The press ad for Greenpeace (1) is fantastic. It was all over the broadsheets on the Monday I sat down to write this. I am proud even to be able to praise it here. It's the lethal stone in the classic "David and Goliath" plot. It's brilliantly conceived and perfectly crafted. The art direction is faultless, elegantly and effortlessly throwing the British Airways campaigns' use of clouds on to its tired and puffy face. The copy wastes no second of my attention. The heroic call to action at the end of the copy is brilliant: "If you are booked on tomorrow's BA flight, call Greenpeace on 0800 269065 and we will replace your ticket with a train ticket free of charge." I had it blown up big and stuck all over the agency. Whoever did it, please call me so I can buy you a drink. You're excellent and you're probably not being paid enough.
Good start, I'm up for a positive column, so here we go. Yellow Pages (4). Simply the mention of those two words makes me warm. Largely due to the advertising. What a history, what a lot of ads I wished I'd done. I probably couldn't be better predisposed to like what I'm about to see. The ad plays, a voiceover starts: "Here's to the ..." Hang on, one of the most famous ads Apple has ever made starts like that, and repeats throughout over a set of images of inspiring genius. "Here's to the crazy ones", who could forget it? That phrase! The construct! It has to be out of creative bounds for at least a few hundred years yet. I started off believing that this work, with its over-effortful use of slow-mo and gratuitously emotive voiceover, would reveal itself as an intentional parody of the original, but no. Another familiar phrase - "oh shit" - sank in as the pomp played out. Here's to the boring ones, the plumbers, the cake-makers and carpenters, the bird fiddlers, the tinkers and tailors and candlestick-makers. Endline: "Here's to the people behind the numbers." What? The people in the book or the people who work there? Who cares? Broadly, this has to be the strategic equivalent of getting caught wanking by your mother! It's a big embarrassment. You might as well have taken Yellow Pages' two famous walking fingers, turned them upside down and stuck them up at the punter for 30 seconds and a website. No Cohiba.
OK, I need calming down. Fortunately, there's no better place to do that than in front of the new ad for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (2). It's a beautifully shot mood film with a logo on. It's soporific. We should expect better from a category like this. Unlike Persil (3), which you wouldn't expect much from at all. Surprisingly, its latest ad is great, a sort of Sony "paint" with socks. It's a tough brief, a challenging category, and this is a really entertaining and excellently produced little film. Thank you.
You are only going to like an ad directed by Madonna, featuring Madonna wearing the H&M (6) Madonna dress designed by Madonna if you like Madonna. I have to say I do like Madonna. I'm off target for the skirt, but I'm a bit of a Madge fan. I think the old girl's served her public well over the years. The film is sufficiently quirky to keep me interested, and certainly conveys some scale. It's a big project and, like the dress itself, it must have been a bit of a number to pull off. Sorry, couldn't resist that.
Stop the Traffik (5), a charity against human trafficking, has made some ads that don't really do it for me. After the exemplary Greenpeace ad, it didn't stand a chance. It's a logo and a website address on a picture of people looking like they have been bought and sold. The woman in the shopping trolley looks off her trolley. They don't really get to grips with this issue, which, looking at the website, is a legitimate and very serious one. The problem is I only looked at the site because I'm writing this. The ads just wouldn't intrigue me enough to warrant tapping the 23 keys needed to hit the page. Shame.
CHAIRMAN - William Eccleshare, chairman and chief executive, BBDO EMEA
There's no doubt that this year's big issue in any agency across Europe is how to build our capabilities online. Without the "digital space" to talk about, we'd have to invent some other topic, and I'm already bored with my own ravings about the need for us to recognise the change that's taking place and the need to build our skills.
Only one of the six pieces served up for review this week is digital and that's a so-called viral, which doesn't really count. Where's the innovation? Where's the use of the fabulous creative possibilities offered by so-called new media?
Certainly not in this H&M (6) spot, which doesn't move us very far from where we were almost 20 years ago when Madge made her Vogue video. This doesn't really get beyond "haven't we lucked out by getting a big star signing?" Wicked whips, good soundtrack, but no real idea, and I'm afraid that the same "no idea, no brand impact" rule applies as much online as it does offline. On the other hand, ever since the irrepressible Cilla Snowball persuaded me that I had to see one of last summer's Wembley concerts, I've been a bit re-smitten by Madonna and I might have to take another look at this one.
There's certainly a strong idea in the new Yellow Pages (4) work, and these are beautifully made little movies, too. I can see that they are trying to build an emotional link between brand and user, and I'm sure that's a good strategy. I just found them slightly portentous and was left full of admiration tinged with a bit of "yeah, but it's only a phone directory ..." JR Hartley without the subtlety or wit, I felt.
No-one could accuse the Stop the Traffik (5) campaign of being emotionally excessive. No question these are powerful and visually interesting, and one can't argue with the premise that "people shouldn't be bought and sold". I just wanted a bit more information, and the reliance on driving me to the website seemed profligate. It wouldn't have spoilt the art direction to have a few lines of copy telling me just a bit more about what I could do to stop this horror. I'm all for integration, but that doesn't mean depending on another medium to do the job for you.
The other issue-based ad in this week's Jiffy Bag was a cracker from Greenpeace (1). Stunning graphic, great headline and a compelling offer in the body copy. Job done. And all apparently done in-house, too. This particular all-too-frequently flying, full-service agency dinosaur felt suitably humbled.
As may JWT be by Bartle Bogle Hegarty's stunning debut for Persil (3). No easy task to take over such a sacred brand, but this is terrific work. It's visually arresting, it makes its point with absolute clarity and brings the brand right back up to date. My only niggle with this is with the continued use of "dirt is good" as an end super. I suspect this was some kind of mandatory, since this ad has nothing at all to do with a line which never worked and always had all the hallmarks of being an insight-which-isn't. Dirt isn't good, and it never will be. Can't we just bury this nonsense? But this is a great spot and I really want to see what it does next.
Finally, Ultimate Fighting Championship (2). Alice Roosevelt is reputed to have said at a party something along the lines of: "If you've nothing nice to say about anyone, come and sit with me." It's a great gag which reflects how most of us feel not just about people, but other agencies' work, too. Since, however, the notes accompanying the Private View pack tell me to "be as constructive as possible in your criticism", it's best I don't start on this horror of a TV trail. All I'll say is that it did nothing for me.
Right now, I'm clicking back to that Madonna viral - maybe I missed something ...
Project: Take action for the climate
Client: John Sauven, director, Greenpeace
Brief: Highlight the problems air travel causes to the climate
Writer: Brian Cooper
Art director: Jason Stewart
Exposure: The Guardian and The Independent
2. ULTIMATE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIP
Project: As real as it gets
Client: Marshall Zelaznik, president, UK operations, Ultimate Fighting
Brief: Create a buzz around the UK launch of the Ultimate Fighting
Agency: Cunning London
Writers/art directors: Janson Choo, Ollie Wolf
Director: David Dao
Production company: Agile Films
Exposure: National TV
Project: Persil Small & Mighty
Client: James Frost, European brand director, Unilever
Brief: Launch Persil Small & Mighty across Europe during 2007
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Writer: Matt Waller
Art director: Dave Monk
Director: Simon Willows
Production company: Blink
Exposure: TV in the UK, France, Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal
Project: Everyday people
Client: Catherine Kehoe, head of marketing strategy and communication,
Brief: Help people to reconnect with Yellow Pages
Art director: Mother
Director: Nick Gordon
Production company: Academy
Expsoure: National TV
5. STOP THE TRAFFICK
Project: Stop the Traffick - human retail
Client: Peter Stanley, strategy director, Stop the Traffik
Brief: Make people trafficking relevant in people's everyday lives
Agency: Leagas Delaney
Writer: Ben Stilitz
Art director: Colin Booth
Photographer: Kelvin Murray
Exposure: Online, broadcast at various Stop the Traffick events
Project: Madonna and H&M
Client: Jorgen Andersson, marketing director, H&M
Brief: Introduce the collection designed by Madonna for H&M
Art director: n/a
Production company: HSI London
Exposure: TV, internet, viral