The Thinkboxes: May/June 2014 Shortlist

McDonald’s 'Hunter gatherer'

In this latest instalment of the McDonald’s "favourites" campaign, we follow a father-to-be who sets out into the night on a mission to satisfy the cravings of his pregnant girlfriend. But the late-night stores are closing and those that are still open can’t help him. Then he sees a McDonald’s sign, bright like a beacon, and knows he’ll now be able to bring home the bacon – or, in this case, a serving of pickled cucumbers. The brief was to showcase how McDonald’s is there, when it’s needed, for its customers – any time, day or night.

Creative agency Leo Burnett Creative team Steve Robertson, Laurie Smith Client Stephen Hill Production company Outsider Director James Rouse

National Express 'Silver Lady'

This ad, featuring the veteran actor and singer David Soul, was designed to address a serious perception problem. These days, coach travel is regarded by many as old-fashioned and uncomfortable. However, National Express positions itself as a good-time brand – and the brief here was to bring that to life. Thus the choice of Soul as a happy-go-lucky coach driver, singing one of his hits, Silver Lady, as he conveys his passengers across Britain. As the campaign hashtag has it: "waytogo."

Creative agency Isobel Creative team David Alexander, Rob Fletcher Client Susanna Holdsworth Production company HSI Director Olly Williams

Pets at Home 'My pet moments'

In February, Pets at Home embarked on a social media campaign to collect film clips from pet owners. More than 13,000 clips were uploaded – providing the source material for this ad. It’s a montage of heart-warming moments, showing children (and some adults) with their pets. The message is that, while pet ownership is full of happy times, it can be peppered with the not-so-good times, such as visits to the vet. That’s where Pets at Home comes in – to reassure and support owners throughout their time with their pets.

Creative Agency Know Communications Creative team Nick Hastings, Jon Mitchell, Darryl George Client Scott Jefferson Production Company Red Bee Media Director Joan Hillary

Royal London 'Ye olde pensions'

Royal London is a 150-year-old brand with bags of heritage – but it suffered from low awareness. This ad was designed to rectify that by making the company stand out in a category – pensions and investments – not known for creative firepower. Thus the ad’s quirky, tongue-in-cheek approach as it shows how Royal London might have helped people through troubled times in history. The aim was to evoke an enduring set of values but with a fresh and contemporary tone, as embodied in the sardonic catchline: "We’re so yesterday."

Creative agency VCCP Creative Team Chris Birch, Jonny Parker Client Emma Hill Production Company Park Pictures Director Nathan Price

Wilko 'Keeping up with the Rogers'

In Wilko's first-ever TV ad, the captain of a pirate ship is determined to show who's king of the seas; so, with a makeover in mind, he leads his crew to the nearest Wilko store. His scurvy crew bring back their spoils to their ravaged vessel and set to work. The transformation is miraculous: garish print fabric sails now adorn the masts; below decks, new wallpaper, scatter cushions and scented candles are de rigeur, and there are lovely curtains for the gun ports. The moral of the tale is that, where there's a Wilko, there's a way.

Creative agency TBWA\Manchester Creative team Zoe Harris, Ant Harris Client Fiona Gunn Production Company Blink Director Zak Emerson

A view from Academy Member...

John Townshend, Founder, Now

John Townshend, Founder, Now

It's perfectly possible to analyse the techniques we use in TV ads...

There’s slice of life – or slice of gherkin, in this case. McDonald’s, like a classy old friend, ploughing its well-crafted, warming furrow.

Then there’s the period-drama route. Two ads here look like the best of British advertising in the 80s. Royal London’s ad in particular is endearingly silly and wittily written.

There’s the YouTube/You’ve Been Framed reality stuff – sweet, if well-trodden.

Then there’s the celebrity route. And we all know the rules, don’t we? Must be relevant to the brand, not overwhelm the product, blah-de-blah. But David Soul the coach driver? On every level it’s wrong – but so right. It manages to be funny, beautiful and make you get a little emotional all at once. It’s brilliantly, illogically daft and, of course, it defies analysis. Like all the best things do.

This is one Thinkbox Academy member’s view.  What do you think? You can view these brilliant ads at

The Thinkboxes, in association with Campaign, are the only bi-monthly awards that celebrate the UK’s world-beating TV ad creativity, in all its forms.

The Thinkboxes are judged by the 250-plus Academy members.

Thinkbox is the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK, in all its forms. Its shareholders are Channel 4, ITV, Sky Media, Turner Media Innovations and UKTV. Thinkbox works with the marketing community with a single ambition: to help advertisers get the best out of today’s TV.


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