These are fascinating times for our industry. Every marketplace is getting more competitive, and the media jungle is getting thicker and more complicated by the minute.
Such a situation demands some fresh thinking - some stand-out creativity and media pioneering. It demands that we entertain as never before - using music, narrative, emotion and humour to engage our audience.
So, how are the best agencies in London shaping up to that?
Heart FM (3). For a minute, I thought this ad was a devastating satire on the particular breed of agencies that jump through hoops for the sake of keeping clients happy at all costs. Unfortunately, it isn't.
"Feelgood" is quite a charming film, showing a girl doing some quite impressive things with a hula-hoop, but I'm struggling to find the strategic breakthrough here, to be honest. The endline is: "feel good" - which doesn't really differentiate the brand from all the other radio stations. (Unless they want me to feel bad.) To be fair, it is a feelgood piece of film. It's just so quiet that it feels like it has forgotten where the volume knob is.
This is a shame. Heart FM is an interesting station, named after my second favourite organ of the human body. To give you a clue, the first one swells to ten times its normal size when it becomes excited.
Some people may think I'm referring to the pupil, but I refer, of course, to the human penis.
Orange (6) has two funny little white fellas ambling down the road with their arms wrapped around each other. It's a brilliantly original visual and, like all genuinely fresh ad ideas, is open to criticism from all sorts of people who might be jealous.
I'm in two minds about this.
On the one hand, it's one of the most eyeball-grabbing images on the box. On the other hand, it feels a bit "cool" and distant emotionally. However, my major criticism is that the little white fellas aren't anatomically correct. They're missing the very thing that (according to a recent survey) women find most attractive in men.
Some people may think I mean a full head of hair, but I refer, of course, to the human penis.
Lurpak (1) shows us various chunks of butter, telling us all very helpfully how big a knob we'll need for each item of food at our Christmas dinners.
I'm afraid I don't know what else to say about this.
But if we're going to talk public information, there are two new campaigns with far weightier matters to ponder.
But neither the Transport for London (2) teen road safety ad nor Barnardo's (4) seem to be as powerful as they've been previously.
Both campaigns are, judged in their own right, striking. Both try to overcome our compassion fatigue and downright selfishness by getting us to think about the respective problems in new ways.
The Transport for London ad asks us to imagine that a teenage road casualty could have gone on to achieve sporting glory.
Personally, when I'm thinking of running someone over, I don't always weigh up their potential contribution to the sporting glory of our nation. Is it worse to knock over a promising basketball player, or a jockey who's frankly a bit over the hill? Interesting question. Of course, a jockey who's just over the hill will probably be that much harder to spot. Barnardo's is even fresher in its thinking. Using only body copy, it's intrusive, memorable and very, very depressing.
And the last one is from Lynx (5). It's a piece of work to be found on the unpoliced savannahs of the internet.
It's called "blow" and it's fucking funny!
This work will appeal to any member of the human race who has something I've referred to already in this column.
Some people may think I mean the human penis, but I refer, of course, to a sense of humour.
CREATIVE - Matt Powell, UK creative director, Profero
Advertising really is a daft profession. Take Heart FM (3) and its "feelgood" ad, for example. I'm not saying this is an unpleasant ad - it's laid-back, carefree and whimsical, much like the radio station, I imagine. But I can't help but think how insane it is that people get paid handsomely for strategising, conceiving, casting, directing and buying punishingly expensive media spots for what is, in essence, 60 seconds of someone swinging a 50p hula-hoop around. Plus, I just can't see this idea working in any medium other than TV, which is a real flaw in this day and age, so let's move on.
Initially, Transport for London's (2) "don't die before you've lived" campaign really stunned me. The bone-china explosions are honed to perfection - reminding us all that life is fragile and precious.
Then I remembered the previous work in this territory - the one based on fictional action hero Scott Smith, which was delivered in a Hollywood blockbuster-type trailer parody. I can still recall the voiceover for that one. That really was a corking ad, capable of making reluctant teens listen to public information. By comparison, this new ad seems a bit straight-laced. This is the sort of ad a headmaster would endorse. With both Hollywood blockbusters and ads alike, it seems that it's never easy coming up with sequels.
I showed the Lurpak (1) campaign to the directors at Profero and asked for their honest opinions. Those that I would describe as "ready-meal dependent" denounced it as dull. The more culinary they were, the more they warmed to it. Conclusion: I think this is a neat idea built from an astute proposition.
A pack of butter appropriately divided between Christmas recipes. It's simple, but it works for more than just that reason alone. It's a festive ad that needs no snowflakes, sleigh bells or sit-on-Santa's-lap jokes. Furthermore, it knows how people who do home cooking think. My only reservation is that it also screams out why most people get fat over Christmas.
"Togetherness" for Orange (6) has conjoined wind-up toys shuffling down the street. How many times have I seen this ad on the telly over the last few days? I suppose it's my own fault for getting hooked on I'm a Celebrity ... And yet, despite this over-exposure, I haven't tired of it one bit. In fact, I still have a place for it in my heart. In contrast to the other Heart (with a capital H), I can see the idea working online, in store, outdoors, direct marketing - everywhere. Bang-on brand with a very humble quality. Highly commendable.
I didn't know that there were 175,000 young carers in the UK, but I do now, thanks to this effort from Barnardo's (4). However, above the candid body copy lies a headline, a headline which I found easy to dismiss. Deconstructed, it's a classic case of trying to wrong-foot your audience. Its "please excuse my son from home" angle feels a bit awkward and contrived. It definitely raises awareness, ticking one box, but sadly, it doesn't have a sufficiently compelling call to action to make me act.
Now playing on the screen is a video of a hot chick, and if you puff your cheeks and blow, it'll whip her clothes off. Yes. Really. A few years ago, this would have seemed beyond any teenage boy's wildest imaginings. Now it's a reality (OK, a virtual reality) brought to us by Lynx (5). Playing this, I felt assured that engaging, online content is the future for FMCGs everywhere.
Using sound to influence graphics isn't especially new, but I've never seen it done this well - the production qualities of "blow" are every bit as good as its companions in this week's Private View, which is commendable. But scantily clad girls used to advertise men's toiletries? It's like watching a snake swallow its own tail. One question lingers, though. What's the point of wearing Lynx if you don't need to leave the house to meet beautiful girls?
Project: Lurpak Christmas
Client: Stuart Ibberson, senior brand manager, Lurpak
Brief: Position Lurpak butter as the champion of good food at Christmas
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Writer: Ben Walker
Art director: Matt Gooden
Photographer: David Sykes
Exposure: 48-sheet posters, Sunday supplements, monthlies
2. TRANSPORT FOR LONDON
Project: Teen road safety
Client: Nigel Marston, director of group marketing and communications,
Transport for London
Brief: Further Transport for London's "don't die before you've lived"
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writers: Kit Dayaram, Tom Spicer
Art directors: Kit Dayaram, Tom Spicer
Director: Daniel Kleinman
Production company: Rattling Stick
3. HEART FM
Client: Barnaby Dawe, managing director, Heart FM
Brief: Build Heart FM into a lifestyle and entertainment brand reaching
Agency: Clemmow Hornby Inge
Writer: Tom Skinner
Art director: Rick Standley
Director: Jim Gilchrist
Production company: Thomas Thomas
Exposure: Regional TV, cinema
Client: Andrew Nebel, UK director of marketing communications,
Brief: Increase awareness of Barnardo's by raising the emotional issue
of young carers
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Writer: Brad Woolf
Art director: Dan Bailey
Exposure: Women's weeklies and supplements, radio, online
Client: Lauren Gold, brand executive, Lynx
Brief: Reward Lynx consumers with great interactive content and build
brand fame online
Writers: James Cooper, Alistair Robertson
Art director: Flo Heiss
Directors: Duncan & Pearson
Production company: Park Village
Clients: Pippa Dunn, director of brand marketing; Rachel Macbeth, head
of advertising; Noel Cottle, advertising manager
Brief: Orange makes it easy to stay close to friends and family all year
Writer: Lawrence Seftel
Art director: Micah Walker
Director: Ringan Ledwidge
Production company: Rattling Stick
Exposure: National TV, press, poster, online