Given the ads I'm reviewing, I read "Advertising: is it just a load of cog and balls?" (Campaign, 15 February) with interest. The article asked if the number of copycat "cogs" and "balls" ads had got out of hand. In truth, its conclusion sat on the fence.
So, I'm going to get off the fence. I think it's all gone way too far.
Enough is enough. Just because an ad has lots of people doing the same thing, or lots of things falling to earth, all set to a folksie soundtrack, it doesn't make it good. It just makes it a poor copy of a very good ad. We pride ourselves on being original. But, at the moment, we're looking like a rather conservative bunch.
Right, that's that off my chest. The first piece of work I have to review is for Honda (2). Here we see the Honda boffins rushing around the factory solving problems together. Now, if anyone should be allowed to parody "cog" or "balls", it ought to be Honda - it created the genre in the first place. And although I'm being harsh on this ad, it's by far the best of the week's bunch.
But maybe that's what's so annoying - we've come to expect so much from Honda ads, and this ad doesn't reinvent itself as many of the others have.
Next, we have the new ad for the Ford Focus (1). Here we see a very inbred-looking orchestra perform a rather dreary piece of music by playing instruments all made out of (you've guessed it) car parts. Now, to say this is similar to "cog" would be an understatement. The only difference is that this ad is totally rubbish. It's a shame because Ford advertising has been getting rather good recently.
The new cinema ad for the Fiat (5) 500 completes my car ads hat-trick. The idea is that this new car is the everyday masterpiece, so we see lots of quick cuts of masterpieces such as Swiss Army knives, tea bags and dice interspersed with shots of the car. Which, I'm afraid, doesn't make this ad an everyday masterpiece. But what I really want to talk about is the endline: "You are, we car." What the fuck is that about? I tried putting it into one of those anagram machines to try to make sense of it, even that turned out nonsense.
The new ad for Transport for London (6) definitely doesn't fall into sub "cog" and "balls" category. It's a very brave piece of work. Three minutes long and directed by Mike Figgis, it tells the story of four people's bus journey through a split-screen device. The point of the ad is to try to stop us behaving antisocially on buses. Sadly, I find the acting just a little hammy and the whole thing just doesn't quite come off.
Next, we have a campaign for Bookstart (4), which is trying to encourage us to read to our children. Each ad starts with the title "Tiny story about books" and is a short, whimsical tale told by children about how they love a good story. The animation is quite fresh and the ads rather charming. And at least we don't see hundreds of mothers all reading at the same time or lots of books falling from the heavens.
That brings me to the last of this week's bunch - an ad for VisitScotland (3) entitled "the perfect day". In the ad, we see a couple leave London and have the perfect day canoeing, walking and driving around Scotland. I suppose this could have worked if handled right, but, sadly, the cast look so self-satisfied and smug, I spent the whole of the ad wanting to take a pickaxe handle to them both.
Well, that's it from me. Sorry if I've been a bit grouchy, but it has not been a vintage week. CHIEF EXECUTIVE - Neil Simpson, chief executive, Publicis
We've been building a completely new reel over the past few months, and it's exciting seeing the originality, breadth of ideas, variety of media and sales graphs pointing upwards (wouldn't it be great if everything happened simultaneously?). It's a concerted effort from everyone in the building, so, in keeping with the collective spirit, this Private View comes from the whole creative department, replete with a box of Creme Eggs, two-dozen bags of Hula Hoops and me.
Three TV ads and three cinema ads. We imagine they are part of more holistic campaigns, and it seems archaic to view them in isolation.
Talking of archaic, VisitScotland (3). A happy couple flounce through an implausible day of excursions, oblivious to the fact that they appear to be trapped in a hideous time warp. The performances and wardrobe are out of this era. Unfortunately, this episode lacks any insight of Life on Mars, or the irony of Ashes to Ashes. Scotland is a lot more attractive and enticing than this ad depicts. I'm off to Ireland instead.
Two weeks ago, the boy Priest signed off by mentioning the new Ford Focus (1) orchestral cacophony. Well, would you Adam & Eve it - here it is. Those of us with car accounts know that the industry is tough at the moment, but our sympathy is rapidly replaced by an uneasy distaste. After an awkward pause, the comments began to flow. "It's 'choir' meets 'cog'" (the persistent Honda benchmark is testament to its fabulous work, but more on this later ...), "the casting is odd and performances creepy", "the music doesn't actually sound good", "the long-haired silver fox in the grey suit looks like a deviant" ... It's called "beautifully arranged", but everything about this ad conspires to prevent you thinking that about the car.
From car to car. Or "You are, we car", as Fiat (5) would have us believe. No time to analyse the Cartesian logic behind this endline. For now, let's just say "you Fiat 500, me Private View". We see a quick succession of "everyday masterpieces" equating to the Fiat 500, such as scissors, buttons, dice, a Swiss Army knife (obligatory) and a Rubik's Cube (seen a lot of those lately). We think "everyday masterpieces" is an interesting idea, but the analogy seems a little obvious. This car has a rich heritage, and a depth of dormant brand warmth. We wonder if that could have been tapped better.
Transport for London (6) provides us with a three-minute epic, which encourages us to behave more considerately on the bus. Well, actually, it goes a step further and appears to encourage direct action in response to antisocial behaviour. Some of us mention that this would not be wise on our particular bus journeys. Either way, the performances just weren't credible, which makes it feel patronising and laboured, despite the multiscreen, multistory effect.
The disc for Bookstart (4) didn't start, even though we tried it on a variety of machines. Fear not, we tracked it down on YouTube (hope we got the right one), and charming it is too. The animation style and child's narration are perfectly pitched to encourage parents to read to their children more frequently. The idea is simple, clear and inclusive, just as it needs to be. Our only (small) gripe is that this is for a free book-gifting programme and the call to action at the end, which offers us the chance to text to receive a free book, might well get lost.
And, finally, we arrive in Honda's (2) "problem playground". Some of us had seen this already. It features problem-solving-addicted Honda staff working seamlessly and harmoniously together to build things out of Rubik's Cubes and large jigsaw pieces. It's good, but it's not as great as some of the earlier work. We know that's an easy shot, but it felt more forced that the curious purity of "cog", and the product story is not as integral as it was in "hate something, change something". But we would still be proud if it was ours.
Right, I'm off to read a story to the kids, proof that advertising still works. Now, where's that old Rubik's Cube?
1. FORD FOCUS
Client: Mark Simpson, director of marketing communications, Ford of
Brief: Launch the restyled Ford Focus
Agency: Ogilvy Advertising
Writer: John Crozier
Art director: Dom Sweeney
Director: Noam Murro
Production company: The Mill
Exposure: TV, press, radio, DM, online
Project: Problem playground
Client: Ian Armstrong, manager, customer communications, Honda UK
Brief: Showcase Honda's environmental credentials
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Writer: Sam Heath
Art director: Frank Ginger
Director: Antoine Bardou-Jacquet
Production company: Partizan
Project: The perfect day
Client: Alistair Gronbach, head of marketing - UK & Ireland,
Brief: Bring to life the diversity and depth of Scotland as a
Writer: Mick Brown
Art director: n/a
Director: Peter Weber
Production company: Coast
Exposure: Cinemas across the south of the UK
Project: Bookstart hard to reach
Client: Emily Butt, campaigns and communications manager, Booktrust
Brief: Make hard-to-reach or low-literacy audiences aware of Bookstart
and the benefit of sharing books with their children
Agency: Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw
Writer/art director: James Vigar
Director/production company: 12foot6
Exposure: National TV
Project: Launch of Fiat 500
Client: Elena Bernadelli, marketing director, Fiat UK
Brief: Leverage the sponsorship of the Pearl & Dean "asteroids" musical
Agency: Krow Communications
Writer/art director: Krow Communications
Production companies: Jenny van Sommer, Pearl & Dean, Krow
Exposure: National cinema
6. TRANSPORT FOR LONDON
Project: Considerate travel
Client: Transport for London
Brief: Make people aware of their behaviour and the impact it may have
on those around them
Agency: M&C Saatchi
Writer: Mark Goodwin
Art director: Graham Fink
Director: Mike Figgis
Production company: Tomboy