Out here in the Third World, we prefer to stay slightly behind you guys, so we can learn from your mistakes. Sven Goran-Eriksson would never be the manager of our football team, for example. Then again, we also learn from your successes. Like having electronic signs on the M25 warning you of impending danger. We need lots of those signs here in South Africa. And, of course, the UK ad industry has inspired my home industry since the first time the magic of the goggle box was seen here. So, even though I operate in the UK market, among others, I continue to seek to learn from the work served up by the good and the bad of the business, and implement it back home. So what did I learn this week?
Smirnoff (6). Good start. Great middle. Disappointing end. In short, the sea is emptied of all that which doesn't naturally belong there - shipwrecks (excluding the English cricket team), coins, cans, deckchairs, etc. Once all this is deposited on the shore, the line "extraordinary purification" appears. So, make no mistake, it is compelling viewing, but I can't help but feel the execution is more spectacular than the idea. I so wanted some breathtakingly brilliant point to be made at the end because I was so seduced. The connection was good, but not great. And I was left with a salty taste in my mouth. Lesson? A smart suit does not make a smart man.
Department for Transport (3). Guy walks up to a barman to order a drink, the barman starts asking what he'd like, and then verbally morphs into a police officer, a judge, a prison officer and an upset wife. Man doesn't order his drink. What I like about this is that it's a different take on the blood and guts normally dished up in campaigns like these. The idea isn't that fresh, nor is it very well put together, but I would encourage more thinking like this in this category. I feel sure the different approach will cut through all the gory wallpaper. I hope so. Lesson? Smart creative strategies cut through.
Charles Worthington (4). Oh thank you, thank you so much. A shampoo campaign that actually has an idea. Three different scenarios are highlighted here, which all you lovely ladies no doubt have to contend with: a chance meeting with an ex-boyfriend, the first encounter with a boyfriend's parents and a school reunion - all highlighting the importance of looking spectacularly wonderful. Of course, there are still the gratuitous wavy, bouncy, shiny beauty shots of hair - but at least there's a context, and at least there's a bit of charm and humour. Are they great? Of course not. Are they a great leap forward for shampoo ads? Of course. And I learned? No matter how impossible it seems, there's always a way.
Department for Transport/MTV (1). MTV offered kids the chance to create their own road-safety ad. This is the winner. A child with earphones about to cross the road is on a collision course with an oncoming car. He looks up and sees three other children crossing the road towards him - only they are ghosts. He registers and steps back, avoiding the car. This is a good ad made all the more significant by who wrote it and under what circumstances. Taking into account my "lesson from others" theme this week, it's also particularly relevant.
Argos (2). I'm sorry, but this is just retail advertising at its worst. Absolutely vanilla. It's certainly not good enough to learn from, but not even bad enough to learn from.
Volkswagen's (5) Bourne simulator. Basically, you go online and can set up your own stunt scenarios using a nifty little digital game. Once you get the hang of it, and providing you have broadband, it's quite fun. However, the graphics are pretty basic and uninspiring, which does take the edge off it a bit. Also, strategically, I'm not sure if I'd be encouraging VW to produce a game that wrecks a whole load of cars. Maybe I'm getting a bit old. So, the lesson today. Once broadband truly arrives back home, it will liberate us to create more and more adventurous ideas - best we get ready.
Right, that's all. We've just won Beck's and I'm off to learn a lesson that I've been taught many times, but have never digested. Forty beers a night makes you ill in the morning.
PSYCHOTHERAPIST - Derek Draper, psychotherapist
Having long ago abandoned my nascent career in advertising and retrained as a psychotherapist, I thought I'd indulge in some psychological probing of these ads and the brands behind them.
First is Argos (2). I can't help but wonder if this brand suffers from poor self-esteem. This ad seems anxious to shake off associations with its traditional customer base, the background to the well-done-but-familiar-looking animation looks all very middle class. Plus, the highlighted appeal is not about cheapness and convenience, but about great choice.
But is it really trying to attract a more affluent consumer? If so, surely the catalogue would have to be combined with home delivery and, despite being told "you don't have to travel miles", I wasn't at all clear that was being offered here.
The Department for Transport's (3) anti-drink-drive campaign reminds me, appropriately enough, of a patient with an addiction. Simply regaling them with horror stories of the damage they are doing to themselves rarely has an effect. Therapists, therefore, will often try to approach the problem from another angle. In this ad, the usual schlock horror images of blood and guts have been replaced with a naked appeal to self-interest.
Never mind the poor sod you might run over, think how inconvenient losing your driving licence could be. This is presumably aimed at young men out on the town, and it saddens me that this approach might be more effective, but I fear it is probably on to something. Despite our better instincts - indeed, alongside them - human beings are hardwired with more primitive ones. These are located in an older, deeper part of the brain. This is why sex sells, because these instincts override the more evolved rational parts of our minds. An appeal to selfishness could well do, too.
The Department for Transport/MTV (1) ad called "ghosts" is a bit more confusing. If I hadn't known the ad's title, I'm not sure I'd have known what the apparitions on the road were supposed to be. One of the cliches of psychotherapy, though, is that it is not the final destination that matters, but the journey. Here, the process undertaken to make this ad, which involved thousands of children submitting ideas and rough cuts through MTV, makes it a case of the means justifying the end, which, in itself, doesn't quite work. Curiously, the original ad on the website is more effective. I'd run that instead.
Staying on the road, Volkswagen (5) is positively encouraging you to undertake dangerous driving - at least in the virtual world - with its online The Bourne Ultimatum stunt simulator. If we have to have internet add-ons to traditional ads, and I guess that we do, then this seems a good way of doing so. Although I did happen to notice that there was a little leaflet in my Sunday newspaper suggesting a visit to the website - doesn't strike me as particularly "viral".
Charles Worthington (4) tries to convince us you can get your own back on people who have undervalued you by showing up with great-looking hair. Despite this being well-shot and classy, it seems that this is more an ad about having clean, well-groomed hair than for a specific shampoo. But then, in my job, I have to bring out the unrecognised, special attributes of whatever person I'm working with - doing that job for a shampoo would be beyond me, too.
It's appropriate, then, to end with Smirnoff (6) and its climactic, cinematic-style extravaganza. I thought this sounded and looked great, and the punchline didn't disappoint. It combines epic with wit, which is never easy to do. It's certainly a clever way of emphasising that old "triple-distilled purification" message. In addition, a good therapist is always looking for unconscious meaning behind what we're told, and I couldn't help but wonder if there is also a subliminal message here: you might think we're the poor relation of more premium brands, but just look how big and rich we are. If a patient in my practice was behaving like this, I would feel duty-bound to tell them not to get too full of themselves, but, at the same time, I would also find myself admiring their audacity.
1. DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT/MTV
Clients: Gemma Regniez, team head, vulnerable road user publicity; Glyn
Robinson, DfT teen road-safety campaign manager
Brief: Raise awareness of teen road safety
Writers/art directors: George Sampson, Vanessa Uanseru, Anya Fitzpatrick
Directors: Simon Dixon, Aporva Baxi
Production company: Viacom Brand Solutions
Project: Autumn/winter 2007 catalogue launch
Client: Nicola Alon, advertising manager, Argos
Brief: You get more choice when you Argos it
Agency: CHI & Partners
Writer: Rick Standley
Art director: Tom Skinner
Director: Michael Gracey
Production company: Partizan
3. DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT
Client: Nick Edwards, head of road safety, Department for Transport
Brief: Show the dire personal consequences of the second pint
Agency: Leo Burnett London
Writers: Tony Malcolm, Dan Fisher
Art directors: Guy Moore, Rick Brim
Director: John Hardwick
Production company: HLA
Exposure: National TV
4. CHARLES WORTHINGTON
Project: Salon shine results
Client: Adelaide Sharples, head of commercial, Charles Worthington
Brief: Salon shine results
Agency: Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners
Writer: David Adamson
Art director: Richard Prentice
Director: Joe Roman
Production company: Outsider
Exposure: National TV
Project: The Bourne Ultimatum stunt simulator
Client: Sally Chapman, communications manager, Volkswagen
Brief: Part of Volkswagen's "see films differently" strategy, and its
international partnership with Universal Pictures
Agency: Tribal DDB
Writer: Damian Simor
Art directors: Chris Boyd, Amanda-Sue Rope
Clients: Anita Robinson, brand director; Julie Bramham, Smirnoff senior
brand manager, Diageo GB
Brief: Re-establish the purity of Smirnoff
Agency: JWT London
Writer: Adam Griffin
Art director: Rob Spicer
Director: Daniel Kleinman
Production company: Rattling Stick
Exposure: Online, cinema, national TV