The legendary Merlin who is Sir John Hegarty told me once that he thought creatives fell broadly into two camps: the creative problem-solvers and the magicians. Sadly, the magicians, those fabled star creative teams, appear to be an increasingly rare breed.
And I believe the reason for their scarcity is a simple one. Because of the time constraints these days, the industry is more interested in the problem-solvers. There's no time for the magicians, because magic takes time. And trust. Another commodity in short supply. A greater value is often now placed on how quickly a job can be done, rather than how well. And, of course, there are many salient and utterly compelling reasons as to why that's the case. But, regardless, it's having an undeniable effect on our industry's creative output.
More and more work feels like first thoughts. The ones that you know are solid and answer the brief but don't take you beyond it. The ones bereft of the magic that lured us all into advertising in the first place. Honest yeomen. Porridge without sugar. Magnolia.
Unfortunately, most of today's ads for review are exactly that.
Marie Curie (6) is a decent effort. Polite, reassuring and gentle in its efforts to raise awareness for the incredible work done by the Marie Curie nurses. It answers the brief. It does the job. But little more than that.
I feel much the same way about the Fairtrade (1) ad. You can't really knock it, though. Jolly, lots of happy people, bright colours and big cardboard fruit. What's not to like? And I know now to look out for the Fairtrade sticker on things.
Hitting the bottom of the barrel is an ad for product placement from ITV (4). Very dull. But again, in fairness, clear. But very dull.
The second instalment of the little Wrigley (3) food characters is next up. I thought the first one was a really likeable idea. A clear, playful and memorable execution. Unfortunately, this one isn't. Feels like a Frankenstein creation of all the bits that research said people liked. A sprinkling of magic dust and this could become a great campaign.
Lloyds TSB (5). As with the majority of ads for banks at the moment, this feels like a bit of a warm bath. (Understandable, as they try to rebuild the trust they so spectacularly shattered a couple of years ago. They don't want to do or say anything that might provoke or inflame.) Now there's no denying that this is a well-branded and consistent campaign and that everyone knows the tune, but the way the information is imparted is as straight as a ploughed field.
And, finally, the honorable exception. Cadbury (2) - Spots v Stripes. A little bit of proper magic. Mad, random and brilliant. Always unexpected. People will engage with this initiative, spend time with it, get involved with it, blog about it, talk about it. It will get plenty of PR. They'll also love the brand for it. All the things people do when a great piece of communication casts its spell on us. Well done, Cadbury and Fallon. Advertising alchemy.
CREATIVE - Mark Whelan, global creative director, Cake
A couple of charity pieces this week. Warming to/clutching at the straws of this theme, I want to point out that, as an advertising outsider, I've always been charitable to the dodgier work in Private View. You see, I'm aware of a likely tragic backstory: deadline nightmare, client bereft of clue or spine, simply can't be arsed arguing any more, need the dough etc. I know, I've been there.
Then a little film we made for a charity found its way into PV. A film we turned around from brief to YouTube in ten days, with everyone donating their time and talent for free including a top model, a cult band and a nation's favourite-type actor. Was it amazing? Not even close. But thousands of people signed the petition that directly influenced a positive outcome.
One reviewer said it was no work of art but that it made him sign the petition. The other, however, just yawned. I tried to let it go but, dear reader, I'm ashamed to say that it rankled. The hair on my back ruckled up at the thought of the bucket-loads of client money blown on useless TV ads that are excused as "key learnings". Or, more recently, my toes curl in on themselves at the same blundering incursions into social media from brands as diverse as chips to credit cards. So it is with the ferocity of a rampant werewolf that I tear asunder the PV envelope.
Claws retract - it's a real ad for Marie Curie (6). A real person talking about a real experience can be very powerful (unless it's one of those where cinema-exiters describe Jennifer Aniston's The Pay Check 2 as "the best film ever"). Alison Steadman tells her real, moving story and asks us to buy a daffodil. It moved me to donate on its website, where my only suggestion would be an option to buy a digital daffodil and save postage on the real one.
An online film for Fairtrade (1). Let's assume this is intended as a piece of content you land on rather than one that attempts to drive traffic. In which case, it does the job. The website encourages people to show off their Fairtrade label and isn't too heavy-handed in asking people to upload the evidence. People are more likely to do so on something like this, which they actually care about. So many brands still don't get this ("tell us your Andrex story") so the bandwagon charges on through the advertising landscape like HPV (the results largely as undetectable, certainly as unwelcome).
It's more Spots v Stripes from Cadbury (2). Hideous brief: "Get people engaged with Cadbury's Olympic sponsorship." What do you get when you mix chocolate with sport? Spots! And, er, stripes. This is a (typically) great TV ad doing its damndest on a very hard sell. Also, fair play - turning a campaign idea into a product is quite an achievement. But when you hear tales of purple-Lycra-clad gimps attempting to divide an appalled music crowd into Spots and Stripes, you know the game is up.
A Lloyds TSB (5) ad for a new bit of software that seems very late to the party. There's a hamster in it, so the client's probably being persuaded the cuddly rodent needs his own Twitter feed as we speak. Actually, it might work if the first follower was...
no, stop, too old a joke. The music and animation in this campaign must be working for them, though, so it's nicely teed up for when there is something interesting to say.
Next, a Wrigley (3) ad featuring suicidal avatars of halitosis. Cute and effective, despite The Voiceover Guy From A Place Where No-one Else On Earth Actually Speaks Like That in 2011. The blurb says there's going to be a digital campaign. Yes, you could have fun with the characters. Ah, just checked the Facebook page - if that's the standard, then don't hold your breath.
Finally, an ITV (4) infomercial thing, warning us of the impending product placement warning. It's all just a bit weird and made me quite uncomfortable. Luckily, a refreshing cup of PG Tips in a Debenhams mug soon made everything seem better in the PC World.
Look at that, I wasn't actually that mean. I tried to be, but got distracted liking Kettle Chips on Facebook.
Project: Fairtrade Fortnight
Client: Richard Stobart, head of consumer marketing, Fairtrade
Brief: Encourage the British public to get involved in Fairtrade
Fortnight's "show off your label" campaign
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Writers/art directors: Ben Everitt, Sophie Bodoh
Director: Steve Qua
Production company: n/s
Exposure: Online, print
Project: Spots v Stripes: Race Season
Clients: Norman Brodie, general manager; Clare Tasker, senior brand
manager, Cadbury, London 2012
Brief: Get the nation racing
Writer: James Woods
Art directors: Stuart Hallybone, Emily Cussins
Director: Andreas Nilsson
Production company: Blink
Project: Wrigley's Extra
Client: Sue Cobbledick, senior brand manager, communications, Wrigley
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writers: Adam Rimmer, Jez Tribe
Art directors: Pete Davies, Prabs Wignarajah
Director: No Brain
Production companies: Glassworks, The Lab@AMV BBDO
Exposure: TV, digital, social media
Project: Product placement
Clients: Ofcom, UK broadcasters
Brief: Raise consumer awareness about the introduction of product
placement in UK-originated programming
Agency: ITV Creative
Writer/art director: Grant Hawksworth
Director: Blue Zoo
Production company: Blue Zoo
Exposure: ITV, Channel 4, UKTV, Sky
5. LLOYDS TSB
Project: Money manager
Client: Lloyds TSB
Brief: Launch Lloyds TSB's new free internet banking service
Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
Writer: Thais Delcanton
Art director: Darren Simpson
Director: Marc Craste
Production company: AKA
Exposure: National TV
6. MARIE CURIE
Project: Great Daffodil Appeal
Client: Chris Dainty, director of communications, Marie Curie
Brief: Launch Marie Curie's annual Great Daffodil Appeal in March with a
TV ad to raise awareness for the daffodil emblem and people's reasons
for wearing it
Agency: DLKW Lowe
Writer/art director: Steve Boswell
Director: Jon Hollis
Production company: Nice Shirt Films
Exposure: National TV