I tell you what, this whole gardening leave thing is not as easy as people make out.
Take Private View for instance. It used to be a doddle. Christiana, my six-foot-tall, blonde, Swedish PA, would collect the work for me. She'd take it straight to a senior team of my choice, who would spend a couple of hours working out what I thought about it all. After that, it was just a question of getting a placement team to write the whole thing up. Of course, I'd cast my eye over the piece just to check it was as cutting and self-congratulatory as I would want. Then, bingo, fire it off to Campaign and decamp to El Parador.
Now, not only do I have to do the whole thing myself, but if I fancy a decaf, skinny, wet, soya latte, I have to go to the shops and buy it.
Still, not one to grumble, I shall soldier manfully on ...
First up is a Gordon's (1) gin print campaign from Bartle Bogle Hegarty. I actually saw a couple of these in The Observer on Sunday, and I'm afraid I was pretty underwhelmed. They feature Gordon Ramsay and come with some fairly standard thoughts about what a tough, swearing, uncompromising swine he is. These are not up to the agency in question's normally high standards and made me think of another Gordon. Gordon Bennett.
One down, five to go. Come on Ben, dig deep.
Now, there's nothing underwhelming about the new Stella Artois (4) website. Like its commercials, this is a project of huge scale and ambition, and the production values are faultless. Someone has spent months pouring their heart and soul into this project and the result is a site that makes the brand's entrance into the digital world look utterly effortless. It's not just a case of sticking the advertising idea on the web, the site is crammed with a whole host of different ideas, all interactive and rewarding, but all with an unmistakeable Stella feel. Beers all round - and I can't help but feel I'm beginning to hit my stride here.
Next up, a viral for Harvey Nichols (2). Now, I'm not really convinced about virals. All great ads are viral (the first time I saw the John West "bear" was when a mate in Sydney e-mailed it to me), but most virals are just not very good ads. How many are ever sent on? Who sees them? Why can't viral ideas be less like commercials? This one is from the ever-wonderful Matt and Pete at DDB and while, yes, it's just a commercial, it certainly tickled my fancy.
Halfway through now, and exhaustion is beginning to set in. However, I manage to watch the entire 60-second Lexus (3) spot. The agency went to great pains to get the ad to me, and they've taken a great deal of care in crafting it, too. The idea is not really my cup of tea, but, hey, what the hell do I know?
Seatwave.com (6) has a new print campaign to advertise its fan-to-fan ticket exchange. I'm afraid the idea and execution feels very corny and rather down at heel. Thanks, but no thanks.
Just as I am beginning to flag, the RAC (5) picks me up with an online idea. It's promoting its second-hand vehicle inspection service with a competition where you can win a nice convertible. All you have to do is choose one of three covered-up cars. You text in your choice and hope you pick the soft-top rather than the dud. The moral of the story? One in three used cars have something to hide, so get an RAC check. It's simple, nicely produced and, if you win the convertible, very rewarding.
So there you have it, six pieces of work reviewed in a matter of hours. I'm off for a lie down. See you next year, if not sooner.
SUIT - James Murphy, soon-to-be adland entrepreneur
After years of reading Private View, I finally get to do one. Ben Priest (and every other creative I've ever worked with) will have heads in hands at this point. And, being on gardening leave, I've got nothing better to do than mull over this week's prize-winning blooms versus the poison ivy.
First up is the Harvey Nichols (2) viral that adds new meaning to the phrase fashion victim. Backstage at the show and stylists are hard at work, cattle are coiffured and poultry are pampered, only to be led out along the catwalk, presumably straight on to a Defra pyre. If you haven't seen this film, head straight to YouTube; it's fun and fashiony - just what food at Harvey Nichols should be - and the bulimic goat and snorting hen mischievously capture the target audience's appetites.
Garden rating: prize rose - looks beautiful, but spiky.
Seatwave.com (6) is a great product for music fans. I've got six tickets for Gwen Stefani I need to shift, and this looks like the website to do it. Musical anoraks will enjoy the ads, as, like a pop quiz on a page, you try to identify Jack and Meg from Elton and Eminem. My one gripe is the lookalikey casting, and the art direction is a bit more Jade Goody than J-Lo.
Garden rating: compost heap - a bit smelly, but undoubtedly effective.
With Lexus (3) Hybrid, we've got an extremely good-looking ad for an extremely dramatic product - at last, a greener car that doesn't sacrifice performance or luxury. Annoyingly, there are several very similar ads on air at the moment - leaves and waves and sandstorms and elemental stuff swirling around beauty shots of cars set to a swirling Classic FM soundtrack. It feels like a car this dramatic needs a launch campaign that stands out dramatically.
Garden rating: not quite the tall poppy it could have been.
The new Stella Artois (4) website looks amazing. Not surprising, as the client's rumoured to have spent north of a million euros on production. Until recently, the technological limitations of the web would have curbed such creative ambition. The only shame is that the new content isn't more gripping. Beyond the archive of ads and company history, it's a very, very long Stella commercial interspersed with frustratingly easy games that illustrate the product points, such as the brewing process and the barley and water used, etc. Will it capture the imagination and return visits of beer drinkers? It will be very easy to tell.
Garden rating: rampant Belgian vine.
The RAC (5) online promotion is a seemingly humbler piece of web work, but brilliantly brings to life the fact that one in three second-hand cars has something to hide. The microsite is entertaining (a simple, fun competition) and useful (clearly dramatises an interesting new service from the RAC). A straightforward lesson in effective interactive creativity.
Garden rating: topiary - fun and practical.
I'm not sure I can have a go at anyone for using a celebrity. So when the gin is called Gordon's (1) and they're fearsomely particular about the ingredients they use, I can see why they've put a fierce chef called Gordon on the posters. What's missing is the lightness of touch and craft that this great agency normally brings to its inspired spirits advertising; don't worry, I'm sure it will be back soon.
Garden rating: triffid - aggressive, with a big, ugly head on it.
Hopefully none of that was too brutal. Now it's back to the garden for those long, cold winter months.
Project: Gordon Ramsay
Client: Diageo, Gordon's Gin
Brief: Reassert Gordon's as the definitive premium gin
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Writer: Jack Stephens
Art director: Rob Nielsen
Photographer: Jim Fiscus
Exposure: Posters on roadside and crosstrack sites in Scotland and
London; press ads in weekend supplements and lifestyle monthlies
2. HARVEY NICHOLS
Project: The most fashionable food market
Clients: Julia Bowe, marketing manager; Fran Page, marketing manager;
Shona Campbell, events and promotions manager
Brief: Position Harvey Nichols Foodmarket as the place with the most
Agency: DDB London
Writer: Matt Lee
Art director: Peter Heyes
Director: Jim Gilchrist
Production company: Thomas Thomas Films
Project: Lexus Hybrid Drive
Client: Louise Hodkinson, marketing communications manager, Lexus
Brief: Promote Lexus Hybrid Drive as a technology ahead of its time
Agency: CHI & Partners
Writers/art directors: Angus and Alexei
Director: Adam Berg
Production company: Stink
Exposure: National TV, outdoor, press, online, radio and Virgin Atlantic
4. STELLA ARTOIS
Brief: Stella Artois online
Agency: Lowe Worldwide
Writers/art directors: Mats Brun, Johan Tesch, Henrik Haeger, Tim
Scheibel, Kalle dos Santos, Rickard Villard, Hakan Engler, Johan
Directors: Joakim Eliasson, Martin Krejci, Jan Kalvoda
Production companies: Film de Liberte, Stink, Stillking
Client: Alison Purcell, marketing manager, car buying, RAC
Brief: Create a viral to promote the RAC's £5 Car Data Check, and
highlight the fact that one in three second-hand cars have a hidden
Agency: Glue London
Writers/art directors: James Leigh, Darren Giles
Project: Find the right fan for your tickets
Client: James Burgess, vice-president and marketing director,
Brief: Launch Seatwave.com in the UK and establish it as the leading
site for fans to buy and sell tickets for live events
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writer: Curtis Brittles
Art director: Will Bate
Exposure: Press and posters in the UK