The pressure to come up with a replacement for John Smith's cardboard cut-out man must have been immense but TBWA/London did the business in spades with the Campaign of the Year to relaunch John Smith's using the comedian Peter Kay.
Like him or loathe him, the decision to dump the "no-nonsense man" was a brave move. As the face of a marketing campaign spanning TV, poster and retail advertising since 1997, he had been responsible for pushing John Smith's into top spot in the ale market.
But when the two campaigns are compared, it is hard to imagine them as anything near equal. The cardboard cut-out ads felt two-dimensional and creatively tame, whereas the personable everyman Kay adds life, straight-talking reality and a certain spark.
The TV ads - there were five of them last year from the launch in May - have entered people's everyday lives and the common lexicon. There is barely a person in the country unfamiliar with the ads' straplines, such as "top bombing" and "'ave it". Everyone from David Beckham to Davina McCall has been captured in the media shouting lines from the commercials.
That has contributed to an estimated £1 million worth of publicity.
For the relaunch, the John Smith's brand director, John Botia, wanted to keep the core "no nonsense" idea but refresh the brand values in a way consumers could relate to. Paul Silburn, now the senior creative partner at TBWA/London, came up with the whole campaign concept.
The TV campaign launched with "monsters" and "ball skills", showing Kay as a straight-talking no-nonsense character. The phrase "'ave it" was coined by Kay in the second execution "ball skills". As "'ave it" was rapidly adopted by the nation, fuelled by World Cup fever, TBWA/London took advantage of the swell of interest. A below-the-line campaign, entitled "Just 'ave it", launched in on- and off-trade outlets with national media partners including The Sun and The Daily Telegraph as well as online with a "No nonsense free kick" game. Hundreds of "'ave it" loudhailers were distributed at Premiership matches. Nike's threat to sue over the title of the campaign raised its profile, particularly as the everyman positioning of the campaign juxtaposed well with the slick corporate promotions of the World Cup.
During the Commonwealth Games in Manchester "diving" aired, sparking the "top bombing" catchphrase which went on to appear in pubs and on T-shirts in independent imitation of the campaign.
The "no nonsense" campaign also featured an execution that failed to get past the TV regulators but found a lease of life online. The "babies" ad, in which Kay explains explicitly how babies are made, was launched as a viral execution making it to number two on portal Lycos' viral chart - one of the key popularity measurement websites.
The notoriety of the content of the ad found its way on to Patrick Kielty's late-night chat show and gained more coverage as a result. The final ad, "mum", has only aired once and is due for a full run this year.
The new "no nonsense" campaign has delivered in sales too. Overall, off-trade sales (a good indicator of public demand as on-trade sales are highly affected by distribution deals that brewers have with pubs) are up by more than 18 per cent.
In comparison to the previous campaign - and that of the average performance of the advertising of other beer brands - the Kay campaign has performed extremely well. The five TV executions have scored between 68 and 82 per cent ("diving" being the highest) according to Millward Brown's enjoyment scale. The norm for beer ads is 55 per cent.
The media strategy, devised by Media-Vest, focused heavily on sports programming. To prevent the campaign theme from narrowing to focus only on Kay, a number of sponsorship packages, including that of Sky's The SP, were launched across radio and TV.
Despite its victory as Campaign of the Year, it was a close-run thing against Bartle Bogle Hegarty's launch campaign for Microsoft's games console, Xbox, and Saatchi & Saatchi's three executions for the NSPCC's "full stop" campaign.
Xbox's cradle-to-grave ad "Champagne", which was banned by the television regulators, became one of the viral executions of the year and it won a gold Lion at Cannes in the best creative film category.
The launch campaign, which aimed to establish Xbox as a brand before moving on to promote specific games titles, also included the TV execution "mosquito" with the overall strapline: "Life is short, play more." Unfortunately, the campaign suffered from lower-than-expected sales as Xbox drastically failed to shift units in its battle against Sony and its dominant PlayStation2 console. Much of that can be pegged to Xbox's marketing strategy, such as pricing the non-established console at the top end of the market at £399 at its launch.
A lack of positive results for the brand hampered the case for what was creatively a solid body of work.
The NSPCC "cartoon" spot, which featured an animated child being battered by its father, won a gold at Cannes. In an NOP survey, 88 per cent of the public that viewed the ad agreed it would make people more aware of the need to take action. The moving and powerful campaign was also a strong contender for Advertiser of the Year.
Recent winners: ITV Digital (2001); Skoda (2000); Levi's Sta-Prest (1999); Volkswagen Polo (1998); Volkswagen "affordability" (1997); Conservative Party (1996).