At Christmas and New Year, I rediscovered family, friends and life outside the advertising industry and became human again. And, like most humans, I have better things to do than watch ads. Unless, of course, the ideas are worth spending time with. Most ads don't pass the test but one or two of these felt like time well spent.
The Abbey (5) direct marketing campaign was pitched at 11- to 16-year- olds asking them to sign up for a cash card and other bits and bobs.
The faux signature analysis was the highlight for me. Unfortunately, it was buried in the bowels of the envelope making it difficult to get involved in the first place.
The first TV spot for Butlins (4) cuts from one bawling young child to another as an earnest female voiceover explains how they are being forced into holiday experiences, such as sightseeing in Tuscany and skiing in Chamonix. The message is clear: "Butlins - kids love it!" With three young kids of my own, this one was pushing buttons. I liked it. But the sequel, clearly levelled at the kids, was nothing more than a litany of product features put to music.
The US Tourism (3) ad is a simple way to duck under all the issues that make America a difficult destination to sell at the moment and flirt with the very thing that we love about America - the way it projects itself through movies. With a line that reads "you've seen the films, now visit the set", this was Far and Away (Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman) the best idea of the bunch. I only wish the film and music references didn't feel so tired.
John Smith's (2) is nicely shot and well directed but I can't help feeling that Peter Kay would never have become a celebrity in the first place with gags like this. Nothing wrong with dropping a clanger at a wedding, but given that the joke's had a few incarnations already it needs to be something excruciating to work. Not my favourite John Smith's commercial by a long way.
It's difficult to separate the good cause from the communication in the work for the Samaritans (6) and this spot does have a quiet intelligence to it. But there's a reason why e-mail, like the golf ball typewriter before it, never made for great spectator sport. This commercial dwells on some indecisive individual pecking out a POV about the merits of e-mail. No doubt e-mail has some advantages to those people who need to reach out for help, but the communications should be compelling too.
Orbis (1) does great work around the world, so it pains me to say that this digital effort is a dud. Mr T (does anyone remember Clubber Lang from Rocky III and BA Baracus from The A-Team?) giving us attitude through crude, cut-out lip synching in banner ads of varying configurations and urging us to part with our money. I'm afraid that up against the fury of an Asian tsunami, Mr T doesn't stand a chance.
A MOTHER - Beth-Marie McGinty, mother of three from Staffordshire and Open University student
Fans of Peter Kay will enjoy the new ad for John Smith's (2). Very much in a Phoenix Nights-style, the punchline, an announcement at a wedding reception that the bride's father isn't actually her father while Kid Creole's Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy plays in the background, is funnier than most comedy output on TV. The final "no nonsense" slogan seems forced, but ultimately it's a very entertaining 30 seconds. I've seen the future and it's not garlic bread, it's comedy vignettes.
In contrast, the Samaritans'(6) ad is stark, consisting of a few words on a monitor being deleted and re-typed. The visuals are blue and cold, the silence - no sound except for the keystrokes - is affecting and it focuses the viewer's attention. The ad cleverly shows that it is possible to use e-mail without the pressure and intimacy of talking to a volunteer on the end of a phone. I liked the way the ad said so much in so few words.
The new Butlins (4) ad uses a series of distressed children to sell holidays. The style seems to parody that of previous commercials, such as the NSPCC appeals, which depict real suffering and abuse, even down to the tone of the voiceover. I found it distasteful as a result.
The US Tourism (3) television and poster campaign utilises familiar images from box-office successes to sell America. I was cynical of the campaign as the America depicted by Hollywood is fictitious. Some of the cinematography used, such as that from Thelma & Louise, is breathtaking, but the campaign is inviting you to step on to the movie set rather than visit the reality.
Didn't Thelma and Louise drive over a cliff to escape from their America?
In comparison, the recent New Zealand/Lord of the Rings tourist promotion, showcasing the real topography of that country, was more persuasive than the CGI Spider-man in this campaign.
The Abbey (5) campaign uses the notion that young teenagers yearn to be adults to sell its latest range of accounts for young people. The sales literature uses the youthful dreams of money, independence and even fame to entice youngsters to open an account, and the spaces in the sales literature for developing your signature were particularly inventive. The only reservation I had, as a parent, is that the campaign promotes spending rather than saving.
I have not previously heard of the Orbis (1) charity, but found its latest web-based ads, featuring BA Baracus from The A-Team, amusing. They cleverly cash in on his rise to cult status (and a best-selling electronic keyring).
Sometimes it's good for charities not to take themselves too seriously, and in this instance it worked well, creating a memorable ad. Enough jibba jabba, suckers!
Project: "I ain't getting on no plane"
Client: Samantha Dunham, online marketing manager,Orbis
Brief: Raise awareness of Orbis
Agency: Lean Mean Fighting Machine
Writers: Sam Ball, Dave Bedwood
Art directors: Sam Ball, Dave Bedwood
2. JOHN SMITH'S
Client: Munnawar Chishty, marketing manager, Scottish Courage
Brief: No-nonsense beer for no-nonsense drinkers
Writer: Paul Silburn
Art director: Paul Silburn
Director: Danny Kleinman
Production company: Spectre
Exposure: National TV
3. US DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
Project: "You've seen the films, now visit the set"
Client: Doug Baker, deputy assistant secretary for services, US
Department of Commerce
Brief: Make the US look like the most exciting and diverse holiday
destination on the planet
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writer: Alan Jarvie
Art director: Alan Jarvie
Photography: Images courtesy of MGM, Universal Studios and Columbia
Exposure: National TV, London poster sites
Project: "Sad kids"
Client: Ruth Connor, sales and marketing director, Butlins
Brief: Get parents to understand that when it comes to going on holiday,
children would genuinely prefer to go to Butlins
Writer: Paul Westmoreland
Art director: Neame Ingram
Directors: Paul Westmoreland, Neame Ingram
Production company: Mustoes
Exposure: National TV
Project: Abbey youth banking campaign
Client: Sam Taylor, marketing manager, Abbey
Brief: Encourage young Abbey savers to open an Abbey current account
Writer: James Fairburn
Art director: Richard Horne
Exposure: Young Abbey savers aged 11 to 17
Client: Jeremy Payne, director of marketing, Samaritans
Brief: Raise awareness of the Samaritans' e-mail service
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writer: Ian Heartfield
Art director: Matt Doman
Director: Iain Cadby
Production company: Number 9 Dream
Exposure: National TV