Let's start in New York with a brilliant ad for Play-Doh. We see the colourful, mouldable substance take on different forms all over New York in a visually engaging way. Rabbits, waves, etc. The soundtrack is from a late 90s iMac commercial. Thought it sounded familiar ... but hang on a minute, it's got a Sony Bravia (6) logo on the end. Oh, I get it, it's about colour. Colour like no other. Cool. I'm in. I want one. It works. This is how to sell TVs. Don't give me any of that product nonsense.
I don't care about product features, I just want the one that's the coolest and hang the price. This ad must be causing hundreds of planners and marketers all over adland sleepless nights. Cadbury's Gorilla is another one. Where's the delicious pouring shot? Where's the enjoyment shot? What happened to product integration? Could this be an ad for something else? Shouldn't we do shorter time lengths so we can get more OTSs? Who knows? Do consumers care? They just want to be entertained and they want to buy stuff off the people who entertain them. Don't they?
From New York, we head to Wales. Wet, windy, cold Wales, but actually not as cold as you might have thought. The sea off Wales is warmer than Portugal at this time of year, this piece of direct marketing for Visit Wales (5) tells me. I like this one. Printed on thin wet suit material, it's neat, simple and noticeable. How do they know who those water sports enthusiasts they can send it to are? And how many of them are there? Is this one the solution to a real brief or did someone have the idea, then looked for a client to fit it?
Next stop, the Post Office (1). When we get there, we find it's the setting for a very average British sitcom. The bloke from Early Doors is the Postmaster, his staff are a collection of characters not qualified enough to work in The Office. A stream of C and D list celebs arrive. Wendy Richard, Chris Eubank, Joan Collins and, no it can't be, yes it is, Keith Harris and Orville. The Post Office has just the thing they're looking for. You get the idea. Forgettable, except for one thing. They all manage to go straight to the counter and get served. There's no queue. Amazing. I must reappraise.
Something slightly more stylish next. The upgradetobritishairways.ba.com (4) website. Great line. Got quite interested in this one as I moved elegantly through the beautiful pictures. A nice way to present information, but, stylish as it was, there just wasn't enough of it or enough going on to hold my attention.
A similar story on the Nike (3) virals. We see a few basic football moves in slow-motion. Is that it? I played with the fast-forward button and they looked no better in real time. Have I missed something? They don't seem to sit comfortably among Nike's usually highly engaging digital work. See its work on the Nike+ running project that won gold at the Campaign Digital Awards a few weeks ago. Nike should be applauded as a brand that has used all channels to stimulate its audiences. Hope the NikeFive website is more exciting than the virals for it.
Last of all, the new poster campaign for The Economist (2). Historically, one of the truly great poster campaigns because they were proper posters, not press ads as posters or matching luggage for the TV. It was, however, time for a change, and I'm a fan. The use of simple illustrations seems quite refreshing on a campaign that was almost always type-only. The real gems are yet to be written and I'd probably have kept the background red, but a good start. Look out for them in future awards shows ... but hang on, isn't that typeface like the one they're using on The Guardian posters?
DIGITAL CREATIVE - Gavin Gordon-Rogers, executive creative director, Agency Republic
So, is it a rip-off? Too right it is. But that doesn't mean the new spot for Sony Bravia (6) isn't any good. It's captivating, it's emotional, it's charming and beautifully made. It's got a great soundtrack. And, following on from Hugh Hudson's comments in last week's Campaign, doesn't everything have a few roots elsewhere anyway? Fallon's "balls" ad was a far worse case of plagiarism. David Letterman was the original "artist" and he was ripped-off wholesale (see www.tinyurl.com/yu45ub), but the result was a magical piece of film that consumers, as well as adlanders, loved. So let this be the end of it. "Play-Doh" is first rate and I bet there's a whole load of you wishing you'd done it first. Far too many column inches have been spent on this one already - let's see who else has been knocked-off recently ...
The latest TV ad for British Airways is bland and forgettable, and I hate to diss my digital brethren, but the online work, worryingly, has followed suit. This site upgradetobritishairways.ba.com (4) is meant to inform users of the many unique facts and stats that raise BA above the throng of competitors. It's repetitive, awkward and at least two years past its sell-by date. The copy is lifeless, and the concept? Well, let's call it an "homage" to the Uniqlo Explorer (www.uniqlo.com/us/).
Talking of inspiration, who remembers Open All Hours? Eh? It wasn't exactly an all-time classic, but someone at Mother must've liked it, and this light-hearted collection of ads for the Post Office (1) featuring Joan Collins, Bill Oddie, Chris Eubank and other luminaries of stage and screen will certainly tickle a few ribs. The 80s sitcom pastiche works well and even the photography is true to the original style. Seems a bit odd that "The People's Post Office" is busily advertising how great its services are while simultaneously closing down branches left, right and centre, but there you go. If I were president, things'd be different.
The DM piece for Visit Wales (5) gets my attention because it's printed on a piece of wetsuit fabric rather than paper. It tells me that in October the sea around Wales is warmer than in Portugal, which is quite simply unbelievable. It's nice DM. As far as I know, it hasn't been lifted from anyone. But is it recyclable?
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." That's what they say, whoever they are. I wonder if they'll say that about these print ads for The Economist (2)? One of the most famous, long-running campaigns in the history of everything has been updated, via a purloining of Alan Fletcher's eclectic, yet simple, design ethos. It's as though the old ads have been remixed for a younger, healthier, happier audience. They're bold, and in today's climate of weak clients who tremble at the thought of a brand guideline document, that's an especially good thing.
Nike (3) knows a few things about being original, making a splash, having some BALLS, dammit. So what's happened here? These so-called virals feature tricky football manoeuvres shot in gorgeous photosonics so that you can see every nuance in ultra slow-motion. But despite being styled by Caravaggio and Bill Viola, they leave even die-hard football fanatics feeling flat, with an irritating sense of "seen it all before". Surely these were meant to be TV ads starring the likes of Rooney and that bloke with the teeth? I guess the fact that online you can control the speed of the action by dragging the player backwards and forwards counts for something, but as Larry David would say: "Meh."
And so, ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, I believe I have proved without a shadow of a doubt that this collection of cutting-edge advertising is derivative, atavistic, lovely and exciting. All at the same time. Now, I'm off to trace a caveman painting for an important pitch later today.
1. POST OFFICE
Project: Scene setter
Client: Gary Hockey-Morley, marketing director, Post Office
Brief: Remind people why they should love the Post Office again
Art director: Mother
Director: Armando Iannucci
Production company: Moon
Exposure: National TV
2. THE ECONOMIST
Project: Reappraisal campaign
Client: Susan Clark, global marketing director, The Economist
Brief: You might be more of an Economist reader than you thought
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writer: Mark Fairbanks
Art director: Paul Cohen
Exposure: National press, posters, digital escalator panels, online
Project: Deadly 5
Brief: Support the NikeFive website
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Writer: Dan Norris
Art director: Dan Norris
Director: Michael Williams
Production company: Draw Pictures
4. BRITISH AIRWAYS
Project: Upgrade to BA
Client: British Airways
Brief: Bring to life the upgraded experience of flying with BA through a
range of engaging online ad executions and an immersive interactive
Writer: Mike Pantelides
Art director: Blake Duerden
Designer: Amire Sheikh
5. VISIT WALES
Project: Peak season campaign
Client: Hannah James, consumer marketing manager, Visit Wales
Brief: Drive incremental visits to Wales in autumn, traditionally a
"quiet" tourism season
Agency: Partners Andrews Aldridge
Writer: Dan Wright
Art director: Simon Nicholls
Exposure: Direct mail
6. SONY BRAVIA
Client: James Kennedy, general manager, Sony Europe
Brief: Demonstrate that Sony LCD televisions deliver colour like no
Writer/art director: Juan Cabral
Director: Frank Budgen
Production company: Gorgeous
Exposure: National TV, online