I was leafing through Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community by Lois Parkinson Zamora and wondering if perchance this erudite editor was related to Bobby Zamora of West Ham United, when it struck me. This fantastical genre is not just the preserve of a few over-stimulated literary Latinos but very much at the core of the Persuasive Arts what it is our privilege to practice. Is not Our Tony the equal of any metaphorical tiger in The Life of Pi? One doesn't have to dip one's nib in the inkwell of an Isabel Allende to create a world of dreams and fantasy.
That said, I fear the authors of the latest French Connection (6) viral have been dipping theirs in a very different liquid. It's a fantasy, that's for sure - two pretty girls beating the crap out of each other. We've got girl-on-girl action, girl-on-floor action, girl-in-bog action, not to mention attempted death by cleavage, lezzer snogging and, of course, head-butting as a leitmotif. Now, I'm not denying there's an audience for this kind of thing, and there was a time you might have seen me standing furtively at the back offering encouragement but, let's be honest, two fit Albanian sex-workers going at it like greased hogs at a county fair does not a fashion statement make. Or does it?
Speaking of Tarantino, try to imagine this dialogue coming from a planning department somewhere near you.
"Hey, it says here that Jaffa Cakes contain just one gram of fat."
"You are shitting me."
"No kidding. Just one gram."
"Get outta here. I love Jaffa Cakes."
"One gram. That's all she wrote."
"We gotta tell the world."
"How about just lapsed users and dieting denialists?"
Selling an iconic brand such as Jaffa Cakes (3) on its fat content is like selling Marmite on its vitamin B content. It might seem like a logical advantage but it somehow demeans the brand and makes it smaller. Big brands like these just need great advertising. Marmite still gets it, Jaffa Cakes used to.
Whiskas (5) has a cat named Fred who lives on a bed. This anthropomorphic schtick is absolute catnip to cat-lovers and sentimental leftovers to the rest of us.
Daihatsu (4) is using Manga-style cartoons to "come out" as being Japanese.
I don't suppose many of us had it down as a Swedish marque and, with less than 1 per cent of the market, frankly, you've got to come up with newer news than this to make any kind of impact. I personally would have liked some guidance on the correct pronunciation of Sirion. Does it rhyme with tyre-iron or Sirion Paisley of the Democratic Unionists?
The Department for Transport (1) is taking a no-nonsense approach to the culling of motorcycle dispatch riders. This demo is all the better for being underplayed but I do miss some kind of Clunk Click mnemonic to carry over to my own near-death experiences on the streets of Soho.
The Lynx 24/7 commercial with the couple retracing their steps after a coup de foudre in a supermarket is not just one of the greatest ads ever made, it is one of the best short films ever made. There is more sex 'n' romance in its 60-odd seconds than a video store of Hollywood rom-com bollocks. Among its many achievements, and an important breakthrough for Lynx, is the equality of the two protagonists. This is not some smirking score but mutual spontaneous combustion. Sadly it seems Lynx (2) has reverted to FHM mode for this latest babe-fest featuring big star Ben Affleck (actually not so big he doesn't require a name check). Ben clicks a clicker every time a babe checks him out, but loses out to a Lynx-wearing nerd who scores higher thanks to the eponymous aerosol. It's a big production with hundreds of the kind of women that make me go wrong in my pants, but this is mere schoolboy fantasy compared with 24/7's real sexiness.
DIRECTOR - Jeff Stark, director, The Pink Film Company
Explain this. Every time Campaign sends me a bunch of ads to review, they're mostly pretty good, unlike the ads I see on TV every night, which are 95 per cent mediocre. I reckon people are sneaking them out on TV without showing Campaign. Note to editor - how about getting us to review the dross that actually takes up all the airtime?
As an experiment, I viewed them only once before passing judgment, just as you do with real ads on the box.
Jaffa Cakes (3) won't win awards, but I bet it shifts cakes. It's entertaining and makes its low-fat claim memorably. A minor quibble: the lead actress is good, but I've seen her in at least two other recent campaigns - Doritos and Utterly Butterly. (Or was it I Can't Believe It's Not Butter? Anyway, the one where she scrapes the dregs out of the carton with her finger.) She has such a memorable face I'm sure the punters will notice. There are so many good young actors out there. Can we have some new ones please?
Whiskas (5) took petfoods out from the Siberia end of the creative department and continues the good work with this charming spot. It's bravely simple (ie. nothing happens) and nicely crafted in every department - photography, music, voiceover and especially the titles. I foresee awards.
The Department for Transport (1) is trying to make drivers more motorbike-aware. As a biker who once ended up in hospital in exactly the way the ad depicts, I applaud them. It's a sensible, worthy and well-made ad, but I can't really believe it will change drivers' behaviour. Better to spend the money persuading bikers to wear high-visibility jackets. They're the easier target, since they're the ones at risk and they know it. "Do this or you might be killed" is a stronger message than "do this or you might kill someone".
Daihatsu (4) is one of those nebulous brands. Where's it from? The prices suggest South Korea. But no, it turns out it's 100 per cent Japanese, which, for a car, is even better than being German these days. So proclaiming its Japanese-ness is probably a good strategy. Pity the ads are so juvenile and the art direction does the product no favours. These ads aren't intelligent enough, beautiful enough or witty enough to make me want the cars. They're still nebulous, but Japanese nebulous.
Lynx (2) has such a great track record, you keep waiting for them to screw up. Well you'll have to wait a bit longer. Ben Affleck and 123 gorgeous girls are a potent combination. It's a witty idea, nicely cooked. Trouble is, the version they sent me was the self-indulgent 90-seconder. The story is so simple and succinct I couldn't help feeling it would be better as a 40 or a 60, which is probably what we'll see mostly on TV. (Have you noticed how the 68-second cuts on directors' showreels are never as good as the pared-down cuts that actually ran?)
Well, fcuk me, French Connection (6) has gone back to being French Connection.
Why? Dunno. Two girls representing Style and Fashion have a Kill Bill-style fight complete with kung-fu sound effects and end up in a passionate lezzy kiss. It's beautifully made, but I didn't understand it, so I asked a 19-year-old girl. She said the clothes were for girls but the ad was more for boys. She's right. It's still a brave ad, though, and if I'd done it, I'd have it on my showreel like a shot.
All in all, a pretty good, unrepresentative bunch. Nothing like the rubbish ads I watched on TV last night.
1. DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT Project: DfT Motorcycle Safety Clients: Britta Stones, information officer; David Watson, senior information officer, Department for Transport Brief: Make car drivers more aware of motorcyclists Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO Writer: Mary Wear Art director: Andy McKay Director: James Brown Production company: Stink Exposure: National TV 2. LYNX Project: Click Client: Carlos Gill, brand director, Lynx Brief: Launch Click, the new Lynx fragrance for 2006 Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty Writers/art directors: Dave Masterman, Ed Edwards Director: Danny Kleinman Production company: Danny Kleinman Productions Exposure: National TV, cinema 3. MCVITIE'S JAFFA CAKES Project: Well Client: George Johnston, marketing controller, Jaffa Cakes, United Biscuits Brief: n/s Agency: Publicis Writer: John Robb Art director: Ester Hjellum Director: Sam Cadman Production company: Rogue Exposure: National TV, cinema 4. DAIHATSU Project: Daihatsu Japan Client: Paul Tunnicliffe, managing director, Daihatsu Brief: Emphasise Daihatsu's Japanese heritage Agency: Walsh Trott Chick Smith Writer: Rob Decleyn Art director: Si Micheli Illustrator: Bob Cosford Typographer: Mark Goodwin Exposure: National press, magazines 5. WHISKAS Project: Expressions Clients: Mark Andrews, European brand director, Whiskas; Bruce McColl, European marketing vice-president, Masterfoods Brief: Create a powerful emotional connection with cat-owners Agency: TBWA\London Writers/art directors: Alasdair Graham, Frazer Jelleyman Director: Lucy Blakstad Production company: Home Exposure: Pan-European TV 6. FRENCH CONNECTION Project: Fashion vs style Client: Stephen Marks, chief executive, French Connection Brief: Introduce the spring/summer 2006 collection Agency: Beattie McGuinness Bungay Writers: Trevor Beattie, Duncan Jones Art director: Bil Bungay Director: Duncan Jones Production company: Liberty Films Exposure: National TV, cinema