In search of a moral compass to guide me through this week's work, I chanced upon two quotes which I think frame the dilemma facing today's creative communicators. "All of us who professionally use the media are shapers of society. We can vulgarise that society. Or, we can help lift it on to a higher level." Contrast these inspirational words from Bill Bernbach with the terse instructions issued by Sylvester Stallone to a hapless PA cornered in the Great Man's trailer. "Cup the balls. Work the shaft." Today, I fear it's the action hero, not the advertising visionary, who has his finger closest to the prostate of current creative thinking.
Ever the pragmatist, Stallone is reminding us that the testes, those twin engines of creation, are dependent on the shaft for the successful completion of their mission. In other words: "It's no use having a seminal strategy if your execution is limp." How do this week's contenders measure up?
Birds Eye (4) uses a pea-shaped collapsing car to claim that frozen are fresher than fresh. It's a well-worked shaft, but the balls don't add up. Even if I believed it, what am I supposed to do with the information? Surely the consumer choice is between Birds Eye and own-label not fresh vs. frozen.
Magic FM's (3) balls have formed a strategic alliance to spawn "Magic means more music, less words". Strange, then, that the shaft should be covered in, yes you guessed it, words. OK, these are lyrics and not DJ drivel, but someone's twisting my semiotics here and it hurts.
Time Out (2) wants to believe people buy it for the editorial, not just the listings. More Damien Hirst gags won't persuade me. New balls please.
Balls are the central theme of the new spot for Nike (6). Here we get to share a fleeting moment of self-doubt with Thierry Henry, Mr Charlotte Church and "Nadjers" Nadal. It's a change from the star-studded five-a-sides of yore but cannot disguise the fact that underneath the moody posing it's just another "look who's on our payroll" ad.
Several Vauxhall (5) ads have been recalled recently with faulty shafts and the client is not taking any chances. Lots of shiny black metal as the new Vectra encircles a bunch of Italian kids practising their diving skills.
Eventually the media money runs out and the car comes to a halt. Out pops, not the kerb-crawling paedophile we have been led to expect, but Funky Old Collina the scary Italian ref! Time for the agency to say: "Can we have our balls back, mister?" Guinness (1) have always kept their balls in a neat cluster around the "waiting" strategy. But the shaft has always swung wildly from the sublime ("surfer") to the ridiculous ("moths"). This witty riposte to Creationism sees three lads regress through time from contemporary pub to primordial slime. OK, so the team must have spunked a squillion in post, but the effects are worth every penny and so is the track. Balls cupped. Shaft worked. Happy finish.
CONTROLLER - Kevin Lygo, director of television, Channel 4
Campaign wants me to offer a Private View? Not very "private" is it? Never mind. The advertising community can be pretty fast and loose with its opinions on the TV schedules. Perhaps it's time for a bit of return fire.
So, first up, a Time Out (2) ad telling us there's a jungle under every manhole cover. No - the jungle is the mess of layout and copy you have to wade through to try to find out what time a bloody film is on in London.
Not sure this ad will shift any extra copies of Time Out but, as they tend to write good reviews of Channel 4 programmes, I hope it works well for them.
On first viewing, the Nike (6) spot reminds me of ITV's summer schedule: celebrity-heavy, semi-pornographic in places and a bit incomprehensible.
It takes me three goes to work out it's basically an ad for vests. But after watching it a few times, I can feel the Nadal wannabe inside me inspired to work harder on my backhand. I guess this will move a mountain of sportswear.
Shifting gear into the peculiar world of car advertising, I have to confess that the Vauxhall (5) ad left me completely mystified. Take control? What about that bald, plug-eared Italian ref who looks like a cadaver? I just can't work out whether it says anything remotely useful about the product.
Unlike the Vauxhall Sigmund, or whatever it's called, The Pea-mobile would definitely produce a few "aaahs" in the Channel 4 car-park. I suppose when you're given the pea brief for the third time, a little lateral creativity is required. Unfortunately, I'm left imagining exhaust fumes when I should be thinking about vitamins and pert and peasy Birds Eye (4) perfection.
If the pea brief is tough, then spare a thought for the Magic FM (3) team. Less talk, more music is an absurdist piece of positioning for a radio station and it's a bitch for a 15-second TV slot. I've no idea what this is about ,but I know it's not for me. They should try advertising on radio. I hear it gives very good coverage.
If Guinness (1) is at the evolutionary pinnacle of beverages, as its latest ad suggests, then its TV and cinema work occupies a similar position in the advertising food chain. Why are Guinness ads always better than the rest?
(It's like Channel 4 programmes compared with ITV's.) This latest offering pretends to be a standard blokes-at-a-bar beer ad before morphing into something far more visually arresting and amusing. Definitely one to stop personal video recorder owners hitting fast-forward. Nerdy truth? I watched it backwards in slow motion and it still works. So not quite black Pencils all round. But thanks for paying for our programmes!
1. GUINNESS Project: noitulovE Client: Georgina Meadows-Smith, marketing manager, Guinness Brief: Bring vitality back to the Guinness brand Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO Writer: Ian Heartfield Art director: Matt Doman Director: Danny Kleinman Production company: Kleinman Productions Exposure: National TV, cinema 2. TIME OUT Project: Special issues promotion Client: John Luck, marketing director, Time Out Brief: Advertise weekly content on fortnightly copy-out media Agency: Mother Writer: Mother Art director: Mother Photographer: Marius Hansen Exposure: London Underground six-sheets 3. MAGIC FM Project: Lyrics Client: Andria Vidler, managing director, Magic FM Brief: Contemporise and celebrate Magic's unique mix of music Agency: St Luke's Writer: Andy Drugan Art director: Simon Friedberg Director: MK12 Production company: MK12 Exposure: Terrestrial TV London, Magic FM TV 4. BIRDS EYE Project: Pea car Client: Jenny Wright, brand director, Birds Eye Brief: Fresh vegetables lose vitamins from the moment they're picked - frozen don't Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty Writer: Matt Waller Art director: Dave Monk Director: Blue Source Production company: Blink Exposure: National TV 5. VAUXHALL Project: New Vectra launch Client: Peter Hope, manager, integrated marketing, Vauxhall Brief: Launch the new Vectra and new Signum in the UK Agency: Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners Writer: Malcolm Green Art director: Gary Betts Director: Stuart Douglas Production company: Nice Shirt Exposure: National TV 6. NIKE Project: Secret weapon Clients: Paolo Tubito, marketing director; Adam Collins, brand manager, Nike Brief: n/s Agency: Nitro Writers: Paul Shearer, Bruce Crouch Art directors: Paul Shearer, Bruce Crouch Director: Ivan Bird Production company: Serious Pictures Exposure: TV and cinema in the UK and Europe