In the time-honoured tradition of saving the best until last, I'll kick off with Kingsmill (2). Now, I love bread. I'll go so far as to nail my food colours to the pleb mast and declare that I love white bread. But it's not enough to simply play that back to me in a commercial. Here we see people eating bread, basically, and smiling. Even the sulky teenager rediscovers his love for his mum upon having some toast. It's such an old strategy that other strategies give up their seat for it on the Tube. I guess it's supposed to be life affirming, but it's merely bread affirming, and that's plain silly. Bread isn't that big a deal. Do they think I'm going to punch the air, shout "Yesss, bread really rocks", and run down the street a'whooping and a'hollering? Like in a ...
... Halifax (5) ad. This season, they've massacred Aretha Franklin's Think. A woman sings about interest rates and everyone dances around, basically, and smiles. It must be great having a big media spend: it saves you the use of your imagination. Does it move us on? Of course it doesn't. It revels in copying what it did last time and the time before that. These days, I want to strangle myself whenever Howard's crew comes on, and surely that's not their desired out-take. Well, it probably is now.
At least Ikea (3) has had a go at something new-ish. Its units are tested to ensure, for instance, that they can withstand marital rows, so there are pictures of robot men and women throwing plates at each other. The creative idea isn't that bad, but it isn't that great either. Robots haven't yet entered the Cliche Hall of Fame to sit alongside Einstein and the Mona Lisa, but they do have a serious whiff of the familiar about them.
Gary Lineker is joined by Russell Brand, Girls Aloud and Harry Hill for the latest Walkers (4) commercial. As a gag - and I suppose a Comic Relief tie-in is as relevant a place as any to carry a gag - it's not bad. Stephen Fry, the teacher, is taking a roll call. Everyone in the class is wearing large comedy ears, except Lineker, who is au naturel, yet he's the one who's chastised for having ridiculous-looking ears. For once, Lineker's acting is acceptable. And it's a good cause. And Souter let me stay in his lighthouse once. So, y'know ...
In the Nissan (1) ad, people pack their non-Nissans until they explode and shower the neighbourhood with suitcases, handbags, footballs, etc. A nice, old-fashioned idea where they take a product benefit - the Nissan Note has 13 clever storage compartments - and literally explode it. It's better than most commercials you see, but the problem is the old-fashioned thing. People will remember that ad where the baggage flies out of the less-spacious cars, but they won't be engaged enough to feel any particular emotion towards Nissan. Unlike Honda advertising (now there's a brand name Nissan must be sick of hearing), there's no genuinely different, long-term thinking behind it. Honda ideas tend to seep into your mind and stick there. Nissan the brand doesn't have its own voice as such and, as a result, nice little product ads will be nothing but fillers until the big thought arrives.
T-Mobile (6) kindly points out we should know our coverage strength before we buy, and tells us to bring our favourite postcodes to them so they can do a StreetCheck. So we see people pulling their houses, pubs and offices around town. From the first shot of the house coming over the hill, you know you won't mind spending your 30 seconds with this brand. It's unusual, it's uncluttered and it feels contemporary. Dang! Note to self: never save the best until last, it doesn't bode well for a clever ending.
DIRECTOR - Richard Loncraine, director, 2AM Films
I have a question? Why would a director give an honest critique of six different agencies' creative work? Sounds like a death wish to me. But I was assured that people would respect me for my honesty. Wow, the business has really changed! So, hoping I haven't been duped into commercials suicide, here are my notes.
Halifax (5). I imagine the brief for this ad was: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's perfectly well executed, but still as dated a campaign as it was 20 years ago. And I'm getting rather tired of seeing South Africa shot for the UK. If this isn't a case of the client steering the creative ship, then I don't know what is. Still ... "If it ain't broke ..."
Kingsmill (2). How the f*** do you write an ad for steamed white bread that's presumably no different to any other steamed white bread? Where do you start? Well, you could do a lot worse than employing the team that came up with this offering. Slices (sorry) of family life in the life of a family loaf. They are witty and well observed and made even better by excellent direction. This spot will get better over multiple viewings rather than more irksome, thanks to the honest human observations that drive it along. Good soundtrack, too.
T-Mobile (6). I didn't really like this one. On the face of it, what was on offer seemed rather like a non-event. (You go online and check to see T-Mobile's signal strength where you live, work and play.) I was surprised, however, to find that in quite a few rural areas, this would be good to know, as coverage strength does vary. So top marks to T-Mobile for being honest about this.
My problem lies with the ad itself. Talk about a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Several rather bored people are seen dragging their entire home or office through, what looks suspiciously like South Africa again, to the T-Mobile HQ to see if they will get a nice strong signal on their phones. Now I know this is only a visual metaphor for the service on offer, but really.
In what I laughingly refer to as my career, I have shot at least three ads like this where, to cover the fact that the product was pretty boring, we built a fake building and either hung it from a crane, carried it through the streets, or pushed it out of an aircraft - and they didn't work, either. One rule of thumb for anyone daft enough to try this again is that the size of the building should always be in an inverse ratio to the size of the idea. So if you can't hear granny clearly from home, then try dragging the house a few miles closer.
Walkers (4). Well written, well directed, well photographed, well art directed, well everything-ed, really. I just could not for the life of me hear the last line from Mr Brand.
Nissan (1). The Nissan Note claims to have 13 separate storage compartments scattered about its faceless form. Unfortunately, we only get to see one of them in this well-crafted ad. It would have been nice to have all that creative skill focused on some of the other 12 hideaways. It made me suspicious that of these exciting storage innovations, one may be an ashtray and another a place to store loose change.
Now Ikea (3). When invited to do this review, the covering letter asks that you not make your criticisms personal. But how can you review an ad for Ikea and not make it personal? I guess the only way would be if you had never been subjected to the mind-numbing process that follows stepping inside one of Mr Kamprad's asylums. Unfortunately, I have, so what follows should be completely ignored.
This print campaign seems fine if you are a robot, because the agonising process you will have to go through to actually choose, order and install the lovely kitchens will only burn out a couple of your circuit boards rather than permanently destroy most of your brain.
By the way, I give 1,000 Nectar points per shoot day.
Clients: Bastien Schupp, marketing communications general manager;
Jean-Pierre Diernaz, advertising and media manager
Brief: Reinforce the fact that the Nissan Note is spacious for a compact
Writer: Benoit Taroux
Art director: Philipe Leroux
Production company: Paranoid
Director: Blue Source
Exposure: TV, print
Project: Slice of life
Client: Brian Robinson, chief executive, Allied Bakeries
Brief: Relaunch Kingsmill as a brand that creates the "classic bread
moments" that have a knack of bringing the family together
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writer: Orlando Warner
Art director: Simon Briscoe
Production company: Tomboy Films
Director: Kirk Jones
Exposure: National TV
Project: Ikea kitchens
Client: Claudia Struzzo, deputy marketing director, Ikea
Writers: Adrian Peters, David Wellington
Art directors: Adrian Peters, David Wellington
Production company: 10:00AM
Exposure: Press, outdoor, digital
Project: Walkers Comic Relief "walkEARS"
Client: Tony Matta, marketing director, Walkers
Brief: "WalkEARS" is a light-hearted portrayal of a school room register
to promote free walkEARS and help raise £1m for Comic Relief
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writer: Peter Souter
Art director: Mike Durban
Production company: Paul Weiland Film Company
Director: Paul Weiland
Exposure: National TV
Client: Steve Griffiths, head of mainstream marketing, Halifax Bank of
Brief: Celebrate the Halifax brand
Agency: Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners
Writer: Jackie Steers
Art director: Ira Joseph
Production company: Blink Productions
Director: Blue Source
Exposure: National TV
Client: Karen Harrison, head of brand communication, T-Mobile
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Writer: Steve Howell
Art director: Rick Dodds
Production company: Academy Films
Director: Nick Gordon
Exposure: TV, outdoor, in-store