The private view from my window - well, not that private really, seeing as I share it with 1.3 million motorists (source: Thornton Tedious Meeting Traffic-Flow Data Collection) - is of the legendary Cromwell Road/A4 poster sites.
Oh how, like Christopher Quentin in pantomime in Crewe, have the mighty fallen. It's now just an endless parade of hi-tech brands proclaiming: "The Future Today Is Here Yesterday And It Looks Like Tomorrow Today." The decline of the poster campaign is not just sad, it's utterly baffling. People spend more time in their cars or on public transport than ever, surrounded by more poster sites than ever. It's still a great medium to own if you're after instant fame. But please, stop patronising me and talking to me as if I were foreign, deaf or a contestant on Love Island.
The Economist (6) campaign has, for what seems like decades, flattered and rewarded its audience's intelligence brilliantly. But with the odd outstanding exception, such as the recent "Jordan" execution, they're just not smart enough any more, to the point where, yes, I'm starting to feel patronised. By The Economist of all people. Time to move on, methinks.
Nike (3) is another brand that seems to have lost faith in the poster medium. Here, we have footage of sportspeople enduring all manner of pain being serenaded by Johnny Cash's Hurt. Brave choice of track given the song's promo was so intensely real, raw and emotional. Unfortunately, this film doesn't match that intensity. Too many scenes. Seeing a thousand raw emotions playing across one defeated sportsman's face in slow-mo close-up - think Gazza in '90, Ronaldo in '98 - would have had infinitely more impact. (Then again, I'm a Stoke fan, and I don't think those fuckers feel remotely enough pain, and certainly nowhere near as much as we fans.)
Real pain and real discomfort for the viewer comes in the form of two NSPCC (4) spots, especially the one with the dad creeping into his daughter's bedroom. I think they're simple, strong, and all the more powerful for having finally stopped beating me with the "child abuse is bad" stick, and instead offered up a "how we the public can help to stop it" carrot.
By stark contrast, I feel nothing whatsoever about this latest Orange (2) ad. A walk through somebody's head as a metaphor for the wondrousness of talking and texting may seem like a good idea, but only if the contents of said head are interesting. And despite looking lovely, and a fey diddly (Bo's wife) soundtrack, I put the phone down on this conversation after ten seconds I was so bored.
I loved the first Orange campaign out of Mother with the kid helping us make the most of our phones. Sony Ericsson (1) obviously loved it too, as it has adapted it for an Adrian Mole-style "diary of a teenage technophobe" mailshot. OK, so he's a technophobe, but the idea's much the same: this phone's easypeasylemonsqueezy. It's charming and well written but too long. Brilliant instruction manual idea, though.
From microchips to, well, chips. (Boy, I'm really getting the hang of this writing lark.) McCain (5) is one of those clients that seems to think posters are merely there to remind you of the TV via a "key visual". Fortunately, its approach to TV is infinitely more appreciative of the medium. It has blatantly mashed up one of the great ensemble dance routines from Oliver! with a song from a totally different scene - in this case Food, Glorious Food, and then brutally rewritten it as Chips, Glorious Chips. I love it. It's big, brash, bold, confident, joyous advertising and endlessly watchable.
But not as watchable as a whizzbang glittery poster for the new Killers album that's currently going up outside my window. Only they seem to have misplaced the K. The illers - I couldn't have made up a better metaphor for the poster industry if I'd tried.
DIRECTOR: John Lloyd, director, Qi Commercials
Hmm. This is harder than it looks. Much easier to pass judgment on someone's work when you're sitting at home watching telly and there's nothing at stake. Now I worry about hurting somebody's feelings. And, worse, not hurting somebody's feelings and having everybody else think I'm stupid.
Which brings me to The Economist (6) posters. The most cunning of campaigns. If you get it, you feel clever and think you might saunter over and buy the mag. If you don't get it, you feel you need to buy the mag. Either way, I bought the mag. Just to be on the safe side. Once was plenty. Couldn't understand a word of it. I'll stick with the ads, me. A couple of the latest crop are excellent. And the posters have created such an air of cryptic, witty intelligence that even the ones I didn't get left me feeling it was my fault. Like watching that bloke on the train finish the fiendish Sudoku.
That's what I like about advertising: it makes the world seem so much smarter, more interesting and charming than it really is. Take McCain (5). The chips are OK, I seem to remember, but they're not exactly all-singing, all-dancing. The director here really knows what he's doing, and the message comes across clear as a bell. Of this week's selection, I have to confess this was my favourite. Five per cent fat! Five per cent fat! Fat, glorious fat! A classy, cheerful piece of work. Do I care about the fat? Not any more I don't.
The best thing about Orange (2) has always been the name - coupled with the slogan (and that haunting Michael Jayston voiceover): "The future's bright, the future's Orange." Unforgettable. "The future's Hutchinson Whampoa" sounds like an ad for shed-based adultery-mattresses. Here is an ad for "Magic Numbers". I didn't know what they were, and I still don't. But the pictures and the music were both soothing and appealing.
As for Nike (3), I've never been able to abide running since I came 60th out of 64 in cross-country at school. This is a well-cut montage of bleak stock-footage showing people suffering for their sporting art. What did they expect, I wonder? I couldn't relate to any of these loonies. But then you get a nice squashy shot of the shoes and someone calmly running at a sensible pace in a pleasant forest. I might buy a pair.
Now to the NSPCC (4). I've only ever been asked to shoot one charity ad. It was a spookily beautiful, harrowing film using real people instead of actors. Made for something called Streetwise, an organisation where rent boys could get a hot shower and change their shorts. Erm, well, quite. The film was good but I'm not sure the message really came across. Probably just as well, really.
The NSPCC, though, has some very important things to say about child abuse. Say them, say I. You don't need an "idea". The beginnings of these two films were really good. And unpleasantly realistic. I watched them with one of my kids. Then the "idea" came along and both of us lost concentration and became confused. For once, I await the 40-second cut-down with real interest. Never thought I would ever say those words.
The direct mail for the Sony Ericsson (1) J230i phone comes in a little blue exercise book. It's handwritten in a nerdy script by "a technophobe" from Snettisham, Norfolk - surely one of the world's most underexploited comic addresses. He draws a bit well for a geek, and, geekily, sent me five copies of the booklet, but it was a neat way of unveiling every aspect of the phone piece by piece. I read it from cover to cover. Very entertaining. Sadly, I already have a Sony Ericsson. Dunno which one, though.
Over the 20 years I've been passively reading this column, I've noticed it always contains two words. So here they are.
1. SONY ERICSSON
Project: Sony Ericsson B2B mailer
Client: Sony Ericsson
Brief: Launch the new J230i phone to 02 staff and help recognise the
type of person the phone would appeal to - in this case, technophobes
Writer: Susan Young
Art director: Paul Beier
Exposure: 320 Sony Ericsson stores
Project: Magic numbers "portal"
Client: Pippa Dunn, brand marketing manager, Orange
Brief: Introduce Orange's "magic numbers" product
Art director: Mother
Director: Noam Murro
Production companies: Independent Films, Biscuit
Exposure: National TV
Project: Endure: Air Max 360
Client: Paolo Tubito, director of brand communications
Brief: Reintroduce the performance benefits of Air to athletes
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam
Writer: Oliver Frank
Art director: Paulo Martins
Directors: Lance Acord, Joaquin Baca-Asay
Production company: Park Pictures
Exposure: National TV
Project: Barriers campaign
Client: John Grounds, director of communications, NSPCC
Brief: It is time for everyone to do something to end cruelty to
children - every action counts
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Writer: Rob Porteous
Art director: Dave Askwith
Director: Steve Hudson
Production company: Outsider
Exposure: National TV
Project: Sunflower park
Client: Simon Eyles, marketing director, McCain Foods
Brief: Sing McCain's fabulous news from the hillsides: 5 per cent fat!
Agency: Beattie McGuinness Bungay
Writer: Trevor Beattie
Art director: Bil Bungay
Directors: Michael Gracey, Pete Cummins
Production company: Partizan
Exposure: National TV, cinema
6. THE ECONOMIST
Project: Autumn poster burst
Client: Jacqui Kean, global brand marketing manager, The Economist
Brief: Surpass yourself
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writers: Prabs Wignarajah, Mark Tweddel, Mark Fairbanks, Mike Nicholson,
Art directors: Jeremy Tribe, Tony Hardcastle, Paul Cohen, Paul Pateman
Exposure: 48-sheets, cross-tracks, six-sheet airports