Volkswagen (5). How annoying is this? It's a mailer for the VW Golf. For some reason, the agency has decided to include a jigsaw inside the envelope. So when I open the envelope, the jigsaw falls on to the floor. Listen: I made a very conscious decision not to do any more jigsaws after my Auntie Isobel gave me a Map of the World for Christmas in 1967. I was still trying to put the Pacific Ocean together in 1973. Shame, though. Because I am in the market for a VW Golf. Or, at least, I was.
The VO5 (6) hair gel commercial features a bunch of oppressed teenagers in somewhere like, I guess, North Korea. They are in a school classroom. The hero and heroine of the commercial fancy each other something rotten. They make a plan. In an act of shocking rebellion, they punk up their hair with VO5. Then, hand in hand, with hair like Communist cockatoos, they escape their oppressors. Now, if this is a global commercial, it's OK. If it's only showing in the UK, it's terrible. If it's running in North Korea, it's brilliant. Context is everything.
Ribena Really Light (4) is a funny one - and I don't necessarily mean that in a good way. A truckload of blackcurrants are on their way to the Ribena factory. A passing blackbird swoops down, snaps up a single blackcurrant from the back of the truck and flies off with it. In a journey of disaster, the blackcurrant gets sucked through the jet engine of a passing aeroplane, falls through the burner of a hot-air balloon, gets shot at as it crashes to earth via a clay-pigeon shoot. Then the blackcurrant lands by a Ribena bottle. Safe at last. But the naughty blackbird returns, plucks the hapless blackcurrant into the air and the whole ludicrous process begins again. A voiceover attempts to explain: "Never mind. Ribena Really Light is so tasty because billions of blackcurrants make it." Huh?
Moving swiftly on. I like this ITV (1) poster for Emmerdale. Wait a moment - I was about to say I like this Channel 4 poster for Emmerdale. Doesn't Channel 4 put the whole cast of the show on its posters too? Guess it must be a trend. Anyway, I like the poster, although it is probably a bit too complex an image to take in if you are speeding past it at 45mph doing a jigsaw puzzle in your VW Golf.
I think these flip-flop banners for Save the Children (3) are OK, if a little slow to get to the point. What interests me more is the idea itself. Save the Children is launching a range of flip-flops to raise money for the charity. Good plan. I will buy some Save the Children flip-flops this summer. If they do them in my size.
Lastly, some Virgin Atlantic (2) ads. A wave of nostalgia comes over me. "BA doesn't give a shiatsu." Endless Helen Mirren and Terrence Stamp shoots. Miss Piggy. Iggy Pop. Freddie Laker. The Grim Reaper. Winding up BA. Gongs at Cannes. Advertiser of the Year awards. Inaugural trips all round the world with Richard B. Fame and fortune. What a fantastic client. God. What fantastic fun. So, am I going to tell you all what I think of these Statue of Liberty ads? Not on your nellie.
CREATIVE - Andy Sandoz, creative director, Agency Republic
I'm pretty chipper today, so it must be the advertising. The lethargy is evident. Given the saturation of medium and the intelligence of consumer, we must be more resourceful, imaginative and entertaining. We need to innovate to engage. Actually, first off we just need to be enthusiastic. You have to be up for it to make something fresh. Wakey wakey! Please and thank you.
Gratuitous use of jigsaw is one way to describe this mailer from Volkswagen (5). Unintentionally fitting, as this campaign is a collection of small pieces that just don't fit together. The device does not gel with the brochure - other than some clumsy copy, the attractive offer (win £1,000-worth of Homebase vouchers) is lost under the pile of garden ephemera supposedly representing it. The online component - a form - is plain lazy, failing to enhance engagement even though the majority of people now search for a new car in this way. It's all kinda in there, it's just messy, unconsidered and for some reason has a jigsaw. The original (and relegated) line "A clever use of space" surely offers many more interesting opportunities for some smart DM engineering - something spatial instead of flat, something surprising to entice an already sceptic opener. OK, I'll say it: shoulda been done online and with verve and involvement.
Switching over to ITV (1). Emmerdale joins The Caravaggisti! I do like this kind of thing. It looks like a lot of fun to make and a fitting execution to the idea of a decadent country life. It does work well. However, the problem lies in its imitation: it apes the style of the great artists as well as contemporary peers. I can't help feeling that Channel 4 has done this before and, perhaps, better.
More refreshing is Ribena Really Light (4), where there is clear creative effort. It is an example of an agency trying really hard in the face of really boring truths and a pragmatic client. The reversal - "the ones that got away" - is a nice twist. The darkness, energy and production of the ad is great. The best bit for me, though, is the tagline, "It's really, really light", which seems like sarcastic capitulation on behalf of the writer. A happy Ribena smile, even if mum did make it a little weak.
Back to the derivative, stylish nonsense. This VO5 (6) TV spot all fits OK. It looks good. It is nicely styled. It is easy to understand, just in case your brains are concentrating on your hair. But it is still indulgent nonsense, obvious and forgettable.
The Virgin Atlantic (2) posters can be interpreted in a number of ways, which leads me to believe that I am thinking too hard and not putting my consumer hat on. They work because they are iconic and direct. NY and comfort. No great insight or creative juice but a clean and immediate solution that works well and perhaps considers the consumer better than others. I just wish that it had been art directed better as it looks like this stopped at the marker visual stage.
Finally, let's end on my high hopes, a digital campaign and a chance to really get on one about how great it can be. Save the Children (3) - what a great brief! Flip-flops are fun shoes, people like flip-flops, they make a funny noise, let's have some fun ... so why make such a negative statement? This campaign misses a great opportunity to give a positive, upbeat message and fails to achieve cut-through in a very competitive and creative sector. There is little focus on a core idea, the ads and film do not match and the execution is dull and unimaginative - which, given the context, is such a shame. Fundamentally, it does not embrace any of the engagement, emotional transference, fun, immersion and, most importantly, entertainment that digital can offer. Did I mention fun? It's a flop. Sorry.
Project: Emmerdale - it's far from quiet in the country
Client: David Pemsel, marketing director, ITV
Brief: Celebrate the sensational side of Emmerdale
Agencies: M&C Saatchi, ITV Creative
Creatives: Kate Hudson (ITV Creative), Tiger Savage, Paul Pickersgill
Photographer: Finlay Mackay
Exposure: National press, posters
2. VIRGIN ATLANTIC
Project: New York
Client: Breda Bubear, head of advertising and promotions, Virgin
Brief: Celebrate the flagship New York route for Virgin Atlantic
Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
Writer: Ben Hartman
Art director: Neil Durber
Illustrator: Benjamin Wachenge, Central Illustration Agency
Exposure: National press, posters
3. SAVE THE CHILDREN
Client: Erin Barrett, product manager, Save the Children
Brief: Encourage new visitors to the website
Writers: Paul Knott, SJ Threipland, Rob Hobson, Jeremy Garner
Art directors: Ben Long, Andy Garnett, Simon Gill
Designers: Patrick Lendrum, George Follen, Joe Rufian
4. RIBENA REALLY LIGHT
Project: Currant affairs
Client: Duncan Bull, Ribena group brand manager, GlaxoSmithKline
Brief: Just as many blackcurrants make it into Ribena Really Light, but
very few calories do
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writer: Orlando Warner
Art director: Simon Briscoe
Director: Mark Wearing
Production company: Tandem Films
Exposure: National TV
Project: Golf Plus
Client: Morna Steel, communications manager for small cars, Volkswagen
Brief: Promote the Golf Plus as a practical car
Agency: Proximity London
Writer: Paul Faulds
Art director: Chris Rambridge
Exposure: 100,000 direct mail packs to VW customers, hot and cold
Client: Tom Monaghan, vice-president, Europe, Alberto Culver
Brief: Develop a new execution within the "break the mould" campaign
Agency: Euro RSCG London
Writers: James Leigh, Dom Gettins
Art directors: Darren Giles, Olly Caporn
Director: Pedro Romhanyi
Production company: Outsider
Exposure: National TV