Once I had to have a private conversation with a client. We wanted to go somewhere we wouldn't be seen. He said: "I'm getting a train from King's Cross, let's meet in a pub there."
So we met in an unsavoury pub, surrounded by unsavoury characters. Suddenly, I noticed he was getting fidgety. He whispered: "I know it sounds strange, but everyone's looking at us."
I looked around and he was right. Everyone had their mouths hanging open, staring straight at us. All with the same dead look on their faces, the same unblinking eyes. I knew we had to get out of there. We both slowly stood up, trying to work out the best move. Then someone shouted: "Sit down, you're blocking the telly."
Sure enough, they'd all been watching the TV just above us. I often feel like that about advertising. It seems to be going over my head.
Like most punters, I'm a simple bloke. I always thought the job of advertising was to get people's attention for our product or brand.But, apparently, the age of interruption is over. Now advertising must be like the sales girls in Selfridges' perfume department. Stand quietly, look fabulous and hope someone wants to engage in a conversation about your brand.
The Visa (3) commercial is beautifully shot. It has early morning misty cuts of athletes training in industrial settings. Like the girls on the perfume counter, it's very polite and beautiful and won't interrupt.
The same as the Hyundai (5) Love Thy Neighbour idents, in fact.Idents don't really interrupt a programme because they talk about the programme. Which is why these went over my head. I don't have a clue what Love Thy Neighbour is.
Not being in the market was also a problem for me with the BBC Radio 5 live (2) ads. One ad was all about interviewing Katie Price.
I am so NOT in the market for a radio station like this. Listener phone-ins, "jolly personality" presenters, live interviews with slebs like Jordan. I don't care how nicely they're shot (and these were nicely shot), I can't get past the product.
The trouble with The Economist (1) posters is that the whole magazine is over my head. These posters are art directed stylishly, they stand out on the Underground. The line "Where do you stand?" works well when you're standing opposite it on the platform. But they want to have a conversation with consumers.
They want people to text them their opinion and receive a free copy. Fair enough, but I'm not sure it's the right media for that.
Posters worked well for the old, simple, interruptive Economist ads. But you can't use text messaging on the Tube. I would have thought the quality press made more sense. You can target a more thoughtful audience and they can use text straight away. But, as I say, like most punters, I'm just a simple bloke.
Luckily, there were two ads that didn't go over my head.
Lastminute.com (6) must have category ownership of impulse travel. So branding isn't important, all it has to do is stimulate desire. It has got a great track - Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think). Which asks the question: "How far can you travel when you're six feet underground?" Made perfect sense to a simple punter like me.
Just like the ident from Procter & Gamble (4) sponsoring "mums" for Mother's Day. It shows snapshots of children, with just little bits of mum visible. The supers say: "Mum ... she's the hands ... she's the feet ... she's the body with no head ... never the focus, but always there...".
P&G shows it understands mums. Cleverly, it shows its brand is just like mums. You don't notice it, but the family depends on it.
They didn't interrupt me, and I didn't have a conversation with them. But they didn't go over my head either.
DIRECTOR - Sam Brown, director, Rogue
Looking at this work, I have to resist the temptation (as with my own) to scrutinise it from a technical point of view, and put my punter's head on instead. It's a bit of a director's cliche, but this genuinely is the reason why my wife will no longer go to the cinema with me, for my thuddingly dull attention to details that ultimately don't matter and that taint any kind of enjoyment she might otherwise derive.
So: Visa (3) "training day", in which our largely unrecognisable Olympic hopefuls combine efforts to buy something from a local shop (it's hard to explain). I've seen this idea of continuous motion done before and very well, but the energy of this execution won me over. Shame about the beepy cardswipe bit they had to show, which didn't seem to belong to the idea. Or perhaps the idea didn't belong to the beepy card-swipe bit? Was thrown by the appearance of a foreign police car when the guy comes out of the shop (see, I can't help myself).
The BBC Radio 5 live (2) "A day in the Live" spots followed a number of presenters over the course of the day, with the idea of serving it up on TV the same night. The film-makers admirably resisted the temptation to wobble the camera around a lot to make everything feel current and lively, though I suspect moments of interest were so infrequent that a tripod was a wrist-saving necessity. Here I go again ... it's dull, isn't it? The point is the camera felt anonymous, which made for a surprising and intimate set of portraits. It was also really beautifully edited, allowing into the cut all the unguarded expressions and emotions behind the broadcast voices. The impression was of a very human and connected station that seemed to listen as much as it spoke. Brilliant.
Hyundai (5) Love Thy Neighbour. What an odd set of idents. A drab-looking car is watched by nutters. I don't know what Love Thy Neighbour is ... would it help in understanding what these are about, I wonder? I loved the casting and the darkly skewed tone of it all, but I just didn't get it, which was a problem only because it didn't make me feel anything either.
Lastminute.com (6) "stories start here" was a cracking spot that binned the usual holiday cliches in favour of exhilarating glimpses of more bizarre possibilities. I loved its crazy sense of adventure, even if the only scenarios that chimed with personal experience were a relatively low-risk pool-dive and bit where a man is seen walking across a road. My producer and I (wrongly) assumed it had been constructed from real clips sent in by holidaygoers, which I hope the film-makers take as a great compliment.
The Economist (1) "where do you stand?" cleverly juxtaposed conflicting opinions about the upcoming Olympics across two posters with a positive/negative graphical treatment (for some reason, it made me think of The Archers, where any strong view expressed is immediately counterbalanced by an opposing one of equal weight so as not to offend anyone). Of course, it's not like the British to get behind something like the Olympics, so I like the idea of a provocative campaign that wafts this sort of debate off the street and into pubs, workplaces and living rooms, where we can all bitch about it endlessly.
Procter & Gamble (4) "proud sponsor of mums". There's a really solid idea in here, even if the execution felt a bit like a PowerPoint presentation. Pictures of family events with the mums partially cropped out seemed like an original and emotive way of describing their unsung but unwavering ... there-ness. Simple and lovely.
Unfortunately, everything was smothered by the music, a dreadfully manipulative pianoey gloopus that was as unwelcome as coughing up a lump of flesh-pink icing into your hands.
1. The Economist
Project: Where do you stand?
Client: The Economist
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writers/art directors: Mike Sutherland, Antony Nelson, Colin Jones
2. BBC Radio 5 live
Project: A day in the live
Client: Anne Farragher, head of marketing, BBC Radio 5 live
Brief: Promote the network's new positioning theme - "straight to the
heart of things"
Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
Writer: Mike Boles
Art director: Jerry Hollens
Director: Dominic Savage
Production company: Red Bee Media
Exposure: BBC1 and BBC2
Project: Training day
Client: Mariano Dima, executive vice-president, marketing and products,
Brief: Life flows better with Visa
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Writer: Ollie Wolf
Art director: David Goss
Director: Thomas Hilland
Production company: Partizan
Exposure: TV, cinema, digital, point-of-sale
4. Procter & Gamble
Project: Proud sponsor of mums
Client: Procter & Gamble
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Writer/art director: n/s
Production company: n/s
Exposure: TV, online
Project: Love Thy Neighbour
Client: Andrew Cullis, marketing director, Hyundai
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writers/art directors: Alex Bingham, Conrad Swanston
Director: Mat Kirkby
Production company: RSA
Project: Stories start here
Writers/art directors: Sam Walker, Joe de Souza
Director: Sam Walker
Production company: Kream