If you want to win an award for a car ad, the absolute prerequisite for success, the unbreakable rule, the sine qua non of gongdom is: for God's sake, don't show the car.
It's no use whimpering about market share or recognition of the new body shape - pull yourself together, man. These are awards. And life here is tough. Well, it just got a whole lot tougher. Citroen's (3) agency is on the awards trail with a new purity that laughs in the blanched face of the car-less ad. "Car-less? We've got ad-less."
So minimal are the print executions for its new 4x4, the C-Crosser, they barely exist. The demi-sliver of content clinging to the page depends on your instant recognition of the totemic Citroen logo of (anyone?) two chevrons. These world-renowned pointy things have been slightly shifted here and repeated a few times there to suggest, I presume, mountains, pine trees and, thus, the prowess of the unseen C-Crosser.
The trouble is, so many questions dance in your mind. How long did the ads take to put together? Five minutes? Thirty-seven seconds? And what does this say about the love that went into designing the car? Will my C-Crosser climb mountains and weave round trees or will it collapse into a shuddering heap of poorly glued cardboard on first contact with a cat's eye? Did it start life as the Sea Crosser before brutal budget cuts reduced its abilities to crossing Cs? And what does C stand for now?
You be the judge. I'm moving swiftly on to the Vauxhall (5) Astra work, which displays more car than Citroen (let's be honest, so does a slice of tangerine cheesecake), but not much more. The main event is a microsite offering you "photo journeys". You enter a departure point, a destination and a travelling companion. The site digests your request, then spews forth 20 pictures from the Flickr collection to represent your journey. Actually, "represent" may be pushing it.
I decided to travel with an advertising luminary and tapped in the delightful prospect of a trip from Droitwich to Alton Towers with Amanda Walsh. Alas, I ended up with five snaps of a muddied cross-country runner, several women woefully lacking in Amanda's designer flair and a final unsettling shot of the still intact Twin Towers. But it is diverting, if only to see what the next misinterpretation will be. Bugger all to do with the Astra, though.
Cars are not the only ones being camera-shy this week. McDonald's (1) has a summer offer which is allowed a brusque ten seconds before the rest of a 40-second ad is given over to a barbeque running through the fields like a frisky palomino. It's well done, but pointlessly long.
The Home Office (4) is running a press campaign that uses ASCII to striking effect and tells you that stolen mobiles can now be blocked in 48 hours. This seems so staggeringly slow that the ads run the risk of encouraging purchasers of dodgy mobiles to relax and spend a jolly weekend sending pictures to friends in New Zealand before their time is up.
Next is one of those ads set in a designer restaurant-cum-bar full of overdressed women who walk in that loping, hip-thrusty way that suggests an oncoming thrombosis or a fir cone lodged in the knickers. It could be for Grazia or Look, but turns out to be for an online shop whose endline is: "Create your collection at Oli.co.uk." (6). I'd try Littlewoods if I were you.
Finally, we have the wonderful Liza Tarbuck larking around in Asda (2). Various ads show her interacting with shoppers and staff, and very engaging they are. But it is still bolting a celebrity on to a brand, and it won't be just cynics who feel that she's only there because of a fat cheque that she'll start spending the following day in Waitrose.
CREATIVE - Seb Royce, executive creative director, glue London
Ah, the British weather. Looks fine now, but what a bummer of a summer. Wimbledon washout, Glastonbury flooded, the occasional smug person in a canoe (why do they always seem to have them to hand?) paddling down a submerged high street and thousands of unused barbeques cluttering up damp sheds across the country.
Still, at least some of them have been put to good use in the new TV spot for the McDonald's (1) Summer BBQ menu. The ad shows us an army of animated barbeques galloping across the countryside to the Black Beauty theme tune, "free" now that our barbeque- hankering taste buds are being satisfied by the new menu. It's utterly silly, makes me smile (not bad going for an ad about burgers) and even with the mandatory packshot trying hard to hog the limelight, I like it.
The series of ads for Asda (2) is fairly sunny, too. We see Asda's new "woman of the people" Liza Tarbuck trying her hand at working the tills at one of its stores, charming the "real folk" with her cheeky banter and reinforcing the image of Asda as the great value supermarket of the people.
I like the choice of Liza and, although I'm not a fan of the "celebs do normal stuff, too" thing in ads, I quite like these. Will they "work"? Sure, but the cynical part of me believes our Liza didn't bag and tag for more than a couple of hours before buggering off to grab dinner at The Ivy or, heaven forbid, Waitrose.
You certainly couldn't describe the latest Home Office (4) print campaign as sunny. Threatening clouds of impending doom are rolling in as we (not me, you understand, but the people who steal or buy stolen mobile phones) are warned in no uncertain terms that the handsets will die. Yes die, within 48 hours. Great art direction. You'd stop and read these ads. I definitely got "the msg".
The TV spot for Oli.co.uk (6) eschews a sunny disposition, too, with a more tempestuous one. Oli is a new fashion label. Clearly, it has put most of its creativity into its clothing ranges because its TV ad is dated MOR fare. Three "feisty" girls strut their way through a non-descript bar to a non-descript electro track in, er ... non-descript Oli clothes, accompanied by a voiceover saying things like "this is my 'it's a man's world, yeah right, collection'". Mmm ...
Fortunately, just as things were beginning to get a bit gloomy, along comes the Citroen (3) 4x4 C-Crosser print campaign offering plenty of bright spells. Oh, happy accident when the chevrons of the Citroen logo can be made to look like mountains, or, in the second execution, trees, or, in the third execution ... mountains again! We'll overlook the fact that they don't tell me anything about Citroen's 4x4 apart from that it exists. This is a simple, visually strong, "one-off" print idea. Repeated twice.
And finally, I wanted to finish on a gloriously sunny high with a digital campaign that really pushes boundaries. But I can't. The new Vauxhall (5) Astra "photo journeys" campaign just doesn't do it for me. The ads are a bit random, but it's the microsite that's most disappointing.
In it, you can type in a journey to and from a location of your choice and then enter what you would like that journey to include. The site pulls in images from Flickr (very 2.0) and serves them up one after the other. It's not a bad idea on paper, but the execution lets it down. The images are presented in otherworldly floating squares as you drive along the straightest road in Britain, or is it Mad Max-era Australia? I can't tell. It's all a bit confusing and the design is very crude.
So there we have it, bright sunshine from some of the campaigns, with slightly depressing downpours putting a dampener on things elsewhere.
Floody hell, etc ...
Project: McDonald's Summer BBQ menu
Client: Jill McDonald, chief marketing officer and senior
Brief: Promote the launch of the limited Summer BBQ menu
Agency: Leo Burnett
Writers/art directors: Jonathan Burley, Jim Bolton
Director: Simon Willows
Production companies: Blink, 2AM Films
Exposure: National TV
Client: Rick Bendel, marketing director, Asda
Brief: Concentrate on those people at the forefront of the Asda
business, the checkout colleagues
Agency: Fallon London
Writer: Phil Cockrell
Art director: Graham Storey
Director: Patrick Collerton
Production company: Yipp
Exposure: National TV
Client: Mike Ibbett, marketing director, Citroen
Brief: Launch the new 4x4 C-Crosser
Agency: Euro RSCG London
Writer: Ryan Petie
Art directors: David Herse, Adam Roberts
Exposure: Online, national press
4. HOME OFFICE
Project: Mobile phone theft
Client: Emma Stranwick, deputy head of marketing; Emma Roberts, senior
marketing manager, Home Office
Brief: Inform 16- to 24-year-olds that stolen mobiles can now be blocked
within 48 hours
Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
Writer: Diccon Driver (print, outdoor)
Art director: Alan Wilson (print, outdoor)
Exposure: Press, outdoor, online
5. VAUXHALL ASTRA
Project: Astra Flickr
Client: Katherine Brashaw, brand manager, Vauxhall Astra
Brief: Shift brand perceptions of the Astra from middle of the road to
fun, connected and energised
Agency: Digitas London
Writers: Jim Taylor, Chris Clarke
Art directors: Ian Owen, Albert Seleznyov
Designers: Dan Goldsworthy, Trevor Boyle, Neil Hayward
Project: Oli launch campaign - UK
Brief: Promote the launch of Oli
Agency: Golley Slater
Writers/art directors: Martin Bush, Jayne Bromfield, Phil Hickes
Production company: Bikini
Exposure: National TV, press