There are these unwritten rules that I've paid attention to over the years at different agencies. I noticed they existed at Bartle Bogle Hegarty on accounts such as Levi's and Lynx. And at BMP on the likes of Volkswagen and Marmite. They are usually communicated through the feedback a creative gets from the creative director when showing work. They are not strategic, often tonal and often the literal manifestation of a set of principles that make the work good. They aren't measured or researched, not usually in a brief and often a client won't even know about them. They are the things you get to know right at the coalface and they are probably the most poignant and important manifestation of a creative culture in a good agency that there is.
We had this unwritten rule when working on Stella Artois that you should never reference any recognisable geography, landmarks, famous people or historical moments in the scripts. Over the years, various contributors stuck to this and built what became "Stella land". It steered the work away from raising a number of unwanted questions like, for example, the fact that the beer isn't French, it's from Belgium. Being less literal helped bring believability and depth to the work and crucially it kept us away from cliche. An obvious geographical cliche we wouldn't have gone near would have been the French Riviera. Somehow with such an overt literal reference in this ad for Stella Artois (5) a beautiful and very grand bubble seems to have been burst. In a single moment the brand has jumped clearly and decisively from pastiche to parody. Parody is the creative cliche of lager advertising. In doing this, the broader continental heritage and quality credential that was the massive equity that this brand had in its advertising is quickly killed. That's a very, very expensive call. I wish the brand luck.
The Sun (6) is giving away a free MP3 player to celebrate the release of the new Bond film. I never really think of this type of work as advertising. It's marketing, it's tactical, and, given the economic climate, we're going to be seeing a lot more of it. Despite it only being an announcement, the execution brings some of the energy and oomph of the brand to the job, which I like.
O2 (1) has done more or less the same type of thing. It's advertising to tell customers that they get priority tickets to the O2 Arena. Again, no great feat of planning here, it's marketing as overt as it gets. Loyalty can be everything for a brand at the moment and this seems to be a genuinely good offer to customers to encourage it.
I was hoping for more from the Transport for London (4) work, actually I was probably hoping for less. This execution depicts a contrived whodunnit scene from two angles so that changes in continuity are highlighted. It's all to make the point that we don't notice things if we aren't looking for them. It's a sledgehammer to crack a nut (that's my Christmas reference). I get the point at the end in a sort of exasperated "why didn't you just tell me" sort of way.
I didn't really get the T-Mobile (3) ads, they seem to be announcing that T-Mobile now has Google. I don't know if that's much of a claim. Doesn't every device known to man now get Google? That aside, the idea gets in the way of the message.
The MTV (2) work is just terrible. It's so crass and so wrong that I was embarrassed to even have it on my desk in the run-up to having to write this. I folded it in half to ensure no-one would see it and associate me with it, even remotely, even mistakenly for a second. There you go, a month until Christmas and I'm turkeyed out already.
PLANNER - David Bain, planning partner, Beattie McGuinness Bungay
You can learn a lot about life from the delusional ravings of the psychotically insane. Over time, their visions provide a secret record of the society they suffer in and from. A recent study of one Slovenian mental institution's psychiatric archive found that the madman (like the adman) naturally leaches the preoccupations and mood of the culture around them and binds them fast into their fantasies. So in the 50s, the inmates' Cold War delusions were filled with a chilly apocalyptic paranoia. In the 60s, they daydreamed more of immanence, seeing blue-skinned gods of fecundity lurking in the shopping aisles behind the peas.
And advertising is another source of alternative history, its slivers of meaning telling us what secretly matters to the world. In the future, the wise historian will forget the pedantry of treaties and the blather of political oratory and look instead to Private View to tell us who we were and what we wanted.
At first blush, this week's ad oracle tells us that we want our continental beer a bit weaker, our cyclists and our sex a bit safer. We want maps on our phones and MP3 players in our newspapers. Oh, and we want to get into that O2 centre first if we've got a cotton-picking contract. In short, this week's Private View tells us we are just a little bit needy.
No, no but come, surely the new Stella Artois (5) commercial can tell us something deeper about who we are? Stella was our trusty national prop as we skittered from the status-anxious 80s into the bleary, leery 90s. It was the beer brand of its times, brewed from advertising and hot air. But now poor old Stella has watered down both its product and its ads. I cannot forgive the faux authenticity of this Riviera romp. I cannot forgive the egregious use of "four" rather than "quatre" from our Belmondo-lite leading man, and I probably can't forgive Stella for the febrile delusion it perpetrated upon my youth.
Now the new road safety viral from Transport for London (4) is a cognitive psychologist's wet dream. The idea is another reproduction of an academic experiment in (in)attention. But I wonder if this idea is a son struggling to get out from under the shadow of its more successful and famous father (last year's virile moonwalking bear viral). Like many such sons, it tries too hard to be different, to be loved. Think Callum Best. I imagine he doesn't make cyclists feel much safer either.
The Sun (6)'s new ad to promote a free Quantum of Solace MP3 player free with The Sun (for FREE) reveals something of the decadent, chunky mint madness that has gripped the newspaper market of late. Where will it all end? Extra news journalism free with each and every copy? Perhaps not. Nevertheless, I quite like this jingly whistle-along-to-the-Bond-theme-tune number. Mainly because I prefer the ad's pathological jauntiness to the po-faced neuroticism of the current Mr Bond.
"Priority" presents us with a phantasmagoria of dancers, divas and daredevils backstage at the O2 (1) Arena as the viewer is led to their priority purchased O2 seats. Picture a carnival re-imagined by an accountant. A similar paucity of imagination infects the T-Mobile (3) new virals for Google maps. "I see giant pointy digital map things. I see giant pointy digital map things everywhere." But what does this humdrum hallucination of techno cartography teach us about ourselves? Maybe that we are all too worried about where we are to think about where we are at.
Thankfully, the MTV (2) safe-sex print campaign reminds us of some more eternal truths, of things beyond history and the quotidian imaginings of the lunatic or the advertiser: safe sex with people is better than unsafe sex with household appliances. And that, dear friends, is no pathological delusion. It is, as experience so bitterly teaches us, a stone- cold FACT.
Brief: O2 customers get priority tickets to The O2
Writer: Nik Stewart
Art director: Jonny Parker
Director: Patrick Daughter
Production company: Blink
Exposure: TV, online
Project: Safe sex
Client: John Jackson, director of social responsibility, MTV
Brief: Promote safe sex ahead of World Aids Day on 1 December
Agency: Ogilvy Advertising
Writers/art directors: Serge Pennings, Steve Clarke
Illustrator: Marcus Reed
Exposure: Attitude magazine/gay press, outdoor
Project: T-Mobile G1 phone launch
Brief: Announcement of G1 phone launch
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Writers/art directors: Eoghain Clarke, Julian Andrews
Director: Ben Wheatley
Production company: Blink Digital
4. TRANSPORT FOR LONDON
Clients: Chris MacLeod, head of group marcoms; Nigel Hanlon, group
marketing manager, Transport for London
Brief: Make drivers aware how easy it is to miss cyclists
Writer: Tom Spicer
Art director: Kit Dayaram
Director: Chris Palmer
Production company: Gorgeous
Exposure: Online, cinema
5. STELLA ARTOIS 4%
Project: Triple filtered
Clients: Ligia Goncalves, global marketing director; Adam Oakley,
marketing director UK, Stella Artois
Brief: Launch Stella Artois 4% as the smoothest 4% lager
Art director: Mother
Director: Fredrik Bond
Production company: Sonny London
Exposure: TV, cinema
6. THE SUN
Clients: Allan MacCaskill; Roland Agambar, The Sun
Brief: Promote the premium promotional giveaway of a free Quantum of
Solace MP3 player in The Sun
Agency: Brothers and Sisters
Writers/art directors: Mark Harris, Sam Washington
Directors: Mark Harris, Sam Washington
Production company: Brothers and Sisters
Exposure: National TV