Many ads annoy. Some, occasionally, enrage. But few make you want to rush round to the agency that conceived them, slaughter everyone at their desks, burn down the building and dance a mocking fandango on the smouldering ruins.
If you are not currently roaming the West End with a flaming torch, you must have missed the Sky Sports (1) posters that promote its cricket coverage. Their very existence is such an affront to reason, it is worth recalling Sherlock Holmes, who once said that when you have ruled out every other possibility the one left, however unlikely, is the answer. So what happened was this. Person A, let's call him Bill, said to Person B, whom we'll name Ben: "I know, let's change the colour of the letter 'L' in England, making it the Roman numeral that represents the 50 people in a cricket team." When Ben pointed out that Bill had overshot the team quota by 39, Bill got huffy and asked what the Roman numeral for 11 was, then?
"Well," Ben said, "that would be XI. But it's no help because inserting XI would spell Engxiand, and why all the Roman numeral stuff anyway?" Before he could add that this was a great brief and that championing sporting heroes with a typing error was a bit crap, Ben was called away to his ailing mother's side, leaving Bill to besmirch the hoardings of the nation. Frankly, it's the only rational explanation.
The next campaign sent another kind of shudder through me. It is for Camelot (6), an account we had for a few wretched years, during which we produced a fair amount of work that had people wanting to burn us down and not much else. It still hurts and I still can't fully explain it. No such dark thoughts haunt these ads for Dream Numbers, which tell you it is a new game you have more chance of winning by showing other games made much easier. Formulaic, but nicely done.
Half the ads this week create a fantasy world. The least enjoyable of them is the baffling claim by Vodafone (4) that talking to your mum on your mobile is like strolling with her beside an enchanted chasm. This insight passed me by and didn't do much for my mother, who just thought it sounded unnecessarily dangerous.
Much more courageous and interesting is the spot for Quinn's (3), a new product whose USP is that everything in it is 100 per cent fruit, even the alcohol. It does not seem a particularly heart-stopping premise (my God! Alcohol made from fruit! And I thought it could only be squeezed from an alpaca's spleen), but the commercial is a CG tour de force depicting the antics of the flora of the rainforest. It is a toss-up whether the undoubted indulgence of the ad will earn its keep or require too much media spend to be justified, but I admire them for taking the risk.
I enjoyed the Coca-Cola (2) ad, too, although Luke, one of our creative directors, told me rather sternly I should see beyond the craft skills and he didn't "buy it". I know what he means - it is Coca-Cola, after all, not Handmade by Local Pixies - but I was conned by the charm of the animation and, I suspect, I will not be alone.
I missed out on the mailer from the London Business School (5) because the gentleman on the page opposite chucked it in the bin before I had a chance to see it. I think he was taking our agreement not to confer a little too seriously. He need not have worried - although I have known him for 30 years and worked with him three times, I have not got a clue what he will have to say about the work. He may be many things, but the reason I still enjoy his company and am proud to be his partner is he is never predictable and never, ever dull.
FOUNDER - Robin Wight, founding partner, WCRS
Is Private View just a dinosaurs' parade ground? Not because this reviewer is the proud owner of a bus pass, but because the 30-second commercial that has been the standard operating model for marketing for the past 50 years seems to be going the way of the diplodocus.
What is the purpose of the "old-fashioned" ad in the era of funky virals, interactive websites, drive-you-up-the-lavatory-wall ambient media, video blogging, podcasting and alternate reality gaming?
This week's selection of creative work usefully illuminates the issue. Let's begin with Coca-Cola (2), for if anyone can be expected to have its finger on the pulse, surely it is that brand. The Coca-Cola Happiness Factory takes the viewer on a magical mystery tour of life beyond the vending machine. Its PR release refers to a similarity to Wieden & Kennedy London's "grrr" ad for Honda. Sadly, it is "grrr" without teeth, despite the help of some stunning Toy Story-like animation. And it falls short of W&K Portland's recent iconic ad with the young guy riding past American history on his bicycle, or, indeed, Mother's "I wish" ad. Both of which had an emotional resonance that this one lacks, for all its animated ingenuity. But Coke, however, has successfully inserted this ad into the online world - you will find it on everything from YouTube to Adrant. And in that space it gets a better reception than this reviewer gives it.
Vodafone (4) could be regarded as the mobile phone equivalent of Coke and also seems to have invested heavily in special effects. Here, a flaky boy band sings "I'm on another world with you", accompanied by surreal jungle footage that has only a tenuous link with a killer proposition of "free weekend calls on a Vodafone". But maybe that doesn't matter in the new-media world, as the rest of the marketing mix, from in-store to Google listings, delivers that sales message effectively. So what is the purpose of this special- effects melange? One of the benefits of the new-media world is that ads can leave it to the web to do much of the heavy selling. But a new-world TV ad has to work harder than this one does to do the entertaining.
Quinn's (3), courtesy of Mother, is the best advertisement by far in this week's selection. But it falls at the first fence in the new-media stakes. Type "Quinn's" into Google and almost top of the list is Dr Quinn's Online Textbook of Otolaryngology and no mention of the new drink - even in Google's paid listings! The ad itself is wonderfully engaging - unlike Vodafone and Coca-Cola's magical worlds, this one actually serves a purpose. A jungle of Venus fly traps with a rapping narrative tells us: "Quinn's is an alcoholic drink made entirely from fruit." This is a new-media ad in an old media space, proving that creative ingenuity is still more important than solution neutrality.
Camelot (6) has certainly moved into the new-media space, judging by the energy with which its website demonstrates its new Dream Numbers game. So I wonder why it has wasted £1.5 million on old media using analogies such as a giant pair of football posts to tell me "winning just got easier". It would have been better to spend the money re-running that enchanting animation brand ad, "smiles", from a few months back.
The Sky Sports (1) Pakistan Test series poster seems to be playing on a different team from the rest of the Sky brand culture. It is visually sophisticated, includes a pun in Latin and has a tiny logo. And it feels nothing like the brand on the Sky Sports website: a distinct lack of joined-up government.
The London Business School (5) DM mailer is just the sort of thing that the web does so much better. Apparently, their brief was to "look at things with fresh eyes". What a pity they didn't. Let's hope the rest of us don't make the same mistake.
1. SKY SPORTS
Project: Pakistan series
Client: Paul Ridsdale, Sky Sports marketing controller, BSkyB
Brief: Promote Sky Sports' exclusive live coverage of England's cricket
Agency: United London
Art director: Dave Smith
Photographer: John Huet
Exposure: National press, posters, online
Project: Happiness factory
Clients: David Robertson, vice-president, corporate advertising; Esther
Lee, senior vice-president and chief creative officer, Coca-Cola
Brief: Romance Coke
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam
Creatives: Rick Condos, Hunter Hindman
Directors: Todd Mueller, Kylie Matulick
Production company: Psyop
Exposure: Global TV
Project: Paradise found
Client: Stephen White, innovation marketing manager, Diageo
Brief: Launch Quinn's and show it is an innovation of alcohol made
entirely from fruit
Art director: Mother
Director: Arvind Palep
Production company: 1st Avenue Machine
Exposure: National TV, cinema, online
Project: Another world
Client: Dominic Chambers, head of brand and marketing communications,
Brief: Launch Vodafone's free weekend calls and texts offer for pay as
you talk customers
Agency: JWT London
Writer: Kevin Baldwin
Art director: Mick Brigdale
Director: Mattias Hoene
Production company: Partizan
Exposure: National TV
5. LONDON BUSINESS SCHOOL
Project: Marketing cluster mailer
Client: Tyron Hayes, marketing associate, London Business School
Brief: Look at things with fresh eyes
Writer: James Sexton
Art director: Jaime Nunez
Photographer: Jamie Sadd
Exposure: 5,000 senior marketing executives
Project: Dream Numbers
Client: Alisa McKnight, controller of brand marketing and e-commerce,
Brief: Launch the new game from the National Lottery - Dream Numbers
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writer: Ian Heartfield
Art director: Matt Doman
Director: Steve Hudson
Production company: Outsider
Exposure: National TV