I think Gerry Moira has got it dead right about Sylvester Stallone. For those of you who were on holiday the other week (perhaps enjoying half-term with your children, or maybe just on gardening leave from WPP, having slagged off half the human race), Gerry wrote in this column how Sylv had told a PA trapped in his Winnebago to: "Cup the balls. Work the shaft."
Gerry translated this anecdote into a diatribe on strategy and execution. And he made many good points (as is his wont). But, for me, the key lesson in this fascinating story was this: Mr Stallone had forgotten that there might be an audience.
Too many ads come across as a simple conversation between agency and client, but completely and disastrously forget the presence of a third party - the punter - who might actually want the product or service. To wit, the latest piece of DM for Lexus (5) is of very limited interest to most people. The client and agency might argue elegantly that interesting points have been made about the car. To which I would answer: "So what?" They might argue that the piece is well-crafted. To which I would say: "Please leave me alone."
Green & Black's (2) falls headlong into the same trap. A supposedly witty line about "intensity squared" elicits from me the response: "You've obviously mistaken me for someone who gives a shit."
Argos (4) has produced an ad that is a massive improvement on the ones that must haunt Richard E Grant more than his mother's nymphomania. And again, the client might think it says nice things about the brand. But it's nowhere near entertaining enough. In fact, some people might call it a catalogue of disasters.
Now for two products newly flavoured with strawberry. Cravendale (1) has some scary cows telling you this. Ambrosia (3) has its bloody Happy Tummy campaign. You might have guessed which ad I prefer. Ambrosia still thinks there's a captive audience out there who have to watch TV ads. Its ad is tediously cheerful and remorselessly depressing. Cravendale has a healthy paranoia that the TV audience can literally or metaphorically switch off at any second.
So it is trying to entertain. The spot is beautifully directed and repays repeat viewings.
This is the point, I think. You have to be relevant and entertaining but, these days, before you can be relevant, you have to be entertaining.
I saw an ad for Royal Mail the other day which showed a letterbox and said: "There's no off-switch." That's just plain wrong - a letterbox has an off-switch that is round and metal and it's where the Lexus letter would go in about two seconds.
But that thinking ("we haven't got a captive audience on TV any more and entertaining them is too difficult, so let's look for any captive audience we can") is the lowest form of marketing and would only appeal to a desperate wanker.
My only worry about Cravendale is that it shows DDB reverting to some kind of formula. Take something harmless - in this case, cows - and make them scary. Ring any bells? What about Gary Lineker and Walkers?
I'm looking forward to the Christmas Volkswagen ad, which apparently has Santa Claus gang-raping his way through the cast of Mary Poppins while injecting crack cocaine into the eyeballs of Skippy the kangaroo.
And talking of crack cocaine ... Frank (6) is a brilliant campaign that really knows its audience. The TV work has been amazing for years - for my money, among the most intelligent advertising in Britain. I've been asked to review the website. It's very good - engaging and relevant. And it's more genned up on hard drugs than the entire shadow cabinet.
So there we have it. Some work that's bollocks and some work that's the bollocks. It's a fine distinction, but one that Sylvester would surely appreciate.
CREATIVE - James Cooper, creative director, Dare Digital
Clearly, the moment we start taking advertising remotely seriously, we are doomed. Bill Hicks wasn't joking. But now that Private View is bigger again, I thought I might attempt something vaguely serious.
A lot of hoo-hah has been written about how digital creative is (American accent please) "so hot right now". There's a long way to go, but it would be churlish to disagree. However, you seldom hear anything about the decline elsewhere. The inside pages of television and press awards booklets frequently read: "Well, it wasn't a vintage year." Certainly, from this week's crop, 2005 isn't either. The digital curve may well look healthy (although, admittedly, it started from a poor base) but TV, for me, peaked around about the time of Eric Cantona's collar and, despite the odd "surfer" and "grrr" blip, a curve is a curve.
So the opportunities to do truly groundbreaking work, from a creative and business perspective, lie elsewhere. Some smart creatives are voting with their feet. Digital is one beneficiary in vogue.
If we are smart and professional, we can have our fun in the sun too.
Currently, though, it's still damned tough to eke out good work. I would kill for the Frank (6) brief. Online is where Frank should cut loose.
However, in these executions, where the design should be cutting-edge, it's dull, and where the copy has the right to be darkly funny, it's plonky.
It's not bad work, but I feel a priceless opportunity missed.
How about DM? If I were on the look-out for a Lexus (5), this piece would probably pass the test: avoiding the bin. The idea of light and dark, contrasts etc is OK, but the photography feels right - stylish techno eye candy. In fact, the whole piece feels classy and expensive - just how Lexus drivers probably want to feel.
Green & Black's (2) is another premium product. It sure tastes premium. Who doesn't like Green & Black's? So there's a bit of the old Stella Artois trick here: charge a premium, create demand.
Trouble is, the thinking behind Stella is genius because the product is horrible and the advertising beautiful. Here, the product is beautiful, the advertising terrible. The line "It deserves a little respect" feels added on and our Watford placement team said it looked like it had been Mac'd up by students - St Martin's students! Ooh, children can be such bitches.
The Cravendale (1) spot is a horror pastiche of red cows following a child home. I get the strategy: so good they want it back (you can hardly miss it when it's been so overused - sorry). And it looks lovely. But sometimes you have to take a step back, pause for a few seconds and say, in the nicest possible way: "What the fuck?"
The dairy horror-fest continues. No wonder half the population is dairy intolerant. For Ambrosia (3), there are some Crouch End types (where's the child labour?) picking fruit. After eating a pot of custard, mummy's tummy goes funny. A face appears on it. It's fun and bright and might sell custard by the pot-full. So, job done? In theory I should love this kind of thing for making my job easier.
Finally, Argos (4). Now this will hurt, but honesty must prevail. I ... quite ... like ... it. Recently, I came into Dare towers declaring that Charlotte Church was cool. I was roundly pooh-poohed and immediately achieved douchebag status. But after seeing her on TV (I was babysitting, OK?), I'm convinced she's an anti-hero hero. You can't help gut instincts. And mine likes something here. It's not the short guy. It's not the smiling children. It could be the idea - imagine you had 1,700 friends. Maybe it's the Morgan Freeman dude. But my money is on the surprisingly charming line: "Let's be friends." Weird, but there we go.
I feel much better. Good therapy, actually - you'd pay a fortune for that in New York.
1. CRAVENDALE Project: Hint of ... launch Client: Thryth Jarvis, senior brand manager, Arla Foods Brief: Launch Cravendale Hint of ..., a natural, flavoured milk for adults Agency: DDB London Writer: Tim Charlesworth Art director: Michael Kaplan Director: Garth Davis Production company: Anonymous Content @ Independent Exposure: National TV 2. GREEN & BLACK'S Project: Autumn brand campaign Client: Mark Palmer, marketing director, Green & Black's Brief: Develop a campaign showing Green & Black's is a darker, more intense taste experience Agency: Brave Writer: Lord Russell Grineau Art directors: Beri Cheetham, Colin Jones Photographer: Jeremy Hudson Exposure: National press 3. AMBROSIA Project: Ambrosia custard pots Client: Kate Newton, general manager, dessert, Premier Foods Brief: Encourage women to try new custard pots Agency: Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners Writer: Steve Boswell Art director: Steve Drysdale Director: Derek Horn Production company: Avion Films Exposure: National TV 4. ARGOS Project: Christmas campaign Client: Jenny Parry, advertising and PR manager, Argos Brief: Launch the Argos Big Book of Christmas Agency: Clemmow Hornby Inge Writer: Pete Gatley Art director: Pete Gatley Director: Marc Charach Production company: HLA Exposure: National TV 5. LEXUS Project: IS relaunch Client: Matt Button, CRM and database manager, Lexus Brief: Build excitement for the launch of the new IS Agency: Partners Andrews Aldridge Writer: Roger Morris Art director: Clive Parsley Photographers: Daniel Hartz, Bernard Blistin Exposure: Direct mail to prospective and existing customers 6. FRANK Project: Frank anti-drugs campaign Clients: Ben Lynam, marketing manager, Home Office; Chris Nesh, senior campaign manager, Department of Health Brief: Increase awareness of Frank Agency: Profero Writer: James Taylor Art director: Ian Owen Designer: Jon Biggs Exposure: Online