Are people falling back in love with advertising?
A few years ago, if you mentioned you worked in advertising, people would happily tell you they preferred the ads on telly to the programmes around them. People loved talking about good ads. Papers loved writing about them. They were what would now be termed "viral".
More recently, though, on telling someone what one does for a living, they'd smile politely and mention the weather. Demand for great, engaging ads has outstripped supply.
But that feels like it's changing.
The breaks in "event programming", such as The X Factor, are becoming increasingly populated by "event advertising": big ads that grab the public's attention and create conversations.
And in-depth research (setting up a few columns on Tweetdeck) confirms people certainly are talking about them.
Skoda (1) "made of meaner stuff' is a good example. The words "love the new Skoda ad just brilliant" have been reTweeted myriad times. And, apart from the Tweeter's awful punctuation, you can see why. Building on the excellent "cake" commercial, this film for the strong little Fabia shows a different corner of the factory. The nasty, evil zone in which all the tough bastards in the world get together to punch doors, fire crossbows and drain venom from snakes. It's a beautifully observed bit of self-reference. The rather scary version of the original track is also very satisfying; there's only so much Julie Andrews one can take before wanting to wrap her up in razor wire and roll her down that bloody hill.
The Currys PC World Megastores (2) ad, too, is going down well. "I think the new curry's advert with C3PO and R2D2 has possibly just taken best ad of 2010" is among many complimentary Tweets. "The greatest electrical store in our galaxy" is a class positioning.
It's simple, tangible and quite possibly true. If the brief was "Don't bugger around lads, just give us a tour of the shed. How you do it is up to you", this nailed it nicely.
Epson's (3) online film is as exciting as one of those Top Gear challenges. Mainly because it was produced by the guys who make those Top Gear challenges. A car has to complete a racing circuit before the printer strapped to it has spurted out a load of sheets. No web chatter for this one, but top marks for having a stab at making what has to be the lowest-interest category next to dust sheets vaguely engaging.
All the new Range Rover (4) Evoque needs to do to get people talking about it is simply exist. It's a beautiful thing and deserves equally drool-worthy comms. This website, though slick, feels like Nike True City, so I'm not sure it screams of innovation as much as the product it's promoting.
The Malaria No More (5) idea is a neat one. Seed a trailer for a new horror movie that sounds truly gruesome and when people find out more, they find the "killer" is actually ... malaria! Only a handful of Tweets here, ironically, as it's an idea designed to be viral. Perhaps that's because the "stars" of the film are so annoying, you'd seek out a disease-carrying insect and stab them with it just to finish them off.
Argos' (6) Christmas offering featuring Bing Crosby seems to be dividing opinion. Some viewers have noticed a similarity with Volkswagen's excellent "Singin' In The Rain" ad of a few years back, while one fan, clearly getting carried along with the seasonal cheer, Tweeted: "Fucking love that Bing Crosby beat-boxing Argos ad."
The success of borrowed interest ideas relies on the borrowed stuff being so incredibly awesome no-one can misattribute it. Whether that'll happen in this case will be a nice surprise for Argos' board to chat about on Christmas morning.
Yes, if consumers are indeed becoming enamoured once more with the art form we call a day job, it can only be good news. Clients will be forced to ask for better and better work. And our jobs will become more and more fun.
DIRECTOR - Rocky Morton, director and founder, MJZ
Though MJZ has many international bases, at heart I'm a proud Brit. Now that I'm spending much more time in the UK, I find myself re-energised by the creativity of British advertising. So I'm pleased to be able to gently "Simon Cowell" my way through some recent ads.
The Currys PC World Megastores (2) ad is a masterpiece of seamless mutual retail masturbation - and just as pleasurable. George Lucas' franchise division has new Star Wars product to hype and the Currys/PC World operation "gotta move these refrigerators and colour TVs". Simple solution is for Lucas to provide a couple of beloved robots, R2-D2 and C-3PO, to appear in the Currys commercial. The Star Wars product gets horizontally integrated with the Currys goods - and you can't see the join. The droids sightsee through the impressively laid-out store and eyeball the goodies. Clever bits of business include R2-D2 swooning over a pink Henry vacuum cleaner. The humour is deft. The message delivered.
Skoda's (1) new ad is a witty sequel to its popular "cake" spot that cleverly posited that its cars were confected Betty Crocker-style out of sugar, batter and other sweet-tooth delicacies, to a soundtrack of My Favourite Things by Julie Andrews. The sequel moves Skoda's manufacturing plant into a factory where hard-edged mechanics nut, bite and punch the sheet metal into shape and laser-burn the Skoda nameplate to craft a tungsten-tough auto. Cute touch is a cameo appearance by a jelly-bearing sous-chef from the original ad. It's the alpha-male counterpart to the first ad. Collectively, these two ads market the Fabia effectively to both genders. The gals see a car "full of lovely stuff" and the guys have a car "made of meaner stuff". That's savvy salesmanship.
Creating an ad that targets Christmas shoppers is always a challenge. Holiday iconography is well-worn and hardly attention-grabbing. Solution? Take the most iconic symbol (Bing Crosby in White Christmas) and, using state-of-the-art CGI, turn him into a beat-box rapper. The juxtaposition in the new Argos (6) ad is funny and memorable. The well-cast audience enjoying "MC Bingle" represents the desirable shoppers that Argos wants in its stores. Message and market are fused in this skilfully executed spot.
You cannot help but want to support the organisation Malaria No More (5) that is campaigning to eliminate that dreadful disease. It has a 90-second internet ad designed to stoke awareness. It's cleverly conceived and slickly executed in the style of a teen horror-movie trailer. Four suitably gormless kids in a Blair Witch-style flick. But the kids to whom such films appeal are unlikely to grasp that this is a faux movie. And the smarter kids who might care about Third World health issues may check out before the message is revealed. Full marks for noble intent and creativity. But probably too clever.
Range Rover (4) has a sensational online campaign for its new Evoque. One click and you enter a matrix enabling you to experience the travel passions of notables in cities throughout the world. I sped down the Embankment with George Lamb, then accompanied Georgina Chapman to her NYC facialist. It's a seductive cyber-universe to enter and it fuses the car's elite image effortlessly to the lifestyles of celebrities who would-be buyers of luxury cars aspire to emulate.
For centuries, people have wanted to know the answer to three questions: "Is it possible to create a totally dire five-minute commercial that gets worse as it unspools?", "Is it possible that by shooting cliched blue-hued footage, throwing in a Top Gear racing motif, adding DJ Shadow-y music, frantic editing and faux race-against-the-clock shenanigans, you can bore and confuse viewers?", "Can a commercial intended to make you want to buy a printer actually have you wanting to projectile-vomit and buy ANYTHING made by a rival manufacturer?" Well, the answer to all three questions is yes. See Epson's (3) new online commercial.
Project: Made of meaner stuff
Client: Heidi Cartledge, national communications manager, Skoda
Brief: Introduce the new Skoda Fabia vRS - the darker side of happiness
Agency: Fallon London
Creatives: Chris Bovill, John Allison
Director: Nick Gordon
Production company: Somesuch
2. CURRYS PC WORLD MEGASTORES
Project: The greatest electrical store in our galaxy
Client: Niall O'Keeffe, UK marketing director, DSG International
Brief: Position the new megastores as the destination for your
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writer: Orlando Warner
Art director: Steve Paskin
Director: Sam Brown
Production company: Rogue
Exposure: TV, outdoor, press, mobile, digital
Project: Engineered for speed
Client: Maria Eagling, creative director, Epson
Brief: Show small businesses you don't have to compromise on speed or
colour print quality when looking for an office printer
Agency: Albion London
Writer: Steve Heath
Art directors: Andre Moreira, Aaron Hinchion
Designer: Joe Holt
Exposure: Online (microsite and YouTube)
4. RANGE ROVER
Project: Pulse of the City
Clients: Fiona Pargeter, PR director, Land Rover; Marcelle Duncan,
communications manager, Range Rover Evoque
Brief: Bring a younger, more urban audience to the Range Rover brand and
create interest in the new Range Rover Evoque
Agency: The Brooklyn Brothers
Writer: Cali Oliver
Digital production partner: Fantasy Interactive
5. MALARIA NO MORE
Project: The Hunting Moon
Client: Arabella Gilchrist, director of communications, Malaria No More
Brief: Raise awareness of the real-life horrors of malaria to a young
Agency: Red Bee Media
Writers: Charlie Mawer, Tony Pipes, Jim Dezoete
Art directors: Robbie Samuels, Katrina Howell
Designers: Paul Fennell, Richard Sutton
Client: Siobhan Fitzpatrick, head of brand development, Argos
Brief: Establish Argos as the destination for the must-have Christmas
gifts, whether in the catalogue or online
Agency: CHI & Partners
Creative: Alan Cinnamond
Director: Steve Cope
Production company: Rattling Stick