Just back from safari in Kenya, where the game warden told us to keep our eyes peeled for charging elephants. It seems if you're anywhere near a Panasonic 42-inch TV, it's the discharging elephants you've got to watch out for. This Panasonic (6) viral opens with two lads admiring the amazing lifelike qualities of the Viera picture as they watch a wildlife documentary. Suddenly, a live fish, then a real puma leap out of the screen at them. So far, so unoriginal. But it's what comes next that's the real shocker. As the scene switches to mating elephants, we cut to one of our heroes - and wah-hey, his face is unceremoniously drenched in a quart or so of elephant semen! Now there's modern for you. I have two teensy problems with this: (a) I honestly wasn't aware that elephants practised the withdrawal method; and (b) yes, I know it's a viral, and we're all "Little Britons" now, but is this sort of thing genuinely going to enhance the status of the Panasonic brand? The client probably thought he was being jolly brave buying the idea, but if it's a toss-up between Panasonic's spunk and Sony's "balls", I know where my vote goes.
We're on less contentious territory with this spot for Options (5). It's got lots to commend it: nifty writing, casting, editing and performances. And it does awfully well getting over all the exotic Options flavours. But you just can't get away from the fact that this is "People Dressed As Packs", and for me, that regrettably consigns the idea to the plain vanilla category. (Ooh, and he used to work there.)
I entreat you to put down your copy of Campaign right now, log on to YouTube and watch this hauntingly beautiful animated spot for the Samaritans (2). OK, this is by no means the first doodles idea we've ever seen, but it's just so wonderfully and lovingly put together that you're ready to forgive it anything. Certainly, it's a rather gentler approach for this client than one allegedly presented some years ago, which involved printing the Samaritans phone number nice and bold on the front of trains.
Here's another client trying to save a few souls - it's the Department of Health (4) with its "unhooked" anti-smoking campaign. Apparently this has attracted a record number of complaints (but then so has smoking, among them emphysema and lung cancer). Given the category and the sheer "adpathy" that's out there, surely these sorts of shock tactics are not just valid, but are, in fact, mandatory. Well done to all on a classically strong visual idea, excellently shot. Out of interest, I rang up the helpline, and the operator said they'd had to "staff up" to cope with all the calls.
Yes, it's mid-January and Easter is upon us. Here's a larky Cadbury's Creme Egg (1) print campaign promoting a game you can play on your mobile phone. I suppose this is what they call 360-degree marketing, but I prefer the term 720-degree marketing, because the industry's still going around in bloody circles trying to work out what it actually means. Anyway, I loaded the game on to my phone, which was mildly diverting, but in doing so noted that I had agreed to "receive text messages from Cadbury about our marketing activities". I avidly await news of their CRM plans for Q4.
Finally, and delightfully, the latest little masterpiece from Skoda (3) featuring giggling car components being tickled together in a high-tech car plant. It's a kind of playful take on CDP's legendary "handmade by robots" film for Strada that astounded the industry back in 1979. I don't think this is going to astound in quite the same way: but it's sure to charm, entertain and persuade. The claim at the end is: "Skoda. Manufacturer of happy drivers." On the strength of this, Skoda is the "manufacturer of happy television viewers", and that, nowadays, is just as great an achievement.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE - Nigel Morris, chief executive, Isobar Communications
When I was asked to do "Private View" I paused for a second or two before finding myself saying yes. I've spent a large number of years telling anyone that would listen that the whole model of advertising was changing. The world has changed and will change even more. Yet I was recently in a debate at one of those medium-powered dinners talking about "involvement". The prevailing view was "better TV ads". I couldn't sleep for 72 hours, it was so depressing.
But there will be ads; billions of them. Are they TV, or are they in the new language, video. Who cares? Most will be crap and some great. But even the great ones will need to be part of something that genuinely involves people and enables them to do things or, heaven forbid, buy something.
But I really liked the animated Samaritans (2) ad. It was surprising, delicate, sensitive, and almost tactile. The music works perfectly and the use of lined school paper as a background is a touch of brilliance. The symbolism is obvious, but it doesn't matter because it is so well done. One anti-climax, though, was the tagline at the end: "Things on your mind?" Not needed, and more passive than just the number.
Onto Skoda (3) and an instant sense of disappointment. Robots and manufacturing processes all having fun together. Lots of "oohs" and "aahs" from metal being pressed and nuts tightened, and some humans at the end to show those finishing touches to the strange "van-type-thing". No reason for the product or the ad to exist.
The Department of Health's (4) anti-smoking "unhooked" campaign is an obvious idea, well executed. In the office film, the close-up of the hook going in grabs you; the guy hooked off the street into the newsagents is the weakest, but, OK, the deadpan look of disappointment on the daughter as she's sees her mother succumb, and the lack of self-esteem shown by the mother herself really cuts through. It's understated and hard-hitting because of that.
I simply don't know what to say about Options (5). The ad is an awful, cliched speed dating debacle that says nothing. I am a hot chocolate addict and, on the basis of this ad, you'd have to threaten me with castration just to get near the stuff! They've bastardised it into lots of sickly additive flavours, like Vanilla Hazelnut Fondant or something, like they do to coffee in bad diners in the US. All the characters have American accents, so I assumed that it was American. I went online to find out who made it. The site obviously isn't optimised so I couldn't find it quickly, but, according to various dieting sites, Options is Belgian chocolate, scores five stars, is only 40 calories a cup and is luscious and velvety. Really?
Cadbury's Creme Egg (1); a taste of childhood and a "cult" in the mind of Cadbury. The print campaign is a poorly executed pastiche of "aliens from outer space" 50s-style film posters. But, hey, there's a website and a short code to text. The site, though, is one of those cheaply re-skinned jobs so beloved of kids' FMCG brands. My five-year-old lasted three minutes and my seven-year-old took one look, put on his teenager face, spat out "rubbish" and went back to the Nintendo Wii. Kids have a choice - loads of it. As for the mobile game ... they won't waste the pennies.
Finally, Panasonic's (6) viral. Only this isn't really viral. It isn't interactive. It isn't personalised. It's an OK bit of video (read TV ad) which is on the website because it involves an elephant splatting semen through the HDTV screen on to the face of a Peter Kay lookalike. Unoriginal in the extreme, not involving in any way and with no reason or little chance of it being sent around.
I enjoyed the experience, I'll sleep, but we all have to do more to get people really involved with our brands.
1. CADBURY'S CREME EGG
Clients: Kevin Banfield, head of marketing, Giving & Sharing; Michelle
Goodes, Creme Egg brand manager
Brief: Announce the return of the Creme Egg
Writer: Alex Ball
Art director: Andy Johns
Photographers: Samuel Hicks, Louisa Parry, Glen Garner, Josh Cole
Exposure: National outdoor
Project: Winter 2006-07 campaign
Client: Jeremy Payne, director of fundraising and external relations,
Brief: Increase understanding that you can contact the Samaritans for a
range of issues
Agency: Lunar BBDO
Writers: Ben Kay, Oli Kellett, Alex Holder
Art directors: Daryl Corps, Oli Kellett, Alex Holder
Director: Christian Bevilacqua
Production company: Therapy Films
Writer: Ian Heartfield
Art director: Matt Doman
Director: Andy McLeod
Production company: Rattling Stick
Exposure: National TV
4. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
Client: Sarah Partridge, senior campaign manager, Department of Health
Brief: Encourage smokers to go smoke-free with the help of the NHS
Agency: Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy
Writer: Malcolm Duffy
Art director: Paul Briginshaw
Director: Jeff Stark
Production company: Another Film Company
Exposure: TV, outdoor, press, online, DM
Project: Speed dating
Client: Elizabeth Edwards, marketing manager, Options
Brief: Highlight the range of Options flavours
Agency: Lowe London
Writer: George Prest
Art director: Johnny Leathers
Director: Rick Lemoine
Production company: Independent
Exposure: National TV
Client: John Dixon, head of brand communications, Panasonic UK
Brief: Create a fun viral that consumers want to spend time interacting
Agencies: Inbox Digital, Dig For Fire
Writers: Oli Christie, Dennis Pettit
Art directors: Jeremy Swale, Nigel Wood
Director: Matthew Nelson
Production company: Slinky Productions
Exposure: Online, FHM, Panasonic