Every year, some amazing ads get made. We see them at the various awards ceremonies around the world and marvel at their wit, insight, craft and all-round creative brilliance. But, some days, you just wonder how a decent ad gets made at all. Increasingly, it seems as if the odds are stacked against it - a great idea can slip away at every stage of the process.
Which is why you have to applaud good work wholeheartedly when you see it. Even if it has been done by another agency.
I am sure every creative director has a list of things they look for in an idea if it is to have any chance of greatness. Does it answer the brief? Is it clear? Simple? Does it make a leap? Is it original?
Is it relevant? Will it persuade? And even if the idea does manage to tick all these boxes, the creative team will still need a determined streak that would make the proverbial mule look laid-back.
Let us see how successful the teams behind this week's work have been in pushing their ideas through.
Pot Noodle (2). Always a high standard of work on this brand. And this one is as irreverent as you would expect, with scant regard for the conventions of food advertising (beautiful photography etc). Pot Noodle has never tried to be anything it is not. It is quick, cheap stuff that fills a hole. And it is this honesty that has made it so popular with consumers. I have seen this a dozen times and it still seems fresh.
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (5). Seven nicely executed press ads. Simple and clear. Actually, the agency could have saved some money and just shot the one ad in my street. It would have got pot-holes, unwanted sofas, graffiti and dumped cars all in the same picture. I tried to do as the campaign suggested and report all of this on Highbury & Islington's website, but without success, so I did what I usually do - I gave the council a ring.
Transport for London (4) Oyster Card. The brief must be to tell people it is easier to zip around London if you have an Oyster Card, because the ad shows somebody doing exactly that. Not the greatest leap, then. A young guy goes at breakneck speed and the agency has pushed the voiceover accordingly.
Mini (3). This website reminds me of something I saw in the US. It allows you to fill in your friend's personal details and then sends them an e-mail in which a Lock, Stock-type character insults them. To be fair, it is probably part of a larger campaign, but, based on this alone, I will not be buying a Mini.
Ford (1). Ford advertising seems to have moved on recently. Post-Honda, it is no longer enough to show cars driving through the mountains with a voiceover blathering on about road holding. This ad has an interesting idea about how the door handle can open up different experiences, but I cannot help thinking somebody thought this was too much of a creative leap and insisted the agency bung in a couple of predictable car shots at the end.
NSPCC (6). Tough brief. Not just because of the sensitive subject matter, but also because so much great work has been done for this worthiest of causes in the past. Aimed at the victims, this ad sensibly avoids shock tactics and instead empathises with their plight. The result is understated but quietly powerful. Let us hope it works.
CREATIVE - Olivier Altmann, creative director, Publicis Conseil
"Hey, Olivier, are you up for doing the Private View in the upcoming issue of Campaign? It's for next Monday, though?" Juliet, my charming PR, asked. "Sure; I'll take care of it this weekend - no trouble," I replied.
That is, no trouble until late Friday, when a client reviewing his account phoned us in a panic, demanding a new campaign ... for Monday. I had barely hung up when my wife called to remind me we were having a crowd of 20 over for a barbecue on Sunday. Oh brilliant - just when client accounts are overheating and sausages are getting burnt, it is time to write a few lines of inspired prose.
So, here goes. Because we in France like to keep the best 'till last, I will start out with Transport for London (4). Although I understood only about half of the voiceover (no offence to the agency), it did not take me long to get the general drift. It is a fast-motion summary of the opportunities mass-transit connections in London supposedly offer you. The problem is the narrative style feels rather cliched; besides, I find it hard to believe people in London have that many adventures in one day. I suspect most of them, like most Parisians, are more likely to experience the daily grind we refer to as metro-boulot-dodo (tube-job-beddy-bye).
Let's move on to the Mini (3) website, which allows you to send a friend a personalised film once you have entered their data. It is always startling when an ad seems to have been designed specially for you. But, aside from that, the rest still sounds too much like an ordinary car dealer's sales pitch. Besides, why can't I have my name spoken by Monica Bellucci rather than by some bloke who looks like a thug?
Next comes the Ford (1) S-Max commercial. A young man finds a stray door handle that gives him access to all sorts of exotic places, until he sets it to the ideal location: the latest Ford MPV. While the special effects are quite successful, the commercial somehow left me cold. It is hard to imagine getting into a car is more extraordinary than exploring the deep sea or roaming the far North. To put it bluntly, this ad is about as thrilling as ... well, a Ford.
Last, but not least, a little bit of print for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (5) "connect to your council" campaign. I may be in a foul mood this weekend, but here again, I found it hard to work up much enthusiasm. Although the computer graphics are more refreshing than the predictable arrows and virtual hands in other website campaigns, it takes more than that to make a splash. Oddly, the campaign subject strikes me as being more creative than the campaign. The idea of contacting local government online to get roads repaired, graffiti cleaned up, bulky refuse collected or abandoned cars removed is entirely novel. The only thing I wonder is how long it actually takes the authorities to respond.
We are getting close to the best with the NSPCC (6) campaign. I was already expecting compelling work from an ad agency that has consistently brought us great ideas. Sure enough, it is off to a good start with masks made of real children's faces scattered here and there.
Kind of puzzling - until you realise that they represent the fake smiles that battered children put on when they are in public. The insight is astute and well chosen, the film is apt and sensitive, even if a trifle too short.
This brings us to dessert - or, rather, the main course, as we are talking about Pot Noodle (2). Here too, we are dealing with a great brand that has delivered consistently outstanding quality. The ad shows us life down in the mines, only in this case what is being extracted is not coal, but pasta. I admit, I had trouble identifying the brief behind it all, but that is probably just as well. The aim was either to appeal to real workers or to provide sheer advertainment. Whichever way you slice it, it is sufficiently absurd to get a smile out of the viewer. Those little blobs of noodles wedged under miners' helmets and the traditional songs are right on target.
Client: Mark Simpson, director of marketing communications, Ford of
Brief: Launch the S-Max and unveil Ford's new brand direction
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather
Writer: Paul Diver
Art director: Alan Morrice
Director: Greg Gray
Production company: Velocity Films
Exposure: Pan-European TV
2. POT NOODLE
Client: Pot Noodle, Unilever
Brief: Give Pot Noodle a more positive and active role in consumers'
Art director: Mother
Director: Stacy Wall
Production company: Epoch Films
Exposure: National TV
Project: Have a word
Client: Ysabel Vazquez, advertising manager, Mini UK
Brief: Create a viral campaign for Mini to tie in with the launch of the
new Mini Cooper S JCW GP Kit
Agency: glue London
Writers: Sally Skinner, Dave Martin
Art directors: Sally Skinner, Dave Martin
Director: Jim Field-Smith
Production company: Idiotlamp
4. TRANSPORT FOR LONDON
Project: Combined public transport
Client: Nigel Marson, head of group marketing communications, TfL
Brief: TfL helps you get the most out of London
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writer: Paul Pickersgill
Art directors: Paul Pickersgill, Graham Fink
Director: Graham Fink
Production company: thefinktank
Exposure: National TV, cinema
Project: Local e-Gov take-up
Client: Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
Brief: Increase take-up of local council services that are now available
Agency: Euro RSCG London
Writer: Sam Richards
Art director: Phil Beaumont
Photographer: David Harriman
Photographer's agency: Mark Gibson
Exposure: National press, posters
Project: Don't hide
Client: John Grounds, director of communications, NSPCC
Brief: Encourage youngsters affected by abuse to talk about it
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Writer: Dave Henderson
Art director: Richard Denney
Director: Danny Kleinman
Production company: Kleinman Productions
Exposure: Online, cinema