This column, like life, begins with an egg. Or, to be precise, the Egg (6) credit card research lab, where several Egg eggheads are observing a group of guinea pigs. The boffins are studying the guinea pigs' everyday habits and somehow connecting this to their credit card. It's whacky, it's different, it's an ... Ikea campaign.
Sticking with plastic, no guinea pigs were harmed in the making of this MasterCard (1) commercial. Instead, there's a far-from-size-zero boy playing football with his pals in a European piazza. More buffoon than Buffon, he's a clumsy little chap with a talent for breaking various parts of the square, smashing windows and lights whenever he kicks the ball. Suddenly, the local priest emerges to execute a neat move and - wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles - the little lad scores with a spectacular strike. Cute, but unlikely to get them setting off flares on the San Siro terraces. One last niggle: so why should I favour MasterCard over Visa?
I declare a vested interest in Danepak (2). Years ago, Gary (Betts) and I did a Danepak campaign featuring Peter Schmeichel singing in the bacon factory looking worryingly like a member of the Hitler Youth. I still recall how we looked him straight in the eye and promised faithfully to preserve his dignity and leave his respectable reputation intact. We then filmed him atop a tea trolley, playing a ukulele, surrounded by girls in skimpy Danepak bikinis. Rule number one, Pete ... never trust an adman! Fast-forward through the years to this current offering, an altogether classier affair that introduces us to "the family farms of Danepak". These are like Jack Daniel's ads, minus the fascinating nuggets of information and the grainy photography, making me feel they've barely scratched the surface of what could have been an interesting idea. I visited the website mentioned on the ads hoping to learn more about the Danepak families, but found surprisingly little. Are they genuine families? Or is Danepak telling porkies?
My goodness, it's a Guinness (5) website. Or rather a microsite designed to extend the theme of the latest "hands" commercial. Here you can create your own(ish) version of the film, title it as you wish, and then e-mail on to an unsuspecting mate. You could call it "too much time on your hands". The commercial itself is compelling and entertaining, but I'm not sure the site really takes advantage of the technology that's now available.
From new media to old faces. Flake (4) is back on our screens after a five-year absence. It's familiar territory: the gorgeous girl, the Ronnie Bond theme music, the beautiful photography and the chocolate crumbs. Not as erotic as past executions, but then, for soft porn, you can always ogle the pole-dancing starlet of this commercial for the charity Against Breast Cancer (3). It starts with her gyrating seductively in front of the usual seedy suspects until slowly, teasingly, removing her bra. Eventually comes the "money shot" as she turns to the audience and reveals her breast. Singular. Finally, a title tells us that breast cancer can affect anyone. I understand the desire to shock, but I'm left with two problems. First, I'm not convinced enough women will get past the first ten seconds of quasi-FHM imagery, in which case they'll miss the message and the point. Second, the fact that the climax of the film is the jolt of seeing a one-breasted stripper seems to be designed to elicit feelings of disgust. In other words, it's saying "isn't mastectomy repulsive?" Is that really the message a cancer organisation should be promoting? Shouldn't they be supporting women who have had this surgery, rather than suggesting that they are grotesquely deformed? I lost my mum to breast cancer, so I very much hope I'm wrong, but I can't help feeling uncomfortable about this film. And for all the wrong reasons.
And on that cheery note, I'll quietly leave ...
PLANNER - Rebecca Morgan, strategy director, Lowe
I've always fancied myself as a creative director. I mean, great work is just another triumph for planning, isn't it? At least, that's what I'm always telling Ed ...
First up was Flake (4). When I first saw this, sitting in my living room, the opening seconds made me think: "Ooh, this looks interesting." I was wrong. Not reverse film again. I was left slightly confused about what I was supposed to take away. Was it just a bit of fairly nice, if familiar, imagery with a nice track - it is just chocolate, after all - or was I supposed to make the link that the crumbs tumbling on to her decolletage precipitate raindrops falling from the sky. So when you eat a Flake it will rain on you? No, no, I'm looking for strategy where there is none. And presumably the heavy-handed endshot was there to reassure us she really did eat the thing, after all. Personally, I'd have remade the original.
Having had my fill of chocolate, I moved on to beer. Guinness (5) looked promising - it was a website for starters. The idea is beautifully simple - hands amusing themselves while you wait the 119 seconds for the beer to be poured. A great fact and generally I like really simple ideas. But I just found this a bit boring. I even made my own little film - and that was boring too. If they'd been pitching this in Hollywood, I suspect the logline would have been: "Dancing Man meets Subservient Chicken - without the charm."
By the time I got to Egg (6), I was beginning to feel hungry. Now I like this campaign - not a mould-breaking strategy listening to customers - but the guinea pigs idea is direct and clever, and the ads are delightfully silly. At least they make Egg stand out as a likeable financial brand - not a bad place to start. This latest execution is all about the credit card so, consequently, has a load of credit card bunny in the middle - all of which makes it creak a bit.
Next, the Against Breast Cancer (3) ad. Once seen never forgotten - this ad is cruel, right down to the choice of medium. It's a cinema ad: so you're sat there with your other half wrestling over the popcorn when a larger than life pole dancer begins gyrating in front of you. He's appreciating the form and you're measuring yourself up when wham! The point is sensationally made: anyone can get breast cancer, so check yourself regularly. You're left slightly reeling - and with skilfully manipulated emotions. He will remember it and nag you to check yourself and you go away vowing to do it.
There are some things money can't buy ... for everything else there's MasterCard (1). This is a brilliant strategy - it leaves no room for anyone else in the sector. A neat little film for the sponsorship of the Champions League, where a lad plays football in the street breaking his neighbours' plant pots and window, until he finally scores. Match analysis: all a bit too familiar for my taste - and a bit of an own goal in my book when the strategy is bigger than the execution.
Finally, Danepak (2) print. On first look I like the fact that they've tried to do something different from sizzling bacon in a pan. Here they try to show that there are people behind the pork, unlike most of the rest of the pre-packed rubbish you get. Ironically, given they are making a point about care, I'm left with a "so what?" feeling. Call me contrary, but the problem is that I'm left knowing that families run the farms, but not much about what that means for what I put in my mouth. And the copy misses the opportunity to whet my appetite.
I was left thinking it's all too easy when you're looking at finished work - buying, or not buying, the unfinished article is the real test of an agency team or client. Still fancy myself as a creative director? You bet I do.
Project: Uefa Champions League
Client: Carolyn Esposito, European marketing leader, brand marketing
Brief: Create a TV ad to support the Champions League sponsorship to
connect with football fans
Agency: McCann Erickson
Writer: Jonny Skinner
Art director: Ben Brazier
Director: Vince Squibb
Production company: Gorgeous
Exposure: Across UK stadia, pub TV
Project: Family Farms
Client: Fiona Clayton, brand development manager, Danepak
Brief: Position Danepak as a high-quality brand
Agency: Hooper Galton
Writer: Martin Galton
Art director: Martin Galton
Photographer: Harry Borden
Exposure: National posters, magazines
3. AGAINST BREAST CANCER
Project: Breast Cancer
Client: Pat Leathern, chief executive Against Breast Cancer
Brief: Raise awareness and get young women to check their breasts
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writers/art directors: Selda Enver, Shaheed Peera
Director: Tom Carty
Production company: Gorgeous
Project: Summer rain
Brief: Reinvent the Flake girl for the 21st century
Writer: Laren Bensted
Art director: Poppy Wilcox
Director: Jake Scott
Production company: RSA
Exposure: National TV, cinema
Project: Hands website
Client: Louise Curran, marketing director, Diageo
Brief: Create an exciting website that backs the "wait for a Guinness"
Agencies: iChameleon, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writers: Gary Hoff, Erica Boynton, Sean Vrabel
Art directors: Juan Morales, James Allen, Stuart Woodall
Client: Alison Wright, head of marketing, Egg
Brief: Demonstrate how Egg understands the consumer's need for long-term
Art director: Mother
Production company: Stink
Exposure: National TV