Whatever happened to "I bet he drinks Carling Black Label"? It was one of my favourite advertising campaigns ever. It made me want to belong. It was funny. Beery. Silly. Famous. I guess the BACC must have killed it off. Absurd. We live in an age where it's OK to execute world leaders live on television, but it's not OK to use hyperbole in a beer campaign. This new "belong" campaign for Carling (5) doesn't make me want to belong. The posters are beautifully single-minded and creatively pure. But the strategy is showing just a little too much. The planners have taken over the pub.
Now on to More4 (1). Is this a poster or a press ad? If it's a poster, it has got too much stuff in it. If it's a press ad, it has still got too much stuff in it. I'd lose the pictures of Callaghan, Thatcher and Major. I'd keep the picture of Tony. I'd make the title The Trial of Tony Blair bigger. And I'd shrink the rest of the type down to nothing. Hey presto. You've got a good poster. Less is more, More. Less is more.
ING Direct (6)? What kind of a name is that? I can only assume it was the result of an off-site brainstorming session. Or maybe it's some sort of customer empowerment thing. You, the customer, get to make up your own brand name. Bor-ing.direct. Ming-ing.direct. Pork-ing.direct. I dunno. Also, I don't quite get the ads themselves. Why have they got orange bits in? And life belts? Bewildering. Indirect.
I've always really liked the Royal Bank of Scotland (4). It lent money to Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe years ago when no-one else would. I'm not sure this sheep ad does it justice. It's pretty generic. It gives little real feeling of the brand. The sheep metaphor is confusing. It's mildly insulting to me as a customer. And call me barmy, but I enjoy talking to call centres in Bombay. The operators make me giggle.
I've saved the best two till last.
This Vinnie Jones ad for the RAC (2) is a good solid ad. We get to meet Mrs Vinnie Jones. A woman, I suspect, of some fortitude. The whole Mission: Impossible parody thing works. It's a welcome counterpoint to that soppy "you've got a friend" commercial that the AA is running. Although, to be honest, I quite like that as well.
And finally, the long-awaited return of the ONdigital Monkey. This 60-second epic is a bit like watching an organ transplant. Will the patient survive? The commercial explains who the ONdigital monkey was, where he's been, and why he's decided to get back into the "advertising game" - to advertise PG Tips (3) with his old mate Johnny Vegas. The sheer cheek of it. I hope it works. I believe Mother retained the rights to the monkey when ONdigital went bust. Which means they must have sold him to PG. I wonder how much for? And is the monkey now a chimpanzee? I really hope the upcoming PG Tips ads are as funny as the original ONdigital ones were, for the sake of every one involved in this plucky high wire act.
So what's next? Flat Eric returns to advertise tampons?
PA - Vikki Chase, PA to Robert Campbell and Jim Kelly, United London
Not being a long-serving industry veteran with a huge list of influential industry friends, and a longer list of enemies, I felt I could attack this review with a bold and brash approach that spoke nothing but the truth without any amount of pussy-footing and ego massaging that can sometimes fill this section.
So, it made me happy when I opened the packet and saw the first bit of print, "belong", for Carling (5) and realised that my knives hadn't been sharpened for nothing.
Quite patronising this concept, isn't it? It suggests drink Carling or be Billy-no-mates; drink this and be one of the crowd because you're no-one unless you're seen with the right brand in your hand ... Thankfully, my friends and I are not sheep nor Loch Ness Monsters. We share a sense of belonging without having to replicate our orders at the bar, or anywhere else for that matter. Perhaps there are those that yearn to belong, but I've found they're usually ad men who spend so much time in the office thinking these things up that their friends have all deserted them anyway.
Talking of sheep, the Royal Bank of Scotland (4) ad doesn't feel that relevant to me. It asks "who's afraid of the big bad wolf?" and suggests we're all being herded around unchecked and uncared for. Someone should tell them about internet banking - totally alleviates the need to "bleat on" about call centres, I find.
Moving on to More4 (1). At first glance this looks like an ad for a portrait prize or something arty. Doesn't Callaghan look like Peter Mandelson! If it's about Blair, then why not just have Blair in the picture because that's a great image; really impactful, makes you want to know more. And the title should be bigger, like a headline from The Sun.
Now ING Direct (6) might look like a typo, but it's not, it's something to do with mortgages. Unfortunately, its attempt to simplify and romanticise the mortgage experience by filming this ad in black and white did nothing for me. If it had promised to take the "annoy" out of the "annoy-ING", then perhaps it would have made me sit up and listen.
Which brings me nicely on to Vinnie Jones (RAC (2)). Now, what film was he in again? The problem with Vinnie is I've seen him in so many films playing the same role that I don't know which is which. It's all become one big Vinnie Jones hard-but-funny-man-blur. As with any good action movie, the product placement was rife - I spotted the Motorola phone - but what was this ad for again?
Finally, it's interesting to see that even woolly socks with eyes can call themselves celebrities nowadays ... What a great twist for PG Tips (3) and how refreshing - just like the tea, I suppose! If Monkey doesn't get signed up for Celebrity Big Brother next year, I'm sure there'll be plenty of other work available to him - especially if he can sing ...
So, with this advertising pounding out of the way, it has now occurred to me that this unbiased route does appear to have made me look a little, dare I say it, hard to please in the advertising stakes. Maybe I have been in this industry too long after all.
Project: The Trial of Tony Blair
Client: Nick Stringer, marketing manager, Channel 4 factual, features
and sport, More4
Brief: Raise awareness of a new comedy drama from More4
Writer: David Wolff
Art directors: Jon Grainger, Richard Hart
Photographer: Benedict Redgrove
Exposure: National press, posters
Client: Alastair Pegg, director of RAC marketing
Brief: Relaunch RAC brand in one campaign that does justice to the
emotional warmth people feel towards the organisation
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writer: Markham Smith
Art director: Richard Dennison
Director: James Griffiths
Production company: Moxie Films
Exposure: National TV
3. PG TIPS
Project: The return
Client: Katya Walters, brand development director, Unilever
Brief: Re-introduce the PG Tips brand with a new advertising idea
Art director: Mother
Director: Danny Kleinman
Production company: Rattling Stick
Exposure: National TV
4. ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND
Client: Helen Page, marketing director, retail markets, Royal Bank of
Brief: Don't make do with your current bank account
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writer: Paul Hodgkinson
Art director: Paul Hodgkinson
Director: Peter Thwaites
Production company: Gorgeous
Exposure: TV in Scotland
Project: Belong posters
Client: Andy Cray, brand director, Carling
Brief: Position Carling as the pint of the many, not the few
Agency: Beattie McGuinness Bungay
Writers: Richard Harris, Pat Burns, Laura Duffy
Art directors: Jamie Starbuck, Gavin McGrath, Joe Koprowski, Bil Bungay
Photographers: Nick Meek, Chris Frazer Smith, Laurence Haskill
Exposure: National posters and special builds
6. ING DIRECT
Projects: "I like" and "I think"
Client: Gina Fusco, sales and marketing director, ING Direct
Brief: Position ING Direct as a "like-minded bank" through its simple,
Writer: Paul Kemp
Art directors: Tony Hector, Rooney Carruthers
Director: Cris Mudge
Production company: Mustard
Exposure: Terrestrial and satellite TV