So I'm driving home from darts practice and I see this strange shape in my wing mirror. Suddenly, there's a blinding flash of light. Just like that, I find myself on some kind of alien spaceship with Elvis, Jim Morrison and Lord Lucan. And all they want to do is talk about this week's new ads.
"It's strange," Morrison starts, "because, after looking at Maggie Gyllenhaal in her knickers on the Agent Provocateur (1) website for several hours, I was almost able to forgive the clunkiness of the navigation." Something had clearly worked because he then confessed he'd actually ordered several items, including some gold-star pasties.
Elvis, meanwhile, was a big fan of the new MasterCard (3) World MasterCard campaign - the one with kids sacking their mums and dads - which cleverly plays on the guilt of workaholic parents by offering them familial redemption through gluttonous spending. "I know how that feels, man, I know just how it feels."
Lord Lucan agreed wholeheartedly with the hard-hitting approach of the Trident (6) "Don't blow your life away" campaign from www.stoptheguns.org by Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy. He said it made him really think twice about handguns ...
He was only slightly less impressed with the latest addition to the iconic Land Rover (2) silhouettes press ads, saying it felt both charming and forced at the very same time. "But it's Rugby World Cup time," he conceded, "so best not to kill them over it."
At this point, Moira Stuart came in and served tea. She had that same fixed expression she has on the telly. There were only enough biscuits for three of us, though, and things began to get tense.
Perhaps because of this, the room wasn't so generous with the new Skittles (4) work. The lo-fi graphics and faux fifth-form quirkiness, they said, reminded them of the Paramount Comedy Channel, whatever that is.
Everyone, however, seemed to like the Boots (5) "out of focus" spot for its simple and effortless execution. They all seemed to think that the central device overcame the somewhat generic vignettes and made for a really evocative spot. There was almost a moment of real solidarity. Then they started to squabble over who got to go online to look at Gyllenhaal. And that, dear friends, is all that I remember.
When I awoke the next morning, my trousers were missing, but I had an amazing feeling of contentment. Not only were all of my heroes alive and well, but, unlike most of the people I know, they still paid attention to the ads.
PLANNER - DAVID HACKWORTHY, PLANNING PARTNER, THE RED BRICK ROAD
Having been brought up on the beaches of Sydney, I've come to realise that our business is a bit like surfing. It all looks pretty easy from the shore, but the reality is something else entirely. You get pummelled for years before you're any good at it. The waters are teeming with egomaniacs, bastards and kooks. You have to fight for your life to get a decent wave, and once you do, scream blue murder just to stop everyone dropping in on you down the line. Of course, on the rare occasion you crack a real beauty, you spend the rest of the summer recounting every moment to anyone who'll listen.
With this in mind, it seems harsh to wipe out anyone's work - but in surfing parlance, it would be fair to say that, this week, the surf was "up", but it wasn't exactly "going off". Still, it was nice to have a break from all those softly, softly folk tracks that remind me of nasty cardigan-pulling incidents in the Belle and Sebastian mosh pit.
The Land Rover (2) England rugby ad could be described as a nice little left-hander; a strong visual metaphor with rugby kit in the shape of a vehicle. Good, hardy stuff that delivers up front, but not too flash. Seems us Aussies could learn a lot from this approach ... damn.
The MasterCard (3) work was good, but not priceless. Like my local beach break back home, you know what to expect with these ads, and they perform well. I must admit, though, I had to watch this one a couple of times to really get it, and the World MasterCard bit was a serious cut-and-paste job. Perhaps they need a bit of a road trip with this idea, and have a look at it from a whole new perspective to give it more teeth.
I thought the Trident (6) gun crime work would be this week's Big Wednesday, but again, it didn't quite rise to the occasion. It's a slickly produced piece of film, trading off the fact that gun murder carries a life sentence. Not something I really contemplate on da North London streets of P Hill and B Park, but the "stuck in a box" idea feels like a generic scare tactic that may not be getting under the skin of the issue. Arresting stuff, all the same.
The Boots (5) Opticians spot was a clean, clear ride. From the first frame, you could see where it was going, it had a visually engaging idea and was a welcome relief from the glaring spectacles that the competition flood our screens with. Not wacky Mother, but clever Mum. Wave of the day.
TBWA is getting some truly memorable ads out of Masterfoods Stateside, but this Skittles (4) work isn't quite as tasty. There's a host of punchy little breakers on offer, some genuinely funny moments (Little Red Riding Hood and Yellow Belly really hit the spot), but as M&M's twisted little brothers, these character plays never quite escape that "let's do something wacky for the kids" feeling. I thought the whole web experience was really well put together, but it came unstuck a bit when I was told to "goskittleyourself". Made me want to say "go fuck yourself".
I was hoping my firewall would stop me accessing the Agent Provocateur (1) website, or at least raise the suspicions of our IT man, but no such luck. They seem content these days not to swim too far outside the flags. Roving around their luscious website was fun, but tamer than I would expect in these lurid times. Less agency, more provocateur please.
See ... it's easy to be critical from the shore, but it just goes to show that, as with surfing, making great work is not complicated, just bloody difficult.
1. AGENT PROVOCATEUR
Project: Lessons in lingerie
Client: Paula Roberts, e-commerce director, Agent Provocateur
Brief: Create a community for Agent Provocateur customers
Writer: Lars Hemming Jorgensen
Art director: Rory McHarg
Designers: Tone Lage Jacobsen, Kalle Everland, Buzz Usborne
2. LAND ROVER
Client: Matt Passey, sponsorship and promotions manager, Land Rover UK
Brief: Associate Land Rover with English rugby and the value it
Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
Writers/art directors: Dan Hurbert, Amber Casey
Exposure: Press, outdoor, internet (UK only)
Project: World MasterCard
Client: Rita Broe, marketing director, MasterCard
Brief: Launch World MasterCard to an affluent audience
Agency: McCann Erickson
Writer: Brian Cooper
Art director: Jason Stewart
Director: Eric Lynne
Production company: Partizan, London
Exposure: European TV
Project: Taste the colour
Client: Stuart Woollford, UK sugar segment leader, Mars
Brief: Make Skittles synonymous with colour
Writers/art directors: Stine Hole, Marie Ronn, Erik Tell, Marie Voss,
Miles Stubbs, Saskia Green
Directors: The Brothers McLeod
Production company: Aardman
Exposure: National TV, online
Project: Out of focus
Client: Elizabeth Fagan, marketing director, Boots
Brief: Highlight Boots Opticians' commitment to ensuring everyone in
Britain has the best possible eyesight
Art director: Mother
Director: Vince Squibb
Production company: Gorgeous
Exposure: National TV
Project: Don't blow your life away
Client: Metropolitan Police Service
Brief: Dissuade 13- to 19-year-olds from becoming the gunmen of the
future by making them think about the things they would miss out on if
they went to prison.
Agency: Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy
Writer: Gavin Torrance
Art director: Danny Hunt
Director: Ben Dawkins
Production company: Stink
Exposure: TV, radio, press, online