Snoop Dogg, Samaritans, stoners, sports commentators, pseudo-scientists, and the guy from Four Weddings and a Funeral.
That's the cast of characters I've been given for my Private View this week, so here goes ...
I have to admit I'm not a big Snoop Dogg fan. So when the first image I see in the Orange (1) ad is the Snoop man, I want to not like it. But I do. This is a very funny cinema spot telling us to turn off our mobile phones. The "house-ies" (Orange corporate types) go rap-for-rap with Snoop and his "homies". The performances on both sides of this "debate" are played to perfection. I particularly enjoyed the exchange between the Orange guy, who says "You can razzledazzle my fantasmagazzle", to which Snoop responds: "That don't even make sense." It was the first line I've ever heard the Dogg utter that made any sense to me.
Now, from the ridiculous to the sublime: Samaritans (3). At first, I wasn't sure what to make of this. A phone rings, ominous music pulls at my heart strings, a skull silently calls for help, dive-bombing birds, a heart is broken, a ribbon spirals back down to the vector scope, which goes flatline, the question "could you listen to this?" comes up. Someone is in trouble ... I think. But I had to watch this over and over again to figure it out. Maybe that's good. The effects are intriguing, the idea is sophisticated. In the end, I find myself appreciating the effort and applauding the attempt to do something different in the public-service arena. Samaritans is a very worthy organisation, and I hope this ad inspires people to volunteer to help those in distress or at risk of suicide. I'm just not sure the average person sitting at home is going to get it at first ... but I hope they do.
Now for the stoners. I'm way out of the age range for this Frank (2) campaign, but some of it seems almost fun, while other pieces, particularly the "real-life" films, felt much more powerful ... and more interactive, too. "Brain cook" is gross but very effective. It sure reminded me of the classic egg-in-a-frying-pan "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs" commercial. I'm not sure if any of this work will make much of a difference, but I hope it makes kids think.
The MasterCard (5) "priceless" campaign always makes me wonder how they keep it going? It is simple and brilliant, but just like every other campaign, some executions are better than others. However, every time I think it's going to run out of steam, a spot like "sports commentators" comes along. Every sport, every country, and every team has guys like this. The acting is great. It's fun. And it's a passionate salute to being an unabashedly passionate sports fan. I know the feeling. So does MasterCard.
And speaking of sports, we come to the Callaway Golf (6) press ads. Well, I'm a really bad golfer. My handicap is that I try to play. I've always felt that things such as "fusion technology" and "tunite, an ultra-dense alloy" were made up anyway. These ads don't tell me anything new or convince me of anything. I guess I'm just waiting for someone to put Kryptonite into a club and promise to make me Superman on the fairway.
And finally, that brings me to the guy from Four Weddings and a Funeral, who features in the Virgin Atlantic (4) spot. I spend too much time on aeroplanes, in airports and having metal-detecting wands waved all over me, so I can relate to this one. Time is "precious stuff" indeed. This is an intelligent, insightful idea. And if it can guarantee me my "own private security channel", I'll be on Virgin Atlantic on my next trip across the pond.
AGENCY CHIEF - David Patton, chief executive, Grey London
In my previous life as a client, I was always rather reluctant to accept invitations to write a Private View. I felt it really wasn't my place to pass comment on a fellow clients' hard work, sweat and tears. Particularly when I had no insight into the brief, strategy or the creative process.
But now, being on the "agency side", all that moral obligation goes straight out of the window. Being asked to do a Private View takes on a whole new perspective. I'm now reviewing competitors' work, so anything goes, right? Off come the gloves ...
First in the ring is the "cannabis and class As" digital work for Frank (2). I like Frank. He's a hard-working, easy-going and approachable guy. It's a tough job delivering important streetwise information in a non-patronising way, and I think this work strikes the right balance. If I have a nagging doubt, it's that the executions are too slick: they lack a bit of reality and honesty, and could perhaps do with being a little rougher around the edges. Hats off to the agency, the sheer volume of work produced is considerable, and it'll be interesting to see which ideas cut through.
Is VA becoming the new BA? You could be forgiven for thinking so. Virgin Atlantic's (4) new work, which stars John Hannah, is stylish and cool, but in a rather grown-up and safe sort of way. I don't dislike the work. The ad itself is well shot, has a great narrative and is perfectly delivered, indeed a very polished performance all round. It's just that it seems to have lost some of the challenging irreverence and bite that made previous Virgin Atlantic work so appealing.
Regardless of England's dismal failure to qualify for the European Football Championships, I have absolutely no doubt that we will still be bombarded with an avalanche of football-related commercials during the summer months. Football briefs are tough to crack, especially in a new and interesting way. What usually starts off with high ambitions all round ("let's get Zidane, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo in on this ...") quickly turn into a cost and image rights minefield ("he wants how much?!, that's more than the media bud-get ..."). In all too many cases, the default scenario becomes lowest common denominator advertising. The "sports commentators" ad for MasterCard (5) doesn't quite fall foul of this. It's a powerful brand idea, but somehow withers in the shadow of the event. As a result, it starts with good intentions, but struggles to make much of an impression. A bit like the England team, really.
The work for Samaritans (3) should send me into a wealth of contrasting emotions. It's certainly hypnotic, and immediately begins to draw me in, but it's too gentle; the overall experience leaves me somewhat ambivalent. Yet again, it's a very challenging brief to crack, and I am positive about the work, but it just leaves me asking if it needs a harder edge to really engage its intended audience.
So it's on to the Callaway Golf (6) press campaign. Clean and effective, just like its "fusion technology" clubs, apparently. Simple art direction that will certainly stand out in cluttered golf magazines.
And finally to the Orange (1) "gold spot". Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. This is Orange at its very best. Well written, great entertainment that brings a big smile to my face. Here's a brand that truly knows its audience - content and context work in perfect harmony. Only Orange could ask you to turn your phone off in such a lovely way. If I were still a client, I'd wish that I had bought this.
Project: "Gold spot"
Client: Rachel Macbeth, head of advertising and design, Orange UK
Brief: Remind cinema-goers to turn their mobile phones off before the
start of the film
Art director: Mother
Director: Brian Buckley
Production company: Hungry Man
Project: Frank campaign
Clients: Home Office, Department of Health, Department for Children,
Schools and Families
Brief: Present five key messages about the effects of drugs to Frank's
target audience, as well as position Frank as the expert for drug advice
Writer: Alastair Mills
Art director: Warren Frost
Project: Winter 2008 campaign
Client: Jeremy Payne, director of fundraising and external relations,
Brief: Recruit volunteers for Samaritans
Agency: Lunar BBDO
Writer: Ben Kay
Art director: Daryl Corps
Director: Christian Bevilacqua
Production company: Therapy Films
Exposure: TV, press, poster
4. VIRGIN ATLANTIC
Client: Breda Bubear, head of advertising and comms, Virgin Atlantic
Brief: Promote the launch of the new Upper Class Wing at Heathrow
Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
Writers/art directors: Gethin Stout, Joe Fitzgerald, Kim Hutcheson
Director: Jeff Stark
Production company: Another Film Company
Project: Sports commentators
Client: Rita Broe, European head of brand, MasterCard
Brief: Increase brand awareness of MasterCard by leveraging its
sponsorship of Euro 2008
Agency: McCann Erickson London
Writer: Johnny Skinner
Art directors: Jason Stewart, Ben Brazier
Director: Ulf Johansson
Production company: Smiths & Son
6. CALLAWAY GOLF EUROPE
Project: The essence of real golf
Client: Jeff Dodds, marketing director, Callaway Golf Europe
Brief: Differentiate Callaway Golf from other high-profile golf brands
Agency: Nexus/H UK
Writer: Glenn Smith
Art directors: Craig Roderick, Dave Jenner
Exposure: Press, online, outdoor, retail point of sale