Before I went to work in Minneapolis, I was warned by two American friends (hello Libby and Franklin) that, while there, I would probably experience a local phenomenon called "Minnesota nice". Basically, they explained, this means that some of the good locals will be really friendly, welcoming and complimentary to your face and would never dream of saying anything bad to you for risk of causing offence. Everything is, apparently, "awesome".
The down side of this is that only behind your back might they let their true feelings be known to others. And, of course, this makes it really hard to know when someone is being really genuine.
All of which leads me rather neatly into this week's awesome collection of new work in Private View.
First up is Magic 105.4 (4). It is plugging the phone-in competition on Doctor (of what?) Fox's breakfast show through the use of a talking grizzly bear from London Zoo. The cool bear knows that the awesome rockers Queen recorded A Kind of Magic, whereas the girl caller thinks it was Take That. Poor girl - such an easy mistake to make. Anyway, it's always awesome to hear Doctor Fox's voice. What an awesome DJ he is. Hey, maybe the bear should hook up with the Wall's sausages dog? That could be pretty awesome too.
Next, a group of us awesome "cool accent, are you from Australia?" Brits, including Chris Eubank (isn't he awesomely funny and cool and not in the least bit irritating?), disagree over what makes the perfect cheese and tomato sandwich. They all have a different opinion except for when it comes to the topping and that, of course, is good old awesome Hellmann's (2) mayonnaise. How cool is it that they all finally agree (well, at least to our faces)?
More Brit stuff, but done in a good ol' American schmaltzy apple pie kinda way, follows. The new British Airways (6) ad features cute dolphins, cleverly made from clouds, swimming alongside a jet while a cute kid watches from the window. And there's a cute version of Leaving on a Jet Plane being sung by a cute-sounding girl. It's pretty awesome (and cute).
Meanwhile, Virgin Trains (5) are sending travellers some aloo-min-um foil. This is because the awesome new food in their First Class carriages is apparently so awesome we won't want to waste a single crumb. So we can wrap up any scraps and take them away with us. Totally, like, neat, huh?
Snickers (1) has jumped off its skateboarding bandwagon - but is still trying to act really cool and hip by having a young dude pull a goofy face because he's got to clean up a hotel room after a rock band has checked out leaving behind a trashed room. Bummer! But hey, the awesome sugar and other cool stuff in Snickers will give him the energy to do it! High five!
I think this is probably the coolest, most awesome, press ad in the whole of this week's review. Really.
And, finally, we have three new ads for Monday (3), which is a new lottery.
If you go to the website, you'll discover that it's a pretty interesting concept, where they claim you have a 27 times greater chance of winning (I think they mean than the National Lottery?) and you can nominate the charity that will benefit from your participation. Truly awesome then.
So what about the ads? Well, in Minnesota they'd probably even find something really nice to say about this work. But, quite honestly, words fail me.
Is it a lottery for adfolk?
STRATEGIST - LAURENCE GREEN, MANAGING PARTNER, FALLON LONDON
I am fast approaching what convention demands that I describe as a special birthday. In a brave bid to stay young, I am resisting the siren call of Magic 105.4 (4) and all things middle of the road. Happily, this latest ad for the house of Dido serves to embolden, rather than undo, my resistance.
In a previous advertising guise, the station snuck up on its unsuspecting victims with improbable stealth. By contrast, the 2006 vintage boasts not just the super-saccharine Doctor Fox, but cash prizes and a randomly cast animal. All of which I am allergic to, only one of which I will dwell up on. Price promotion - and that's all this is, bear or no bear - is the crack cocaine of some categories and the last refuge of the marketing scoundrel. It betrays corporate nerves and destroys value. Sales may spark but won't burn in response to it. The ad itself is a trivial misdemeanour set against this bigger folly, but magic it ain't.
Brand advertising isn't all plain sailing, though, and I would have trousered my production and media money rather than approve this Snickers (1) work. Perhaps I've seen it out of context. I do hope so.
We've all done it: applied one coat too many of finest Soho glaze to what would otherwise be a perfectly populist idea. It's never a good look, and especially unflattering when you are launching a new brand with a story to tell. Monday (3) looks to me like an interesting product and "friend of the unlucky" is a wonderful line. Sadly, the creative idea ladled on top in these executions serves to obscure rather than crystallise both. The posters that accompany these spots do a better job of nailing the product, and of exploiting the soft, white underbelly of our relationship with Camelot. But if this is lottery wars, the flying bricks win.
I'd pay good money to hear Art Malik read out a shopping list. British Airways (6) have just done so. In thrall to his drawl, they have asked Art to mention it all: service, fares and even destinations get a namecheck. Elsewhere in the commercial, clouds morph into dolphins with a troubling familiarity. In fairness, my wife gave it considerably less short shrift, responding to my cheery "honey, I'm home!" with the quite spontaneous observation that British Airways had spoken to her at last. (To be honest, I never knew they had fallen out. We really should talk more.)
Arch-nemesis Virgin is spending more time and money flogging trains than planes these days, and doing so really rather well. While bitter experience suggests that toxic cheeseburgers served straight from the inferno are the Virgin Trains (5) onboard snack of choice, this nicely judged DM piece does a good job of persuading me that a different class of grub awaits in First Class should I decide to remortgage my house and upgrade. There's even a "creamy bed of mash drizzled with ale", a dish clearly conceived in transit by a quick-witted member of staff. Marriott, track that man down: he can snatch victory from the jaws of culinary defeat. On which note ...
Hellmann's (2) latest advertising is, just as you'd hope, more dollop than drizzle: a hymn to the sandwich and the idiosyncrasies of the nation's sandwich-makers. And why not? Just one (village) quibble: is it just me or is there an uncanny resemblance to the same agency's "dream team" commercial for Reebok of a decade or so ago?
Shit, I'm showing my age. That Gnarls Barkley's a talented young man, isn't he?
Project: Get on with it
Client: Victoria Keenan, UK brand manager, Masterfoods
Brief: Display the way in which Snickers gives you the energy you need
for a big job
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writer: Barney Ashton
Art director: Paul Pateman
Photographer: Erwin Olaf
Exposure: National press
Project: Cheese and tomato
Client: Harry Tullis, Hellmann's brand development director, Unilever
Brief: Highlight Hellmann's accessible, warm and witty personality by
celebrating people's quirky food choices
Agency: Lowe London
Writer: Sam Cartmell
Art director: Jason Lawes
Director: Jorn Threlfall
Production company: Outsider
Exposure: National TV
Project: Monday Lottery
Client: Andrew Williams, marketing director, Monday
Brief: Get people who are used to being unlucky on the National Lottery
to try Monday
Agencies: Us, M&C Saatchi
Writer: Jo Tanner
Art director: Mark Howard
Production companies: Us, Another Film Company
Exposure: National TV, radio, posters
4. MAGIC 105.4
Project: Music is Money
Client: Andria Vidler, managing director, Magic 105.4
Brief: Launch Magic's Music is Money quiz
Agency: St Luke's
Writer: Eloise Smith
Art director: Eloise Smith
Directors: Zak and Dan
Production company: Stink
Exposure: National TV
5. VIRGIN TRAINS
Project: Virgin Trains Primo Menu
Client: Vickie Passingham, direct marketing manager, Virgin Trains
Brief: Encourage Virgin Trains Standard Class business travellers to
upgrade to First Class
Agency: Craik Jones Watson Mitchell Voelkel
Writer: Mandy Wiemers
Art director: Mark Buckingham
Exposure: Direct mail to 20,000 people
6. BRITISH AIRWAYS
Client: Jayne O'Brien, head of brands and marketing communications,
Brief: Reappraise British Airways for holidays and leisure
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Writers/art directors: Dave Masterman, Ed Edwards
Director: Danny Kleinman
Production company: Kleinman Productions
Exposure: National TV