The thing is, I'm a melodramatic old tart. Tell the truth and shame the devil, as nobody I've ever met in real life has ever said to me. I'm drawn to melodrama in all its boggy-eyed, myriad art forms - from Little Paul Dombey dying camply in his sister's arms to Matthew Bellamy dementedly shrieking his way through Knights Of Cydonia, a wee bit of the old over-emoting gets both my heart and my trousers racing every time.
Except when it comes to advertising.
In ads, even the faintest hint of melodrama makes my bum sweat with embarrassment. I'm not saying that advertising can't handle high emotion (for someone as dedicated as I am to allowing his gene pool to die wheezily with him, I was surprisingly choked by that giddy kiddy "magic moments" campaign for Disneyland Paris). It's just that I'm unconvinced that advertising as an art form has broad enough shoulders to carry the weight of emotional histrionics. If you needed any proof of such a theory, look no further than the new Co-operative (1) TV spot. I like the Co-op and all that it stands for, even if its packet ham does taste remarkably like a tramp's ass, so it's a shame that it has to descend to such pompous and overly heartfelt chest-beatery to make its point.
John Lewis (6). Now there's a brand deft enough to know how to fiddle with the emotions without leaving one's insides feeling all grubby and bruised. I could watch over and over again that bit at the end of the Christmas ad where the wee speccy lad takes a stocking out to the shivering and patently abused deerhound. Me, I would have changed the dog to something weaker and more pitiful, perhaps a watery-eyed and whimpering Boston terrier. Christ, that would have been powerful advertising. Sadly, there are no canine-loving heartstrings to be pulled in its new "spring fashion" print campaign, but there are lots of pretty petals and even prettier people - and there's nothing wrong with that. The digital work that goes with the print uses "geo-climactic technology", according to the press release. I steadfastly refuse to understand what the fuck that means.
The new Warburtons (4) TV ad is fine enough, if a little old-fashioned in its structure and not quite as perfectly judged in tone as the previous executions. Maybe the slight heavy-handedness comes from the extraordinary number of planners credited with the brief. Not that I don't like planners, mind - there are many planners I count as very dear friends, ugly brogues and all. It's just that they can occasionally get a bit vicious when they gang up on a telly ad.
The print campaign for Corinthia Hotels (3) looks very modern. It has even more creatives credited for the work than Warburtons has planners, and suffers accordingly - the campaign does nothing to convince me to take Him Indoors there for a giddy weekend. Show me the view, tell me the thread count, throw in a bottle of Asti - something more persuasive than a gaggle of creatives indulging themselves with a few mildly amusing typographical gags. Could have done with a planner or two.
The Ambrosia (2) idents for Ant & Dec's Push The Button (aka Fuck Me, My Saturday Night Has Come To This) lay game-show sound effects over farm imagery to varying comic effect. Difficult things are idents.
The new Guinness (5) TV spots (according to Campaign, the work is specifically for YouTube and Facebook but, as far as I can tell, it's a very traditional TV campaign for all its channel posturing) were meant to drum up a few more sales for Paddy's Day. Whether they resulted in a sudden flurry of terrifyingly black stools come the morning of the 18th is anybody's guess, but they seem remarkably off-brand and clumsy, to my taste. Ooh, look - "stools" and "taste" in one sentence. A strong finish, that.
CLIENT - Richard Larcombe, director of advertising and sponsorship, Virgin Media
To get a job in adland, I once nicked the Private View layout for my CV to showcase work I'd been involved in. Remarkably, I got the post, so, in many respects, this is a debt repaid.
First out the bag is The Co-operative (1). Big brand briefs with big budgets and big time-lengths don't come along that often, so I was looking forward to this 60-second spot. It starts well enough with an interesting filmic style to grab my attention but, 30 seconds in, I've lost interest. Sound bites from the brief seemed to have sneaked their way into the commercial, asking me to "empower" our communities and to "join the revolution" by an earnest regional accent washed down with nondescript library music. The Co-op really wants me to care, and really wants me to participate. If I shopped at the Co-op, I reckon this film would reaffirm my brand choice and, better still, if I worked there, this would go down a treat on the shop floor. But telling the history of the brand chronologically hasn't succeeded in telling me its story.
John Lewis (6) is an altogether different proposition. The trick it's managed to pull is to hero the clothes but wrap them in an ever-so-subtle creative idea, cleverly moving the work from classic photo shoot to thoughtful, stylish ad. The tone of voice may have strayed on to the wrong side of fashionista for my tastes - the characters are half model, half mannequin - but it's still great and shows when a brand gets its confidence back, it can exercise a number of different characteristics within its personality.
Guinness (5) has been a byword for creative excellence over the past ten years, which makes reviewing "St Patrick's Day" tricky. Granted, tactical campaigns can struggle to live up to master brand epics, but the benefit of tactical briefs is there's probably more license to have a bit of fun. The spot uses the well-known "how to" idea, which featured heavily in Baden Powell's handbook and men's mags circa 1993. The translation of the idea from print to screen is where it struggles. I suspect the humour in the ads will appeal to some, but I fear it'll be the minority, not the majority. Fundamentally, it doesn't subscribe to Guinness' blueprint for great work: take a product truth from which an emotionally engaging story is spun.
Personally, I can't wait for the royal wedding. The 12-hour TV specials, the Daily Mail 18-week token collect scheme for porcelain figurines of Wills and Kate (not actual size) and, of course, the street parties, which brings me on to Warburtons (4). I don't give too much thought to bread but, luckily, I don't have to because, for the bakers at Warburtons, it's their life's work and they care about every single loaf in equal measure. So much so that they break out the bubbly and put up the bunting with each batch. If they're not already the official royal bakers for the big day, then they certainly should be - and with work like this, there's no reason why not.
I have no doubt the wedding parade will make its way up Whitehall and, in doing so, pass the new Corinthia Hotel (3), for which, as these print ads tell us, location, location, location is everything. The treatments are clever, clinically crafted and with a touch of wit. A refreshing change from ubiquitous global everyman hotel campaigns we see often see in High Life.
And, finally, Ambrosia (2). In the past 18 months, cows in ads have made a comeback. They're churning butter, stealing milk from homes, posturing on beaches and, now, they've cropped up in some idents for Ant and Dec. In just ten seconds, the work attempts to link Push The Button to Ambrosia through the medium of cows, which are used as props within a game show. Irrespective of the outcome, it's an audacious idea the ambition of which should be applauded.
1. THE CO-OPERATIVE
Project: Join the revolution
Client: Helen Carroll, senior propositions manager, The Co-operative
Brief: Help The Co-operative become recognised as the most socially
responsible business in the UK
Writer: Sarah Musker
Art director: Paul Gregson
Director: Luke Scott
Production company: RSA
Project: Push The Button sponsorship
Client: Rachel Moss, marketing controller, Ambrosia Premier Foods
Brief: Develop idents for Ambrosia's sponsorship of Ant & Dec's Push The
Writer: Jermaine Hillman
Art director: Paul Kocur
Director: Ben Tonge
Production company: Thomas Thomas Films
3. CORINTHIA HOTELS
Project: The 21st century grand hotel
Client: Matthew Dixon, general manager, Corinthia Hotel London
Brief: Create a campaign to make Corinthia London stand out while
showing the craft and care it puts into servicing guests
Agency: WCRS&Co London
Creatives: Alex Holder, Oli Beale, Richard Kivell, Andreas Dithmer, Jane
Briers, Dave Cornmell, Jonny Porthouse, Andy Lee, Katy Hopkins, Steve
Exposure: Print, online, iPad
Project: Brand TV
Client: Richard Hayes, board-level marketing director; Kate Freeman,
senior marketing manager; Jane Sutton, senior PR manager, Warburtons
Brief: We care because our name's on it
Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
Writer: Mark Waldron
Art director: David Godfree
Director: Vince Squibb
Production company: Gorgeous
Project: St Patrick's Day
Client: Paul Cornell, marketing manager, Guinness, Diageo
Brief: Prepare for St Patrick's Day, the friendliest day of the year
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writer: Aidan McClure
Art director: Laurent Simon
Director: Matt Dilmore
Production company: Epoch London
Exposure: YouTube, Facebook, national pub TV
6. JOHN LEWIS
Project: Spring fashion campaign
Clients: Craig Inglis, head of brand communications; Peter Ruis, buying
and brand director; Rachel Swift, head of marketing, fashion, John Lewis
Brief: Present John Lewis as an increasingly fashion-oriented retailer,
with leading brands and a definitive view on spring looks
Agency: Adam & Eve
Writer: William Fowler
Art director: Nici Hofer
Exposure: Print, online