October 14 1992. I had been invited to Royal Troon for the annual IPA/Def Jam Matchplay Tournament and had been drawn against the late Tupac Shakur. We must have made a strange pair as we strode down the fairway. Me in my thorn-proof tweed, and he resplendent in a bright yellow Adidas tracksuit. The stiff wind contoured the shiny material against his prison-yard physique, the kind that comes with a five-stretch on the Naughty Step at Penn State. Like many West Coast rappers, Tupac was a big hitter of the ball but had difficulty with his short game. Every time he stooped to address the ball, his view was obscured by a knot of gold chains and a large alarm clock given to him by his physician, Dr Dre.
We had just turned into the notorious back nine when the talk inevitably turned to brands. "Brands," Tupac opined, shaking his head, "are like bitches. There's some so fly and pretty, they act like their shit don't stink. Then there's the other kind." His mood darkened, he stopped waving his putter in search of the ball and scanned the distant Trossachs as if looking for Apache. "They take it in the ass."
I was shocked. Not so much at the profanity, but that this pearl of marketing wisdom should fall from the lips of a man more celebrated for dropping dope rhymes. Which brands I wonder will be sitting pretty this week and which will be lowering themselves gingerly on to the cushion of creativity?
Volkswagen (6) is not a brand given to looking over its shoulder in nervous apprehension. Throughout the world, we instinctively recognise that confident blend of teutonic efficiency leavened by self-deprecating humour and understatement. It will not come as any surprise to you, therefore, when I reveal that its new homepage is the very model of functionality.
Keen students of the VW oeuvre will recall an award-winning spread involving a tiny lost dog in the back of one of its cars. I loved the ad. But I did wonder if the public accords our work quite the same scrutiny as awards juries.
I wonder how many busy commuters will take the time and trouble to notice that the trains in these National Express (1) ads are not the real deal? And does it matter?
Kia (4) is the latest car brand to discover that you can do stuff in idents that the BACC won't let you do in ads. Here, the unfortunately named Cee'd is put through a series of max-power manoeuvres designed to appeal to boy-racers. For me, I have to say, this Cee'd has fallen on stony ground.
Carlsberg (2) is the last major lager brand with a proper old skool advertising mechanic. It has led it, perhaps in equal measure, to the Grosvenor House of peer group approval and the cheap motel of hot, sweaty shame. With this viral it returns to the scene of perhaps its greatest triumph, the football field. "Carlsberg don't do wives, but if they did," the stadium tannoy chortles, and what starts off sounding like an old Jim Davidson routine about the perfect missus is given a low-key charm and genuine spontaneity by its amateur cam treatment.
Boots (3) is a brand that swings both ways. There's sensible Boots the chemist and there's shake yer Booty, the life and soul of the Christmas party. Here lovely Keeley Hawes endures some rather stilted dialogue about No7 skincare in a homage to rival L'Oreal. I do hope "she's worth it".
There are two schools of Italian advertising: La Scuola Arte Fotografica of the product and La Scuola Arte Fotografica of someone's tits. Bialetti (5) cookware takes the former route (wisely, I think, given the health and safety issues), with some arty photographs of its pots and pans shaped as Italian icons.
DIGITAL CREATIVE - Giles Montgomery, creative director, Grand Union
It's good, but is it advertising? This question has sparked a lot of debate, especially at awards judging sessions. With all the new ways for brands to engage consumers, we need to keep categories clearly defined so that our work is measured against a fair benchmark, and we all get to appreciate the skills of related disciplines. I mention this because I've been sent the new Volkswagen (6) UK website to review. It's very good. It embodies the brand in its purity of form and function. For example, the front page offers four simple statements that immediately help identify who you are and what you want. But is it advertising? Should it be judged against posters and TV spots? Or should Campaign create a new section? More debate please.
TV idents are another case in point. Sometimes they're ads, sometimes not. Thankfully, this set of Kia (4) bumpers is built around a good, clear idea. In a limbo set, we see a statement writ large. A sporty red car zooms around and either hides or reveals words in the statement to alter its meaning. So "we'll never catch them" becomes "catch them". And "she's dead" becomes "she's dead gorgeous". The car is called the Cee'd, and it's designed to change your mind. As much as I like these idents, they won't change my mind about one thing. Cee'd is a terrible name for a car.
The next campaign features visual puns, so we know for sure it's advertising. But is it good? To position Bialetti (5) as an Italian icon, these print ads show cookware artfully arranged to look like other Italian icons. We have the leaning tower of pots, a saucepan scooter and some salad bowl gondolas. It's okay, but the iconic quality message is seriously undermined by the claim, "available at Argos".
These posters for National Express (1) show a model train passing a tiny billboard advertising the price of the ticket. National Express equals miniature prices. Great. But why a train? Last time I interacted with this brand, it was a fleet of coaches used by students and driven by, ahem, sober professionals. A visit to its website puts me right. "Did you know we run a number of high-speed, frequent rail services across the UK?" Well, now I do. Integration in full effect there.
Boots (3) No7 Protect and Perfect is a marketing phenomenon that was launched into the stratosphere by a Horizon documentary, arguably the most effective ad of all time. The job now is to educate women on how use the range of products and hold on to their youthful looks. Keeley Hawes, the spunky time-travelling copper from Ashes to Ashes, has been appointed to the job, and she's a great choice. Women like her (according to the women in my office) and will listen to her. Not one for the awards shows perhaps, but "here come the girls" is a tough act to follow.
I love what Saatchi & Saatchi has done for Carlsberg (2). It took an exhausted proposition, gave it a neat twist and launched a fun campaign with legs o'plenty. In this execution, we see a football crowd reacting to a half-time announcement directed at one of the fans. "Your wife has given birth to a baby boy." The crowd cheers. "She's happy to name him after your favourite players." More cheers, some smiles. "And she'll get a taxi home from hospital so you don't miss the next game." Some laughs. "Carlsberg don't do wives, but if they did they'd probably be the best wives in the world." Big cheers, lots of laughs. Not long ago this would have been made as a TV spot with a cast of hundreds. But this was done for real, filmed on cameraphones and posted on YouTube (search for carlsberg + wives.) It's advertising and it's good.
1. NATIONAL EXPRESS
Project: Miniature prices
Client: Rob Payne, marketing manager, National Express East Coast
Brief: Raise awareness of National Express as a train operator
Writer: Diana Tansey
Art director: Jon Foye
Photographer: Jonathan Minster
Exposure: Outdoor, regional press, online
Clients: Paul Davies, head of brands; Ian Hannaford, marketing manager,
Brief: Take Carlsberg sponsorship of the FA Trophy to the football fan
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Writer: Jonathan Benson
Art director: Stanley Cheung
Directors: Toby Clifton, Rupert Bryan
Production company: MPH
Project: Protect and Perfect
Art director: Mother
Director: Alan Coulter
Production company: Hungry Man
Exposure: National TV
Project: Sponsorship idents
Client: Simon Hetherington, marketing director, Kia Motors (UK)
Brief: Create a new set of sponsorship idents for crime drama on five
Writer: Mark Prime
Art director: Lee Hanson
Director: Samual Christopher
Production company: Hungry Man
Exposure: TV sponsorship on five, five Life and five US
Project: Bialetti cookware
Client: Paolo Bonsignore, marketing director, Bialetti
Brief: Establish Bialetti in the UK as Italy's number-one cookware brand
Agency: WFCA Integrated
Writer: Pete Rowden
Art director: Mats Persson
Photographer: Graham Tooby
Exposure: National press
Project: Volkswagen.co.uk site launch
Clients: Rod McLeod, marketing director; Marianne Nicholas, customer
relationship marketing manager; Sharon Heaton, customer relationship
Brief: Create a new site for Volkswagen UK that feels like driving a VW
Agency: Tribal DDB London
Writer/art director: Andrew Ferguson