trains.
National Accident Helpline. I’m entirely comfortable with being manipulated, when it’s done with panache and sincerity. Have a problem with compensation claims culture? See how you feel about it after it has been embodied by a charming little bandage-wrapped Aardman-animated character. With Brian Blessed thrown in for good measure. Against your will, you will like it more and look to blame someone for something. Bravo.
British Airways. I struggle with this a bit. It’s because of the horse, and the kinetic sculpture. They make me wonder who this film is really for. I fly a lot, so I recognise this particular equine. It’s a light fixture in the posh lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5. And the kinetic sculpture hangs just above the entrance. Yes, they’re aiming at business travellers and, yes, those in the know will feel good. But, to me, this detail is a symptom of something discomfiting about this film overall, which is that it is more likely to make BA execs and staff feel great than current or future customers. As a recruitment and retention film for employees, it’s brilliant. For the rest of us, I wonder if all that brilliance might not have been directed at something more tangible. A case of horses for courses.