The role of the agency creative is moving away from just being the originator of the big idea to the curator of all things cool and cultural. Today's creatives need to be both artists and critics. That's a helluva task.
But that's what people come to us for - our taste and judgment. Our ability to spot, select and predict. Part creative, part clairvoyant. The people doing this Stella Artois (6) stuff know cool. I love it, but couldn't rationally tell you why. And that's why it's great. It just feels good. It takes you to another time and place, when romance was rife and people liked travelling by train. It's stylish and sexy and shows how quickly a brand can go from the badlands of Basildon to the French Riviera.
Now there's a lot of stuff out there that you'd have to pay me to eat, but I can't get enough of Batchelors Super Noodles (4). And the fact that your chicken broth could be flavoured with a fiver makes them all the tastier, in my humble opinion. This spot shows how an absent-minded intern in promotions has swapped the curry noodles for cold, hard cash. It's quite menacing as they're sprayed out of an ATM, but very entertaining. Cash and Super Noodles: it just doesn't get any better.
Sainsbury's (5) Active Kids vouchers help raise money for much-needed equipment for our schools, and without a packet of noodles in sight. We're shown a bunch of kids playing in a gymnasium among some invisible kit. Children bounce around on trampolines and spacehoppers that seem to have gone AWOL. It makes its point quickly and effectively and it's cut to a great track. This lot have that creative combination that I mentioned above, and it really shows.
What's with Americans and tea? Why can't we just get a decent cup of builder's when we're Stateside? Being Canadian, I grew up enjoying some of your finer exports, courtesy of the Commonwealth, and often crave the comforts of the old country when travelling abroad. Yorkshire Tea (3) has made it its mission to "rescue Brits from terrible tea". Its mockumentary is fun and a great excuse to plan a road trip across America, even if you're stuck in a van dispensing hot tea in the scorching Nevada desert. It's got some fantastic lines in it as well, such as: "With our special blend, every Brit gets a brew that tastes as good as it should."
"Upgrade with the Daily Mail (2)" strikes me as a bit of an oxymoron - and a seriously funny one. The spot itself is nice enough, but the notion of self-improvement from the paper that recently published the headline "Cracking find! Pensioner discovers an egg within an egg" leaves me confused. Wow, what a tough brief ...
Now, let me tell you something else that's tough. Retail is tough. It's the true test of commercial creativity, in an immediate and unforgiving environment. Product and designers need to be featured throughout, and you've still got to get an idea in there somewhere. And all in just a few seconds. In the Debenhams (1) spot, we see Jasper Conran, Ben de Lisi, Julien Macdonald et al dressing people for the catwalk that we call "real life". It's a lovely way of bringing to life their proposition of "Designers at Debenhams" and I applaud the team for making the most of what are always tricky briefs.
Now I'm off for my afternoon cuppa. Two sugars, no milk.
PLANNER - Nikki Crumpton, chief strategy officer, McCann Worldgroup London
It's half-term this week, so I'm trying to do that impossible job of being available for my kids while not frittering away a week of leave - which, by October, I will live to regret. However, when I'm a single mum attempting to be a woman with a demanding job (rather than being a woman with a demanding job attempting to be a single mum), my appreciation of what's on offer probably takes on a more realistic slant.
So here's to the view of the former rather than the latter.
I'm afraid the Debenhams (1) ad feels like a collage of all the clothing retail ads of the past two years. A signature soundtrack, and models prancing around being particularly cloying and annoying. Here's a hint. John Lewis got away with it because it really seems to know me. This doesn't. It's half-term, for Christ's sake. Show me some kids' clothes and stylish, casual, run-around-the-theme-park-style garb and I'll be there. I'm spending my money on the kids this week, and you just lost out on the £250 that I spent in H&M on clothes. Considering it was my one properly viewed ad, it failed to register.
Not so the Sainsbury's (5) Active Kids ad. I locked on to invisible equipment in a nanosecond. At the moment, it feels like everything is invisible, from dustbin men to lollipop ladies. Sainsbury's has done that insightful sleight of hand that I have come to respect and love. Maybe it's coming from an agency which has consistently delivered great COI work that the subtle move from a brand of big business to a brand of the big society has happened so naturally. From my mum perspective, it makes sense to shop at Sainsbury's and do my little bit to help heal the gaping wound made by the cuts of austerity.
If I'm starting to sound a little uptight and middle England, this next one jerked me out of my reverie. Upgrade to the Daily Mail (2)? Its lack of focus on what the experience of the upgrade was, apart from becoming a bit more uptight and middle England, left me questioning the whole conceit. If it's trying to persuade me it's a better read, this was way off the mark. It ended up talking to the people who already read it, and whose priorities have always been the same as the Daily Mail's. But maybe this is appealing to people who aspire to read the Daily Mail. Now I get it. The upgrade is about belonging to a Utopian society where the people carrier rules supreme, and it's every man's duty to marry a shiny, size ten blonde to breed two perfect children.
Thank God for anarchic Batchelors Super Noodles (4) ads. Oh dear, Super Noodles has been persuaded to upgrade to the Daily Mail.
It's time for a cuppa, then, and being the daughter of a Yorkshireman, I'm a bit partial to the hardwater brew of Yorkshire Tea (3). Too strong for people who pretend to like tea (Americans), but a welcome taste for us connoisseurs of the true amber nectar.
However, another sampling out of another van fails to do justice to what is a truly great brand. I know we all miss our English cuppa when abroad, but Monkey and Johnny would have done the insight in an altogether more engaging way.
Aaah, Stella Artois (6). The genius of this ad is knowing when you've got a strong equity (beautifully filmic ads telling a core product truth), and not trying to be too clever. It's a beautiful ad, great craft skills, a clever little device and the guy gets the girl for a happy ending. The only thing that left me a little wistful was that the humour didn't quite shine through, as in the Stella ads of the past. But for such a gorgeous visual experience, I will forgive it.
Now where's that new DVD I bought for the kids - so I can make the three o'clock conference call.
Client: Jane Exon, head of marketing operations, Debenhams
Brief: Relaunch "Designers at Debenhams" to a lapsed consumer
Agency: JWT London
Writer: Adam Griffin
Art director: Rob Spicer
Director: Joanna Bailey
Production company: Bare
Exposure: TV, print, in-store, online
2. DAILY MAIL
Project: Daily Mail
Client: Roland Agambar, chief marketing officer, Daily Mail
Brief: Encourage occasional Daily Mail readers to read it more often
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writers/art directors: Joe Miller, Tristan Cornelius
Director: Stuart Parr
Production company: Blink
Exposure: TV, online, press, outdoor
3. YORKSHIRE TEA
Project: Little urn
Client: Richard Tolley, marketing director, Taylors of Harrogate
Agency: Beattie McGuinness Bungay
Writers: Clemmie Telford, Peter Reid
Art directors: Lex Firth, Carl Broadhurst
Directors: Fred & Nick
Production company: Pulse Films
Exposure: TV, outdoor, Facebook
4. BATCHELORS SUPER NOODLES
Project: Noodle machine
Client: Michael Gillane, head of marketing, GSS & Convenience Meals,
Brief: Launch the Super Noodles "cash in pack" promotion
Writer: Jermaine Hillman
Art director: Paul Kocur
Director: Jim Gilchrist
Production company: MJZ
Project: Active Kids 2011
Client: Claire Harrison-Church, brand communications director,
Brief: Show the positive impact that collecting Active Kids vouchers has
on local kids
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writer: Aidan McClure
Art director: Laurent Simon
Director: Mitch Stratten
Production company: Hijinx
Exposure: TV, online
6. STELLA ARTOIS
Clients: David Stratton, James Watson, Alex Lambrecht, Stella Artois
Brief: Dramatise how the triple filtration process makes Stella Artois
4% a smoother beer
Agency: Mother London
Writer/art director: Mother London
Director: Agustin Alberdi
Production company: Stink Exposure: TV, cinema