Recently, an advertising student who'd just graduated with honours from The London College of Communication came to see me.
He showed me his portfolio, full of web designs, digital solutions and technical innovations.
I mentioned Bill Bernbach, and the student said: "Who's he?"
You can now get an honours degree in advertising without even knowing who Bernbach was.
Does that mean he's irrelevant?
Bernbach said: "Today, everybody is talking 'creativity' and frankly that's got me worried. I fear all the sins we may commit in the name of 'creativity'. I fear we may be entering an age of phonies."
I think everyone has to make up their own mind about that. So I've put some of his quotes next to this week's ads, and you can decide for yourself. Remember, these are meant to provoke thought and debate. Not just slagging off. They won't give us an answer. But they may make us ask questions that we perhaps aren't asking at present.
A press and poster campaign for Pomegreat (2). Bernbach said: "Our job is to sell our client's merchandise, not ourselves. Our job is to kill the cleverness that makes us shine instead of the product. Our job is to simplify, to tear away the unrelated, to pluck out the weeds that are smothering the product message."
Five press ads for Thorntons (5). Bernbach said: "Merely to let your imagination run riot, to dream unrelated dreams, to indulge in graphic acrobatics and verbal gymnastics is not being creative. The creative person has harnessed his imagination. He has disciplined it so that every thought, every idea, every word he puts down, every line he draws, every light and shadow in the photograph he takes, makes more vivid, more believable, more persuasive the original theme or product advantage he has decided he must convey."
Two Levi's (3) digital/TV ads. Bernbach said: "The best new- business tool an agency can have is the work it does for its existing clients."
Four press ads for John Lewis (1). Bernbach said: "In this very real world, good doesn't drive out evil. Evil doesn't drive out good. But the energetic does displace the passive."
A 122-second commercial for Hovis (6). Bernbach said: "It is insight into human nature that is the key to the communicator's skill. For whereas the writer is concerned with what he puts into his writings, the communicator is concerned with what the reader gets out of it. He therefore becomes a student of how people read or listen."
A direct mail piece for the Natural Confectionery Company (4). Bernbach said: "Technique for its own sake can be disastrous. Because, after a while, you're so anxious to do things differently, and to do them better and funnier and more brilliantly than the next guy, that that becomes the goal of the ad, instead of selling the merchandise."
Remember, these are principles to stimulate debate.
They're not just easy answers.
Whether or not you find them useful determines whether or not you find Bernbach still relevant. And whether advertising students should learn about him or not.
As Bernbach said: "The purpose of advertising is to sell. That is what the client is paying for and if that goal does not permeate every idea you get, every word you write, every picture you take, you are a phoney and you ought to get out of the business."
PHOTOGRAPHER - Rankin, photographer
This is my first day off in months and I've managed to come down with a very bad case of the flu. I am excited to be reviewing these ads, but excuse me if I've lost any diplomatic filter as all I'd like to do is sleep. The first series I look at between sneezes are the John Lewis (1) print ads. I am determined to start on a positive note, so let's just say that John Lewis got the casting right. I love Karen Elson. She is a fantastic model, so it is unfortunate that she is the only good thing about this campaign. The ads have really disappointing graphics, poor photography and the combination just doesn't work. Having said that, I can't hate the ads because Karen is just wonderful and it is a sweet idea. It's just very poorly executed.
Speaking of sweet ideas, the Natural Confectionery Company (4) has done something that I thought was impossible - it has managed to create a direct marketing campaign that I don't hate. In fact, I love it. As a rule, direct marketing normally makes me feel as sick as a dog's bollock being chewed by an infantilist. However, this is a lovely idea and I just wanted to make the little gift for my son even though he is a bit too old for sweets (he's 12). The idea is unique, original and creative and I like the fact that the product is natural too. A feelgood piece of marketing that I would (for a change) hesitate to put straight into the nearest shredder.
In the battle of the confectioners, the Thorntons (5) campaign is a very distant second to the Natural Confectionery Company. I seriously hate these ads, so I'm not sure what they are meant to say or what I should say about them. They feel like a graphic designer's wet dream and I would rather not be any part of one of those!
Pomegreat (2) also fails to evoke any feeling of wellbeing. The colour palette is making me feel slightly more unwell than I already am. In fact, when I look at this ad I think that the pomegranates look like an illustration from a book on diseases. Not really the health message intended here ...
The Hovis (6) campaign obviously has a huge legacy to live up to. The original Ridley Scott ad is just incredible and this had bags of potential to be a seminal piece also. It's such a shame that the agency or client felt it necessary to constrain themselves to 122 seconds for the 122 years! The ad is a visual feast and so beautifully executed I could have happily watched a five- or six-minute version. This is the ad we should all have been talking about in the pubs, schools, cafes and offices around the country, but instead, the beauty and concepts were swept away in the hurry to get from post-World War One to the present day. Given more time, this would have been amazing, with faultless style, technique, performance and direction. I just hope there is an extended version sitting somewhere in a vault.
I've saved my favourite for last. Just like the red sweet from the pack of natural jellies, the Levi's (3) ads are the best among this week's pack. These are the most memorable Levi's 501 ads I have seen in a long time. The first one is emotive and sensitive, the second one is raunchy and sexy. Whoever directed these is a real talent and the copy, creative direction and casting are fantastic. Really fun and sexy, and I think that this is easily going to hit its target audience. It basically relights my faith in the brand.
So that's it. I'm off to drown my sorrows in a glass-and-a-half of Night Nurse, which is not so good when it's only 11am. I am officially becoming a sedative junkie.
1. JOHN LEWIS
Project: John Lewis fashion
Client: Craig Inglis, head of brand communications, John Lewis
Brief: Promote the John Lewis fashion offering for autumn 2008
Agency: Lowe London
Writer: Steve Paskin
Art directors: Steve Paskin, Grace Woodward
Photographer: Phil Poynter
Exposure: National press, posters
Project: Get your juices flowing
Client: Rob Sutton, marketing director, Pomegreat
Brief: Differentiate Pomegreat from other fruit juice drinks
Writer: Judi Kingsley
Art director: Jo Webb
Photographer: Graham Atkins Hughes
Exposure: Inserts in national press magazines, posters
Project: Live unbuttoned
Clients: Jennifer Sey, vice-president, worldwide marketing; Mike
Joubert, vice-president, marketing LSEMA
Brief: Relaunch the Levi's 501s globally
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Writers/art directors: Toby Allen, Jim Hilson, Alisa Wixom, Kris Wixom,
Jon Fox, Rik Brown
Directors: Fredrik Bond, Jeff Labb, Emil Moller
Production company: Sonny London
Exposure: Global TV, cinema, online
4. NATURAL CONFECTIONERY COMPANY
Project: Free sweets!
Client: Martin Driver, senior brand manager, Cadbury
Brief: Create a web holding page and introduce the sweets to the UK
Writers/art directors: Cat Howarth, Dee Saigal
Designers: Simon West, Magnus Deuling
Photographer: Thom Atkinson
Exposure: Online, direct mail
Project: Luxury chocolate blocks
Client: Stuart Renshaw, head of brand, Thorntons
Brief: Launch19 luxury chocolate blocks from Thorntons in such a way as
to communicate Thorntons' relevance and appeal to a younger, more
Art director: Mother
Photographer: Dan Tobin Smith
Project: Hovis relaunch
Client: Jon Goldstone, marketing director, Hovis
Brief: Re-establish Hovis as a legendary bread brand
Agency: Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy
Writer: Gavin Torrance
Art director: Danny Hunt
Director: Ringan Ledwidge
Production company: Rattling Stick
Exposure: National TV, national press