Have you ever wondered if the British advertising industry is just repeating itself, over and over again, literally ad nauseam?
The editor of Contagious magazine was writing recently about how the Brits still seem happy to keep churning out TV ads, while the rest of the world powers ahead into digital overdrive. But even our TV ads are repetitive and derivative.
We're all a bit guilty of it, and I think the problem is partly complacency. We look back to the heydays of CDP and Frank Lowe and all that, and a lot of Brits just want to go back there.
But looking back is a load of old bollocks.
We've got to look forward and embrace the new.
Now, before the legal eagles get involved, I'm not saying that the old bollocks belong to Frank Lowe himself.
Let me draw a very clear line between Frank and the bollocks I'm talking about. And, furthermore, I'm not suggesting that anybody is embracing Frank's bollocks.
Far from it. That could get dangerous.
The Industry Trust for IP Awareness (4) has created a character called Knock-off Nigel, who gets publicly humiliated for buying knock-off videos. It reminds me of any number of campaigns which wag a nannyish finger at us poor misbegotten punters; they could be talking about not paying your dog licence or failing to lag your grandmother.
The Economist (2). The strategy on this hasn't changed since John Hegarty was taking his trousers off in a launderette. Now, obviously, it's a great strategy - The Economist kind of owns intellectual envy. ("Blimey - his cortex must be 12 inches long.") But how smart is it to keep repeating yourself for so long?
The Irn-Bru (6) film could have run in the original Heineken campaign - in this case, Heineken refreshing the prats that other beers cannot reach because it's a very funny film about a bunch of Goths going all cheerful and sunny. But the strategy is, again, as old as the hills. (Benny and Jimmy, I mean. Both now getting on a bit. In fact, I'm not sure who looks worse, even though Benny's been technically dead for about 15 years.)
Ford Mondeo (3). It looks great, the music is sensational, it's got a load of lovely visual touches. But there's more than a hint of balls about it. Sony "balls", I mean.
Listerine (5). Now this might look like a fresh idea at first sight, but it's an advertising cliche in the Far East, where they've had these products for longer. I was judging some awards in Bali recently (well, someone has to do it. And me and Mark Waites were the ones who drew the short straws). And there were about six ads all with exactly this strategy. The best of them, a visual tour de force directed by Prasoon Joshi, was stunning - despite the strategy.
Shreddies (1). This ad is easily the most interesting work out of the sack this week. It definitely passes the Kevin Roberts test. No, I don't mean it shouts loudly and you can't get it out of your head. I just remember him saying at a conference that "the only question worth asking" was: "Do I want to watch it again?"
I wish I'd said that - because he's got a very good point. In a world without captive audiences, it's crucial. But although this is genuinely engaging, I wonder if they've forgotten something. I hate to pour cold water on it, but has this strategy got enough appetite appeal?
If you asked me what trait I thought was most relevant in a creative director, I'd say a love of stuff that was new, fresh, original.
But don't forget appetite appeal. It's odd when I feel hungrier after watching a car ad (the lovely Skoda "cake") than I do after watching one for a breakfast cereal.
DIRECTORS - Albert and Allen Hughes, directors, Great Guns US and London
When Campaign asked us to do this, we were thrilled. In our God-forsaken homeland of America, finding anything interesting in advertising is slim pickings at best. Even this year's Super Bowl, the "crown jewel", left one with the feeling that only a southern Baptist minister realises after a long laborious night of rubbin' and tuggin' with a "25-dollar-a-pop" back alley street creature: cold, cheap and more sorry than one has ever felt in their natural life. So imagine our delight at the opportunity to review a few British ads ... we sharpened up our canines and stepped on to the tarmac at Heathrow with hunger pains that rivalled even the most frigid feline menstrual cramps: two American werewolves in London.
Ford Mondeo (3). We open on classic shots of London seeing multicoloured clusters of balloons rising ... then realise that attached are old banal cars being sent into the heavens. The spot builds and swells until ultimately everyone's dreary decrepit car is blown away to God knows where. Suddenly we see the new Mondeo cruising down the street looking all fly 'n' shit.
Like classic British television and film, no gloss, no super-slick cinematography or outrageous camera moves, just wonderful character moments and good solid storytelling.
Shreddies (1). This ad features a bunch of charming elderly women inside the Shreddies factory, feverishly and whimsically knitting away. This ad uses crafty camera work as well as cute character humour to drive its point home ... in every single Shreddies bit lays the TLC of the world's greatest nannas knitted into it. Very effective.
Listerine (5). This is either someone in bed with a glow-in-the-dark love sabre or an individual with bright-ass glow-in-the-dark shiny white teeth. For the sake of the reader, we'll go with the latter. It's simple yet strikingly classic. We all have that warm, fuzzy childhood memory of reading your favourite picture book under the fortitude of your covers with a flashlight. This print ad taps into that memory in the most effective way. Spot-on mates!
The Economist (2). Well, well ... where do we start? The colour red. The most striking and macabre of choices. The colour of love ... of anger. This seems to be the cerebral approach to advertising. Translation: 99.9 per cent of people do not get it or give two shits about who it is geared towards. It does draw your eye and definitely grabs your attention and hopefully that's what they were intending. Just one thing, anyone with the name Condoleezza in their phone memory is a person not to be trusted!
Irn-Bru (6). A spot about a group of morbidly dressed Goths and their new-found festive disposition. Once these heathens ingest this cool beverage, their drab attitudes instantly leave their dead faces. In today's politically correct climate, it is always refreshing to see a spot that totally goes for it. Seemingly sneaking its way past the critical eye of the client. There's real talent in selling an idea like this. Big ups! 'Nuff respect for that mates!
Industry Trust for IP Awareness (4). This spot deals with the major problem of knock-off DVDs with the theme of public embarrassment. This is complete corporate propaganda and bullshit. With the growth of the internet and lightning-fast download speeds, it's puzzling the attention this ad gives to pirated hard-copy DVDs. Who among us isn't guilty of some form of benefiting from piracy? Many of us watch rights-protected clips on YouTube every day. Many of us borrow copies of legal DVDs from friends. Knowing lots of Knock-off Nigels ... Dougs, Charlies and Matts; all good and honourable people. If they ever find themselves being made a fool of in their local, they can call. I'll gladly show up with a gallon-sized bag of overpriced popcorn from my local movie theatre and beat the living hell out of that drunken, guitar-playing, pretentious village jest! Viva Nigel!
Project: Knitting nannas
Client: Dez Timmiss, marketing director, Cereal Partners UK
Brief: Shreddies are uniquely designed to deliver the great taste that
Agency: McCann Erickson
Writer: John Hurst
Art director: Carole Davids
Director: Harald Zwart
Production company: Upstart
Exposure: National TV
2. THE ECONOMIST
Project: White-out-of-red spring burst
Client: Jacqui Kean, brand marketing director, The Economist
Brief: Surpass yourself
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writers: Tim Riley, Mark Fairbanks, Kirsty Ashton-Bell, Ben Mears, Brian
Art directors: Paul Brazier, Paul Cohen, Tony Hardcastle, Phil Martin
Exposure: Posters, Tube panels
3. FORD MONDEO
Client: Mark Simpson, director of marketing communications, Ford Europe
Brief: Promote the launch of the new Mondeo
Agency: Ogilvy Advertising
Writer: Greg Burke
Art director: Greg Burke
Director: Philippe Andre
Production company: Bikini Films
Exposure: National TV
4. INDUSTRY TRUST FOR IP AWARENESS
Project: Knock-Off Nigel
Client: Liz Bales, Industry Trust for IP Awareness
Brief: Buying knock-off DVDs is anti-social behaviour
Agency: Sell! Sell!
Writer: Matt Janes
Art director: Vic Polkinghorne
Director: Bruce Hurwitt
Production company: Crossroads Films
Exposure: National TV, cinema, DVD rentals
Project: Bright white
Client: James Kenney, marketing manager, Pfizer
Brief: Demonstrate how Listerine helps keep teeth naturally bright white
Agency: JWT London
Writer: Mike McKenna
Art director: Greg Martin
Photographer/illustrator: Per Lindgren
Exposure: Women's press
Project: Irn-Bru summer campaign
Client: Joady Horsley, group brands manager, AG Barr
Brief: Irn-Bru makes you feel phenomenal
Agency: The Leith Agency
Writer: Mark Davies
Art director: Michael Kinlan
Director: Stuart Elliott
Production company: Onward
Exposure: National TV