It's a beautiful Sunday morning and I'm enjoying a cup of tea while looking out upon Chicago. Trump International Tower, soon to be the tallest structure built in North America since the Sears Tower, (it will be 92 stories tall), has begun its aggressive ascent and is shaping up to be an architectural masterpiece. In the background, Chelsea battles Blackburn in the semi-final of the FA Cup, heralding the exciting, but quickly approaching end of the football season.
As one season closes, the creative awards season has just kicked off. I've been fortunate to participate in some of these awards already, having chaired and judged a lot of the major shows this year. I keep Cannes, the next big show, in mind as I begin to review the work. How many of this week's selections would I enter into this prestigious show?
First up, a Boots (1) television ad. As a big fan of the "summer rush" spot, I was looking forward to viewing the latest commercial. "Price gun" is a simple idea that dramatises 500 price cuts, with price labels being stuck on various parts of people's bodies, highlighting underarm deodorant, face cream, hair shampoo, nail polish, toothpaste and toilet paper. This simple idea credits consumers with intelligence, and is much better than the usual raft of dull price commercials on television.
Next, another discount commercial, this time for British Airways (4). As a frequent flyer, I'm loyal to the world's favourite airline, but I find it difficult to take this spot seriously. After all, it costs £50 just to taxi to the end of the runway at Heathrow these days. As the title suggests, the commercial is attractive, offering elegant, visually engaging animation (the cloud vignette is my favourite), but it does not communicate much. The spot doesn't offer destinations, so I am at a loss as to how to evaluate the discounts, and I am not persuaded to visit the website.
Jeyes' (5) "aquadance" suggests Bloo Fusions performs for you. The fusion of Bloo and water creating a visual liquid spectacle is an interesting starting point, but the execution is extremely poor. I suggest the team look at the beauty and elegance of the spectacular water show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas for inspiration.
The direct mail piece for the Department for Education and Skills (6) touts this wonderful service for working mums and dads, but the execution is familiar and the art direction pedestrian. That not withstanding, I have no doubt it proved to be effective.
Ladbrokes (3) asks you to take the Grand National Challenge. The web-based game encourages people to bet against their mates. (My performance was abysmal, but I'd like to think I was racing on a donkey.) The game is simple in construct and doesn't differ too much from other online horse-racing games. Again, while it's not overly impressive, I'm sure that it entertained online racing enthusiasts and tempted them to have a flutter.
Finally, a Joost (2) viral film - the technology I fully believe will lay the foundation for the future of television. It's a simple, old-fashioned public information broadcast that does the job. The final line of the spot - "Dedicated to all things that are good about TV. Proper TV. Free TV. How it should be TV. Joost TV" - imparts complex information in a simple, direct way.
Back to my original question: How much of this work would I enter into Cannes? Unfortunately, having trawled through this week's batch of work, I don't think I would waste my money entering any of it. I know that this is a small selection, but the UK has a lot to live up to, having become the most-awarded country in the world (according to the Gunn Report) by dominating all the major global award shows with a range of outstanding, innovative and breakthrough work in 2006. I would have liked to have seen more of that this morning. (The Blues have just won after extra-time, setting up a dream-ticket final against Manchester United. Now that promises to be 90 minutes of artistry and pure creativity.)
CREATIVES - Poppy Willcox and Lauren Bensted, creatives at Publicis and Campaign 2007 Faces to Watch
From our first placement to our first job, along with our first pay cheque (yay) with tax deducted (boo), we find ourselves at that lifetime-defining moment of writing our first Private View.
So let's crack on with Boots (1). We've learnt that "nice" isn't always the greatest word you can hear when having your work reviewed, but sometimes nice just works. And that's exactly what this "price gun" ad is. Tesco did it, and now Boots has. It's a nice idea, that's been nicely shot and put to a nice soundtrack. It's a feel-good ad, which sits really well in the Boots campaign so far. It doesn't turn us into evil green-eyed monsters, but we like it - despite being a little disturbed by the end shot. Watching some poor bloke have a price tag slapped on his meat and two veg? Not so nice.
And on to British Airways (4). Another price-cut ad(ish). But executed with a different approach in mind: take proposition and illustrate. Literally. Although it looks great, it doesn't tell us anything. It's their print ads (stripped of any real information) and cleverly strung together to make a 30-second commercial. So all that's left is a bunch of beautifully animated £35s, £39s and £40s falling down a big black BA hole. Which is probably where they'll stay, seeing as the attractive one-way prices they're advertising will send you to places like Zurich and Krakow - but won't bring you back.
From one CGI piece to another - Jeyes (5). But we're guessing this old toilet freshener had a seriously smaller budget. It's slightly reminiscent of an old Evian ad, but not as well crafted. The graphics, compared with BA's, are pretty awful, and the punny endline is camp, but not camp enough to be funny. We imagine this was a hard brief, as there's only so much you can say about a toilet freshener, but we're just not sure that a set of leaping water fountains choreographed to a classical but familiar piece of music is it. But then, anything's better than a woman or an animated duck, for that matter, looking puzzled down a toilet pan.
Fourth up is Joost (2), the new way of watching proper TV, apparently. How? When? Where? Or why? We're none the wiser. Don't even know how "Proper TV, free TV, how it should be TV" is any different to "what we already have TV". Take away the Open University-style voiceover, and all we're left with is an elderly assistant making lightsabers out of jam jars. We're with "popwarsk8ers92", who commented on the YouTube commercial: "WTF is Joost?" Or perhaps more accurately: "It's like being on drugs for free," "laughs2907" adds. Maybe if we knew exactly what Joost was, it'd work, but we don't, so it doesn't.
Now a DM piece for the Department for Education and Skills (6). With its bright colours and child-like illustrations, there's no doubt that this is all about the kids. From a creative point of view, however, it just isn't. Affordable childcare really is a great cause, but this advertising doesn't do it justice. A lot of vital information was muddled and unclear, and the "written in the style of a child's handwriting" headlines didn't do much to grab our attention.
Last past the post is the Ladbrokes (3) "I bet you can't beat me!" online gambling game. The point being, you race and bet against your friends, with the losers having to do things like answer their mobile all day by barking like a dog. Which would be funny if it worked, but it didn't, so we were left having to race against our best times. Less fun. But it didn't stop one of us getting a little addicted, though. A fun and energising challenge, with simple graphics and a cheeky chappy commentator. All the practice must've paid off as Lauren won £50 on the Grand National. Another first.
Project: Price gun
Client: Andrew Brent, marketing director, Boots
Brief: Show Boots' commitment to good prices
Art director: Mother
Director: Mark Gilbert
Production company: Rokkit
Exposure: National TV
Project: What's Joost?
Client: Fredrik de Wahl, chief executive, Joost
Brief: Create a film for the Joost website that explains simply what
Writer: Matt Gibbins
Art director: Aaron Hinchion
Production company: RGB
Project: I bet you can't beat me!
Client: Mary Griffin, general manager, online and affiliates, Ladbrokes
Brief: Create interest and excitement around the Grand National and
encourage association in people's minds between Ladbrokes and the event,
and drive customers to Ladbrokes.com
Writer: Kevin Pond
Art directors: Nick Bennett, Andy Gillon
4. BRITISH AIRWAYS
Project: Attractive prices
Client: Abigail Comber, senior manager, marketing and communications,
Brief: Drive awareness of lowest fares at BA.com
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Writers/art directors: Hugo Bierschenk, Dean Woodhouse
Director: Ivan Bird
Production company: Not to Scale
Exposure: National TV
Project: Launch Bloo Fusions liquid rim cleaner
Client: Jayne Hazelwood, marketing director, Jeyes
Brief: Launch a new product into a very traditional sector with a
visually stunning commercial
Agency: WARL Change Behaviour
Writer: Nick Clement
Art director: Chris Butler
Director: David Wynn-Jones
Production company: Hanrahan
Exposure: National TV
6. DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION AND SKILLS
Project: Formal childcare
Clients: Dan Pallett, DRM team head; Phil Myther, senior campaigns
manager, COI; Stephanie Brivio, policy manager, DfES
Brief: Communicate that formal childcare gives you and your children
Agency: Clark McKay & Walpole
Writer: Mark Blanchard
Art director: Mark Greenwood
Exposure: Six-sheets, bus panels, field sales, inserts, press,
door-drops, direct mail