I'm all for recycling, me. Even if the pink plastic recycling bags that are supplied by Tower Hamlets Council do resemble own-brand Netto condoms in both appearance and behaviour, tearing open at the least provocation and unhappily spilling their contents all over the place. So, hats off to EDF Energy (6), whose latest telly ad recycles old bits of film along with the classic Ecover poster idea to make its point about being a cleaner, greener company that is dedicated to reducing emissions, saving the world, and being your best chum. I may not be particularly moved by the familiarity of concept, but that's the messenger's fault, not the message.
I'm less for staying at Marriott Hotels (4), mind. I did stay in one once, never to repeat the experience. The memory of hearing the same soft-porn channel blaring out in grunting stereo from the two rooms either side of me still conjures up vivid images of desperate salesmen ferreting away in the stifled darkness of their "Junior Executive Suites". Ghastly. The new spot for the hotel chain does little to wash the taste away. It feels very much like those odd ads you watch on BA seat-back screens while you wait for the in-flight films to kick in, and for some unaccountable reason, features people of a variety of colour and creed dancing to some awful library music.
The newly revamped Skoda (2) website is nice and simple. Clear, user-friendly, easy to navigate and all that. I guess it would hit the spot if I were looking to buy me a new Fabia and wanted some sales bumpf and a few photos of the interior. The thing it sorely lacks, however, is the rather lovely personality that inhabits the rest of the brand's communications; the "build-your-own" button led me to expect something rather more happy and cakey than the "choose- your-paint-job" function that it actually delivered. Pity.
The ad for Welch's (3) grape juice boasts twice the amount of antioxidants as orange juice, and to illustrate this fact it has stuffed lots of very bendy people, dressed in purple leotards, into a giant pint-glass. Pedestrian and first-thoughty enough to be inoffensive, I guess. The Lycra'd antioxidant metaphors are impressively flexible ladies to be sure, and they squish their various squishable body-parts against the glass with an admirably bleak and blank-smiled enthusiasm, and I'm certain I once had a dream just like it.
The new Harvey Nichols (5) outdoor ad is jolly nice. Plum-lipped supermodel-types awkwardly cocooned within designer sleeping bags, neatly promoting the Harvey Nichols 50 per cent off sale. It's elegant, visual, and awardish in the nicest of ways. My only niggle is that the patented DDB sheen of lovely render slightly gets in the way of the wit, and thus raises a half-smile rather than the grin that it deserves. Still, jolly nice.
Next is a chocolate letter from the Royal Mail (1) to flog the "sensory experience" of direct marketing. It's sensory alright (you can smell the bugger through the packaging). Despite the fact that I'm riddled with diabetes, and if I was to gannet this particular marketing communications example, I would quickly become very shirty, spin around in circles, vomit upon myself and slip into a fitful coma (now that's a sensory experience, trust me), this still feels like it vividly and memorably delivers on the brief. My only issue is the brief itself. "Sensory branding" sounds like so much gobbledegook adwank, despite the glossy accompanying booklet that "grab-bags" further examples in a weak attempt to make sense of it. One such example is a mailer for the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home, with a strip of fake fur and the claim that: "It feels even better when it's real." I bet the National Federation Of Merkin Manufacturers took real issue with that one.
PARTNER - Ivan Pollard, partner, Naked
My genetic make-up is that of a less-than-average male, and one from Yorkshire at that. This means I am predisposed to two things: I am easy to please, but difficult to satisfy. Never is this more apparent than when looking at communication (and when having sex ... and shopping).
The chocolate drop from the Royal Mail (1) certainly evinces this reaction. I love chocolate, and when this arrived, I wolfed it down. Kind of left it hard to decipher the message without that bloke from The Madness of King George, but luckily I had the leaflet and the label on the box to help me. This certainly grabs your attention, but it left me feeling like it was trying a little too hard to make some good points to professionals. Sweet.
There is a nice ruse in the Harvey Nichols (5) work. Simple, clean, crisp, but still demands a little work from the viewer. Only a handful of clients and agencies can make something as ugly as the first day of a sale look as elegant as this. It is right on the money. Last weekend, I saw posh people doing precisely this outside the Vitra Showroom in Clerkenwell. Sleeping rough to get first dibs on a Charles Eames lounge chair really does happen. Nice.
OK, is it just me or is the idea of tango, capoeira, ballet and break dancing, with just a hint of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon chucked in for good measure, vaguely comical? It is beautiful to look at and you can see the client's brief shining through, but it left me with an uneasy sense of fear at the prospect of a night spent in a Marriott Hotels (4) room. Odd.
And if that is odd, the Welch's (3) ad is even odder. It's nice to know those gymnasts that didn't make the cut for the Beijing Olympics are still finding gainful employment. There is such a wonderful conjunction of the catsuited acrobats, the much-loved Bill Oddie and the oft-cited antioxidants that this works up to a point. You definitely get the message, even if the visual metaphor has been used loads of times before. Juicy.
I am big on green. Check out www.dothegreenthing.com and get big yourself. But it is difficult to like a company that keeps putting up my electricity bill. So, hoorah for this. It made me like EDF Energy (6) a bit. I know they're all at it - E.ON, npower, British Gas - but this did it for me. Maybe it is a little bit cluttered at times, and the endline is cloying and yukky, but finding archive material that means something to homeowners who grew up with The Wombles and then using it to make a point is genius: "Made from recycled film clips." Told you I was easily pleased. Fab.
I saved what I had hoped would be the best for last. The Skoda (2) website starts with a lovely line: "At Skoda we manufacture happy drivers." This should be fun, I thought. I was expecting the same charm and wit from the web experience as Fallon packs into the ads. With that opening line, I expected to be turned into a happy mouse driver. Don't get me wrong. This is a perfectly functional, well-specified website but I wanted so much more. Where was the bit where I could specify my car with Mickey Mouse ears? Why couldn't I choose luminous dice? Where could I select my own companion for the passenger seat? I don't want an armrest, I want Ashton Kutcher (and Brittany Murphy in the back). Not even a DVD screen for the children of others. Happy drivers, eh? The web experience has to deliver more if you promise more. Maybe I am being a little harsh, but I can see Geoffrey Boycott nodding. Fine.
1. ROYAL MAIL
Project: Chocolate letter
Client: Anthony Miller, head of media development, Royal Mail
Brief: Demonstrate direct mail's unique ability to engage the senses
Agency: Proximity London
Writer: Marcus Iles
Art director: Duncan Gray
Exposure: Business-to-business direct mail to 1,000+ UK businesses
Client: Sarah Chapman, direct marketing communications manager, Skoda
Brief: Establish the "home of the manufacturer of happy drivers" online
Agency: Reading Room
Writer: Garry Mockeridge
Art director: Andy Mclance
Project: Packed with antioxidants
Brief: Demonstrate that Welch's purple grape juice has twice the
antioxidants of orange juice
Agency: My Agency
Writer: My Agency
Art director: My Agency
Production company: Great Guns Bangkok
Exposure: National TV
4. MARRIOTT HOTELS
Project: Marriott dance
Client: Belinda Pote, senior vice-president international marketing,
Brief: Make the brand relevant to the BlackBerry generation of younger
global business travellers
Writer: Kristian Wheater
Art director: Simon Haslehurst
Director: Howard Greenhalgh
Production company: HomeCorp
Exposure: Global TV
5. HARVEY NICHOLS
Project: Winter sale - sleeping bags
Clients: Julia Bowe, marketing director; Fran Page, marketing manager;
Shona Campbell, advertising and promotional manager, Harvey Nichols
Brief: Prepare for the most fashionable sale
Writer: Thierry Albert
Art director: Damien Bellon
Exposure: National press
6. EDF ENERGY
Project: Save today, save tomorrow
Client: Ed Varley, head of mass marketing, EDF Energy
Brief: Demonstrate how EDF Energy can help customers become more green
Writer: Sarah Pilkington
Art director: Graham Kerr