I took my daughter to see Swan Lake the other day. Surprisingly for both of us, I was in tears during the final act. Now, either I'm a big girl's blouse (my daughter's explanation) or I'm simply an example of the current collective desire for a return to real values and a more caring society - a natural reaction against the apocalyptic banking crisis and subsequent collapse of our consumerist predicated belief system (my explanation). Either way, these days I want my ads to be positive and uplifting in some way.
Honda (2). The ad explains that the CR-Z has three driving modes: Sport, Normal and Economy. It all feels rather aloof and serious, a definite departure from the warmth and easy wit of the Keiller ads. Yes, it is beautiful and intriguing, and the sound design is hypnotic.
But it's a car ad, it's of a type. It makes a salient point about a product benefit and tries to use logic to make me want a Honda, but I don't want Honda to convince me with rational debate. No, Honda, please don't make car ads. I want another one of those inspiring, unpredictable, joyful films that just make me love you unconditionally and make the world a lovely place.
Harvey Nichols (3) has consistently produced some of the industry's smartest, most elegant and intelligent print work over the years. On their day, Harvey Nics' ads are as good as it gets in both idea and execution, so I'm sure the retailer doesn't need me to tell it that this one isn't up to its own high standards.
I'm a big fan of what Mother has done with Stella Artois (1). The brand feels fresh and reinvigorated. The TV and poster ads are always beautifully put together, as are the new online films for its carbon-efficient, lightweight glass bottle. It has lovingly created a couple of episodes of a fictitious 60s French TV show as a device to showcase music videos from the Mystery Jets and Marina and the Diamonds that highlight the bottle's benefits. It is a smart premise, but, unfortunately, the content fails to live up to it, which is reflected in the disappointing number of views that both of these films have so far had.
Flake (6). There can be no argument that the Kate Moss hologram at Alexander McQueen's autumn/winter 2006 show was the inspiration for this ad. But, frankly, I don't know that I particularly care. Like it or not, it's time we accepted that YouTube is now the default reference library for advertising creatives, so stop being outraged every time it gets plundered. Regardless, this is a gorgeous piece of film that brings something uplifting into the post-Budget living rooms of Britain. And, hopefully, it has put to rest that grizzly old chocolate-knob gag that has spluttered on for at least 20 years past its sell-by date.
The idea for Aviva (4) is a print campaign that highlights the good deeds that the company has done for its customers. It then asks you to go to the "tell us your story" website to nominate someone who has helped you or your local community. True, it has a positive intent, the body language of a brand that cares and the desire to celebrate good, honest folk. And maybe I'm being too cynical here, given what I've written about being uplifting and so on, but it feels like Aviva is taking advantage of the public mood. I am sure I am not alone in feeling uneasy about an insurance company positioning itself as a real local hero.
The Sun (5) - a typically cheeky bit of upbeat fun in the form of a World Cup sweepstake app. I think The Sun has played a blinder in this World Cup and hit the mood of the nation just right. Please, let us dream.
But as sure as night follows day and punk follows glam rock, we'll all get a bit fed up of being touchy-feely and yearn for a dose of gritty reality and cynicism. And I will man-up at the ballet. But not for a little while yet.
TEACHER - Tony Cullingham, tutor/course leader, Watford creative advertising course, West Herts College
I'm sad. A big, doe-eyed, tear-from-Bambi's- achy-breaky-heart kind of sad, because this is the last week of college. Last week, I was immersed in fizzing conversation with my students and ideas that really made my head spin. Now, I find myself all alone, scraping the mould spores out of my tea cup as I talk to my gnome collection on the window sill. Just let me see one great ad to confirm my lambs are indeed going to happy pastures ...
Wow and double wow with a Flake (6) on top. I've been hoping Flake would ditch the corny outdated phallus route it has been ramming down our throats for years, and this TV spot shows an angelic woman swirling in the air while her magnificent brown dress unfurls to a plaintive piano track. Someone has obviously been inspired by Alexander McQueen's holographic video of Kate Moss a few years back. Well, ads do follow fashion. Chocolate ads should be as enjoyable as chocolate, and this is potentially fattening - a simple and apposite visual analogy of the brand's identity. Good to see the old advertising techniques are still popular.
Stella Artois (1) has pushed the bateau out with a stylised pastiche of a French 60s gameshow, which includes a video clip of Marina and the Diamonds' I Am Not A Robot. What all this has to do with the message (about a lighter bottle) is beyond me. Marina is about as relevant to French chic as Leonard Cohen is to cage fighting. Johnny Hallyday or Francoise Hardy would have been a better choice. True, it's different, but it doesn't emotionally engage in a way previous Stella ads have done. Not my tasse de the.
The Honda (2) TV ad for its hybrid car is another intelligent and understated execution from a confident brand. The film depicts a journey shot from the point of view of the driver. It is tinted according to the three driving modes: green for eco (cue tree-lined avenues), red for cruising and blue for urban driving. These rich, gorgeous images set against different audio beats wouldn't be out of place in Tate Modern. A well-crafted cinematic communication.
Hot on the hooves of The Grand National Sweepstake Shaker is The Sun (5)'s World Cup Sweepstake Shaker. Shake your iPhone and a random World Cup team appears. This app is just what you expect to see from a footy-mad brand - a quick piece of trivial nonsense that will keep fans happy for about the same time it takes to shout: "Capello out!" It is harmless and aimless, like Emile Heskey.
Real community stories provide the executional platform for the latest print offering from Aviva (4). Insurance brands use case studies and testimonials with woeful regularity. To a man of my age, this feels like a watered-down version of Commercial Union's classic "We never make a drama out of a crisis". Still, there is a clear and solid strategy that works across all media platforms, although the poster medium doesn't readily lend itself to narrative content and the headlines are tonally too soft to be of interest.
I tell my students that every brief is an opportunity. I remember the great Jeff Stark asking the account teams at Saatchis for the most mundane briefs. He wanted to prove you could write great ads to any brief. And he did so with regular abandon.
So, well done to the team for taking the "Starkian" principle on board for the Harvey Nichols (3) summer-sales brief. These surreal press ads visualise the randomness of sales shopping, with dresses and other items of clothing choosing the heads of customers through fun-fair and pleasure-arcade-style games. It is a lateral leap from a dull brief.
That's it. I am happy now. The business is having fun. My lambs should be fine, and I wish I could join them. Roll on September.
1. STELLA ARTOIS
Client: Stella Artois
Art director: Mother
Client: Ian Armstrong, manager, customer communications, Honda
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Writer: Sam Heath
Art director: Chris Groom
Director: Frank Budgen
Production company: Gorgeous Enterprises
3. HARVEY NICHOLS
Project: Harvey Nichols heads
Client: Julia Bowe, marketing director, Harvey Nichols
Brief: This summer's most-coveted sale
Agency: DDB London
Writer: Steve Hall
Art director: Daniel Seager
Photographers: Anoush Abrar, Aimee Hoving
Exposure: National/regional press
Project: Tell us your story
Client: Susan Helmont, head of brand, Aviva
Brief: Illustrate how Aviva has recognised what is most important to its
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writer: Slim Foster
Art director: Brett James
Photographer: Gary Salter
Exposure: National outdoor, press
5. THE SUN
Project: The Sun Sweepstake Shaker: World Football special
Client: Jenny Williams, head of brand, The Sun
Brief: Enhance people's enjoyment of the World Cup with an engaging
Digital production company: Jigsaw London
Exposure: Online, iPhone
Project: Unfold a Flake
Client: Julie Mercer, head of marketing, Cadbury
Brief: Highlight the fragility and delicacy of the product
Art director: Augusto Sola
Director: Baillie Walsh
Production company: Home Corp
Exposure: TV, UK and Ireland