Sometime in the 80s, the great Joe Sedelmaier directed a commercial for Wendy's Hamburgers that featured an irascible old lady lambasting rival burgers with the line: "Where's the beef?"
Very soon, this catchphrase was being used in US politics to challenge any idea or policy which was thought to lack substance. To this day, it is perhaps the main criticism US adfolk would levy against our own creative efforts. "Sure it's pretty, sure it's funny, but where's the beef?"
It's true, of course, that we lack the commercial candour of our American cousins. There is a national unwillingness to plant our collective foot in the metaphorical door and close the proverbial sale. Our clients, too, seem content with being the nicest, the funniest, the friendliest, rather than proving their product or service to be the best. So, this week I shall examine each of the submissions with a view to assessing the size and firmness of the patty between their buns.
Beef is not on the menu in the new Sony (5) spot. Never mind the rabbits, "colour like no other" is one of those weasels we all resort to now and again when the spoilsports at the BACC won't allow us a factually superior claim. But that don't matter a hill of beans to the Kid from Buenos Aires. And now it has its own, slightly disappointing, website to introduce us to the visceral, adrenaline-fuelled world of claymation.
Les Rosbifs are very much at the centre of the Rugby World Cup idents from Powerade (4). This is an intelligent use of the English rugby squad and a sensitive insight into the pleasure we all derive from seeing people get quite badly hurt.
Chicken would seem to be the central theme of this improvised ensemble piece for Ladbrokes (1). In true Mike Leigh style, a group of old footballers gather in the gritty reality of a greasy spoon to exchange banter and challenge each other on the validity of their sporting opinions. Only one, a retired black footballer played with utter conviction by Ian Wright, has the courage to back his beliefs with a bet at the aforementioned bookmaker. He is derided for this. The End.
There is such a shortage of proper sanitation in Kitale, Kenya, that the local people are reduced to pooing in plastic bags and throwing them out of the window. These "flying toilets" have given the DM boys their mailing idea for Practical Action (3). Thankfully, and I think wisely, they have chosen the empty bag option and I hope they raise all the money they need without having to resort to Plan B.
The little girl in the NSPCC (2) spot "clicks" a happy imaginary life into being until she gets home and is unable to "click away" the slavering paedo on the other side of her bedroom door. The point of all this "clicking" is to get us to "click" on to the NSPCC website. I'm sure working on this account can't be as easy as every other creative in London might suppose, but this doesn't quite summon the same moral indignation as previous efforts.
A wise and witty woman whose name escapes me once suggested that in time of national crisis we should foregather at our nearest branch of John Lewis (6) "because nothing bad could ever happen there". God knows I've been no stranger to the haberdashery myself in recent months and it's comforting to see so many of my peers seeking sanctuary among the bales of fabric and curtain swags. Now they have a foodhall in the basement. Heaven deserves heavenly advertising and this campaign doesn't disappoint.
Apologies for the serious nature of this week's review. I did ask Campaign to send me some ads for men's underpants, but it declined.
PLANNER - George Bryant, managing partner, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Moving on. Two words that describe why Jonny and the boys took a mauling by the Springboks, but then came back to turn over the Australians and the French.
Two words that also, it seems to me, sum up what we do. What we've always done.
The ability to move on is inbuilt into the way this industry works and the people we are. And it explains why the most important brief in the agency has always been "beat the past".
So are we managing it? Are we stepping up to the new challenges we face? Or are we going down to Tonga?
Sony (5) has become a big event in the ad calendar, but on this evidence, its website is struggling to make the digital first team. Though there are one or two nice features, the site suffers from an agency inclination to make the ad the centrepiece. As we are all finding out, the rules of digital are different and no matter how good the advertising, it really feels like time we encouraged digital properties to have a genuine life of their own. Sony without the balls.
John Lewis (6) are classic, well art-directed, instantly forgettable prints ads. Turn the page. Move on.
On the other hand, the Powerade (4) sponsorship idents show how far that particular medium has come. Though Powerade may not be the strongest of brands, this tight and relevant creative idea delivers a compelling journey through the programme. Truly funny work that fits the content it surrounds. An easy win for an agency that seems to have got itself back to full fitness over recent months.
The strategy on Ladbrokes (1) feels like a real move on, too. Getting the nation to put its money where its mouth is has got to appeal to our over-opinionated, mine's bigger than yours culture. "What's yours worth?" feels like a rich idea with the potential to influence the way Ladbrokes does business well beyond the communications. It's only a shame the ad isn't quite as good as the idea. Predictable celebrity advertising that isn't as fresh as it could be. I'm not sure I'd bet on it.
If the DM pack for Practical Action (3) arrived on the doormat, I'm not convinced that any of us would be charmed or engaged enough to put our hands into our collective pockets. The direct industry has some brilliant, intimate targeting opportunities, yet too often the work can feel flat and unrewarding. It can't be long before a new breed of direct agencies emerge with a mastery of the data and an ability to deliver truly powerful creative ideas.
Then there's NSPCC (2). The work done on this account in the past few years has been an example to us all. Work that has undoubtedly worked. And this will too. A beautifully crafted, haunting idea that stays with you well beyond the 60 seconds. The kind of ad you hope everyone will see. The kind of ad you wish you'd done. The kind of ad that proves however much we move on as an industry, great advertising will always have a place in the line-up.
Client: Barry Clemo, UK retail marketing director, Ladbrokes
Brief: Remind casual bettors why they bet by dramatising that Ladbrokes
is where they can make their opinions on sport count
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writer: Curtis Brittles
Art director: Will Bates
Director: Matt Lipsey
Production company: Feel Films
Exposure: National TV
Client: John Grounds, director of communications, NSPCC
Brief: Motivate the public to "click" online and take action to help end
cruelty to children
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Writer: Julian Andrews
Art director: Eoghain Clarke
Director: Sebastian Strasser
Production company: Blink
Exposure: TV in England and Wales
3. PRACTICAL ACTION
Project: Flying toilets
Client: Angharad McKenzie, individuals fundraising manager, Practical
Brief: Increase the number of donors making a regular gift
Agency: EHS Brann Cirencester
Writer: Frazer Howard
Art director: Samantha Lewry
Exposure: Mail to existing Practical Action cash donors
Project: Rugby World Cup
Clients: Paul Woodward, marketing director; Beth Allen, brand manager,
Brief: Create idents for Sky Sports News to promote Powerade as the
official sports drink of the Rugby World Cup
Art director: Mother
Director: Calle Astrand
Production company: Dabhand
Exposure: Sky Sports
Client: James Kennedy, general manager, Sony Europe
Brief: Develop a site that is like no other
Writer: James Cooper
Art director: Flo Heiss
6. JOHN LEWIS
Project: Oxford Street
Client: Gill Barr, marketing director, John Lewis
Brief: Invite people to the newly refurbished Oxford Street department
store and new foodhall
Agency: Lowe London
Writer: Patrick McClelland
Art director: Simon Morris
Photographer: Coppi Barbieri
Exposure: Press, poster, bus-sides, digital and printed escalator panels