I ended the year as Campaign's Nicest Man in Advertising and have only just stopped retching from shame. Well, it's not what you want, is it? Especially when you're cowering in the shadow of the Ten Scariest People list, headed by Nigel "Stone Face" Bogle. Frankly, that's the one to be on and I'm making my bid early. Punching cats and vomiting unseen into old ladies' shopping is part of the plan, but the surest way to slash a scar across the face of our business is to write a stinky Private View. Except that Campaign has done me up like a kipper yet again. Instead of the end-of-year bag of dross I was expecting, this week's bunch has much to praise. Apart from Jaguar. But I will do my best to find fault with the good stuff and as for Jaguar ... There's a year's worth of pent-up un-nice teetering in a bucket about 450 words away. Look away now is my recommendation.
Let's start with Cadbury Snaps (5), which look suspiciously like chocolate Pringles. This commercial dutifully retreads the theme of female chocolate obsession and even uses the popular device of subtitles that tell you what people are really thinking. But it's great. Well written, cast, played and directed. Which doesn't leave an awful lot to get enraged about.
The commercial for Calm (4), a sort of Samaritans for young men, is also excellent, but there is something very curious about it. If you describe to anyone in advertising an ad in which a middle-aged man carrying a briefcase sees a young thug hurrying towards him and fears the worst before events take a surprising turn, there's only one commercial that springs to mind. Well now there are two, only the new one ends not with a man saved from falling bricks, but a man jumping to his death. The people who made it obviously know The Guardian ad as well as the rest of us and presumably took the view that their cause was bigger than a quibble about plagiarism or homage. Not a view I'd argue with.
And the rest is all cars. This time last year I gushed like a girl over the latest Honda (1) ad, "Impossible Dream". I can't find it in my newly hardened heart to feel the same way about Asimo, Honda's little robot, wandering through a science museum. Of course, it has charm and is beautifully done, but aren't cute robots ten a yen in every Japanese R&D department? And it's beginning to make me wonder what's wrong with the actual cars that Honda so resolutely declines to feature in its ads.
Land Rover (2) isn't showing its cars either because it has something far more important to say: real royal people drive our cars! Well, rooty fucking tooty. This isn't really an ad, of course, it's a PR stunt and a bloody good one. The nationals gleefully reprinted the picture of Zara Phillips and her muddied hem and the wretched woman walked off with Sports Personality of the Year, instead of the overwhelmingly righteous choice, Joe Calzhage. Bitter? Me? Dead right.
Nissan (3) has put a lot of effort into a spoof website for its bizarrely named Qashqai. The central conceit is a new urban sport that is basically BMX biking with cars instead of bikes. Rather like heavily discordant orchestral music, it was probably more fun to make than to witness.
Right, Jaguar (6), what are you doing sending people mailers adorned with a simpering couple driving past opera houses at night, her lips forever parted, his tie forever cast aside? On the fleeting occasions the copy strays from "luxury" and "refined", it finds itself hurtling up Innuendo Alley. The following are actual words from the text: "muscular", "rigidity", "potent", "supple", "skin drawn taut", "blistering", "emissions". It's a cliffhanger, but either Leslie Phillips has been moonlighting or this is poop.
BANK MANAGER - Phil Gabitas, the bank manager in the Nationwide ad campaign, aka actor Mark Benton
I view ads the same way as I do customers walking through the doors of my bank. I look them up and down and ask myself a simple question: "What's in it for me?" So when I saw a young lady wearing her granny's pearl necklace for Land Rover (2), I thought: "Bingo, she looks a bit horsey, bet she's worth a few bob. Maybe I can flog her an investment product or get her to open a savings account." Then I noticed the dreadful state of her frock and all I could think about was a huge bill from a contract carpet cleaner. You've got to ask questions about someone who goes out so inappropriately attired. I blame the parents. Some families are out of control.
It's a group of girls next for Cadbury Snaps (5). And I like their style. They're a lot like the girls in our call centres. And by that I don't mean that they hail from the Asian sub-continent. They are highly skilled in the art of truth avoidance and politician-like deception. They could keep you on a premium-rate phoneline for long enough to make you feel like they've helped you out, when actually all they've helped you do is run up a hefty bill. And 20 minutes after you've hung up, you realise you're none the wiser and have to call them again.
Next a moody-looking youth in a hoodie shuffles in for Calm (4). At first I think he looks quite threatening and it occurs to me that maybe he's got something on his mind other than making a straightforward deposit or a withdrawal. I'm just about to press the rapid- response security alert button when I realise he's actually a normal young lad who probably just wants to open a current account and get himself a free pen. Phew, that was close.
Now here's a sophisticated young couple in this mailing for Jaguar (6). Just the kind of customer we're looking to attract. And what I mean by that is they look loaded. I'd like to get them tied into one of our fixed-rate mortgages, with lots of complicated get-out clauses. On closer inspection, I find them more irritating than getting stuck in the queue behind the man from the local amusement arcade when he's come to cash up his weekly takings from the penny slot machines. Lots of fake smiles and annoying questions about when I'll be trading in my Mondeo. Next customer to cashier number three please.
This one for Nissan (3) reminds me of a guy we had in a few months back. An Eastern European plasterer with a lisp. Nice man, but I didn't have a clue what he was going on about and he kept spitting all over the glass partition.
Finally, through the door comes a funny little fella with a backpack, doing some sort of body popping from Honda (1). I've seen better robotics at the office party, to be honest. He should work on making his movements a bit more jerky and robot-like. But to give him his due, at least he looks like he's made the effort. He's got his best white suit on, which shows a bit of respect and I appreciate that, but he's probably on the scrounge. I see his type all the time enquiring about personal loans. I'm not sure I'd approve him for one though. He looks a bit simple. He sticks his head under a water leak, which has got to be a "no no" if you're a complex configuration of circuit boards and microchips. He also waves at a statue of a spaceman and pretends he's an aeroplane. Definitely what we would categorise "high risk" in the money-lending world. Oh, and a friendly word of advice if you're ever thinking of visiting the bank for real, Mr Asimo: remove the crash helmet before entering. It's a basic security measure that applies to motorbike couriers and androids alike. No exceptions.
Client: Jeff Dodds, head of marketing, Honda (UK)
Brief: Showcase Honda's human approach to technology
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Writers/art directors: Chris Groom, Stuart Harkness, Michael Russoff
Director: Peter Thwaites
Production company: Gorgeous Enterprises
Exposure: TV and internet
2. LAND ROVER
Project: Beautifully poised
Client: Naveen Dayal, Land Rover
Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
Writer: Ben Hartman
Art director: Neil Durber
Typographer: Lee Aldridge
Photographer: Mary McCartney McDonald
Exposure: National press
Project: Qashqai car games
Clients: Paul Willcox, vice-president, marketing; Jean-Pierre Diernaz,
manager, advertising and media, Nissan Europe
Brief: Promote Nissan by convincing consumers that the fictional sport
of Qashqai exists through a viral campaign
Agencies: TBWA\London, TBWA\G1-Europe
Writer/art director: Adam Saunby
Director: Mini Vegas
Production company: Independent Films
Production company: Credits - listing (roman)
Client: Jane Powell, national development co-ordinator, Calm
Brief: Highlight the scale of suicide in young men within the UK
Agency: Ogilvy Advertising
Writers: Neil Dawson, Jim Ritchie
Art director: Chris Hart
Director: Marc Charach
Production company: HLA
5. CADBURY SNAPS
Client: Kevin Banfield, head of marketing, Cadbury Trebor Bassett
Brief: Get the target audience to try Snaps the next time they are
looking for a snack or treat for a social occasion
Writer: Gary Turner
Art director: Jamie Marshall
Director: Paul Gay
Production company: Hungry Man
Exposure: National TV
Project: Jaguar Prospect Recontact DM
Client: Andy Shawe, Jaguar Cars UK
Brief: Target prospective Jaguar owners who have previously expressed an
interest in Jaguar and are soon looking for their next car
Agency: EHS Brann
Writers: Allan Byrne, Jon Ball
Art director: Nick Ruston
Photographer: Euro RSCG Fuel
Exposure: Direct mail to prospects