Quite rightly, we often discuss how potent and persuasive music can be in advertising. A more neglected theme is its corresponding power to enrage and repel. If I ever saw an ad with Richard Harris' MacArthur Park on it, I would feel obliged immediately to gather up some sharp things and seek out those responsible. I'm probably one of the few people in advertising with severe reservations about Cadbury's "gorilla" due to the presence on the soundtrack of the nasal anti-Christ Phil Collins. And I live in constant fear that I will one day see a commercial with something by The Hoosiers on it, probably Goodbye Mr A, and end up doing something that could have me taken out of society for some time.
The people behind the Waitrose (2) Christmas ad should be restless in their beds. Admittedly, John Paul Young's Love Is In The Air isn't up there with the output of Stock Aitken Waterman as an obvious target for vengeance, but there's still no earthly reason to dig it up. But as it is almost Christmas, and in an effort to be fair to all concerned, I replayed the ad with the sound turned off while humming Hawkwind's Silver Machine - and it became a thing of relative refinement. It is possibly the most middle-class commercial ever made. Lots of "infused", "marinated" and "may we suggest the St Emilion" over nice footage of places recently visited by Ruth Rogers, all culminating in a gentle and balletic exchange of snowballs between smartly dressed Waitrose staff. Why they failed to do the decent thing and stick a dollop of Cosi Fan Tutte on it instead of the whining Young remains a festive mystery.
A short drop down the social ladder, we find Marks & Spencer's (5) Yuletide fare. The girls are joined by Britain's best-loved boys, Take That, in, if not a turkey, certainly an enormous slice of ham. It's the sort of ad that will make most blokes cringe or freeze-frame the shot of Noemie Lenoir wriggling down the stairs in her pants, and have most women saying: "Aaaah, how sweet that they all spend Christmas together." And on that perilously sexist note, we can step away with some relief from overt seasonal shenanigans.
I suppose Waterstone's (3) is hoping to sell a few more books than usual at this time of year, but I found its TV campaign a bit of a struggle. The line is "discover something new" and the idea appears to be: people depicted in books stopping what they are doing at a dramatic juncture until someone picks up the book in Waterstone's, at which point they can resume the story. I know, I thought it was a bit convoluted, too.
There is only sadness in the next two campaigns. The Department for Transport's (6) child road safety commercial features a little boy who can't play football any more because he was hit by a car. It is a cleverly animated and manipulative piece of work. And I say that as a complete compliment.
The Barnardo's (4) work was more awkwardly realised. I sympathise, because it is a tall order to depict such terrible subject matter in a commercial context, and you lose complete conviction when advertising devices are clearly visible. But, frankly, I'd rather urge you to support a cause that tries so hard in the face of so much, than quibble over creative points of detail.
And so to Baileys (1). There are six posters here, the result of the most extensive casting sessions for lips ever attempted. They didn't strive in vain. There's not a great deal to dislike about giant close-ups of alluring mouths accompanied only by the line: "Baileys. Listen to your lips." Most posters these days are too wordy and complicated. This may not be at the very pinnacle of the medium, but at least they understand it.
CLIENT - Julia Bowe, marketing director, Harvey Nichols
As Christmas is nearly upon us and everyone could do with a bit of cheer in these gloomy economic times, I'm going to be as positive and upbeat as possible in reviewing the campaigns from the marketing departments of companies that still have the budget to advertise.
Unfortunately, the first campaign I reviewed, for Barnardo's (4), was very depressing indeed. In the most disturbing of the three TV executions, we see a teenage girl going through a cycle of abuse from parents, drugs, underperforming at school and then the inevitable imprisonment. The ads are extremely effective and evoke a very bleak, disturbing and heart-wrenching reaction. Personally, I think it could have done with a more direct call to action in terms of asking for support, rather than requesting we visit the website for more information on its work.
The "Boy who didn't stop, look and listen" TV campaign from the Department for Transport (6) aimed at road safety for children uses a cartoon format with a traditional storytelling voiceover. Pretty unremarkable but more engaging and hard-hitting than the DfT's previous cuddly animal characters, and should definitely resonate with the target market.
From Marks & Spencer (5), we see that "this is no ordinary type of Christmas, this is a Marks & Spencer Christmas". Where else would you see such an unlikely Christmas day gathering of Take That, Twiggy, Erin, Noemie, Lily and Myleene (which one plays mum?) all sharing in the joys of gifts from M&S? Having said that, it's a warm, toasty feelgood ad of idyllic Christmas joy, and Macy Gray's interpretation of Winter Wonderland continues the great choice of timeless classic songs found in the M&S ads. Hopefully, somebody bought poor Noemie something to wear as she is always the only one in her undies!
I must admit I found the Waterstone's (3) "Discover something new" TV campaign rather baffling. The first ad I reviewed featured Neil Armstrong refusing to descend from the space capsule. The question I have is: "What is he waiting for?" Is the correct interpretation that he's waiting for someone to come along and discover his biography in Waterstone's, or is it that he's waiting for someone to catch him in the act and record it for posterity? It isn't quite clear. The second ad depicting a scene from a crime novel is equally ambiguous. Perhaps someone would kindly explain to me which is the correct interpretation! However, I'm sure it will still remind everyone to buy their Christmas books from Waterstone's.
The Waitrose (2) Christmas TV ad features the producers of its Christmas food from around the world with snow superimposed on these foreign locations, as ever reminding us of the provenance and quality of Waitrose food. I normally love Waitrose ads. However, this one had a little bit too much vintage cheddar cheesiness for my liking. The voiceover was erring on the patronising side, although I still enjoyed the Christmassy vibe and it should remind its target customers to go to Waitrose to do their Christmas food shopping, despite all those jolly snowball-throwing staff. (However, I can highly recommend the Harvey Nichols Foodmarket for the most fashionable festive food!)
I have long been partial to a bit of my mother's Baileys (1) at Christmas; along with liking Abba, it's one of those embarrassing guilty secrets that it's finally OK to admit. The print ads are rather striking and the execution of the strapline, "Listen to your lips", is articulated in the most expressive and sensual way. It did remind me to glug down a "slippery nipple" (sambuca and Baileys for the uninitiated) before hitting the dance-floor to show off my rendition of Mamma Mia at this year's staff Christmas party.
Wishing all those reading this a Merry Christmas. I recommend a "slippery nipple" before hitting the dance-floor this Christmas!
Clients: Sharon Keith, global brand director; Tommy Kinsella, global
communications director, Baileys
Brief: Communicate the luscious nature of Baileys and trigger desire for
Agency: JWT London
Writer: Hugh Todd
Art director: Adam Scholes
Exposure: National posters
Project: Christmas at Waitrose
Client: Richard Hodgson, marketing director, Waitrose
Brief: Invite food lovers to make the most of their festive season with
Agency: Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy
Writer: Jeremy Carr
Art director: Ken Hoggins
Director: Stuart Rideout
Production company: RSA Films
Exposure: National TV
Project: Discover something new
Client: Julia Cove Smith, head of marketing, Waterstone's
Brief: Position Waterstone's as the place to discover books
Agency: CHI & Partners
Writers: Matt Collier, Wayne Robinson
Art directors: Matt Collier, Wayne Robinson
Director: Mike Long
Production company: Epoch
Exposure: National TV
Project: Break the cycle
Client: Diana Tickell, UK director of communications, Barnardo's
Brief: Communicate Barnardo's commitment to helping some of the
country's most vulnerable and misunderstood young people
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Writers: Dominic Goldman, Nick Gill
Art directors: Dominic Goldman, Nick Gill
Director: Jeff Labbe
Production company: Sonny
Exposure: National TV, online
5. MARKS & SPENCER
Project: Home movie
Client: Steve Sharp, executive director, marketing, Marks & Spencer
Brief: Announce to the nation's women that the M&S Winter Collection has
arrived and wish all M&S customers a merry Christmas
Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
Writers: Pip Bishop, Chris Hodgkiss
Art directors: Pip Bishop, Chris Hodgkiss
Director: Dawn Shadforth
Production company: RSA Films
Exposure: National TV
6. DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT
Project: Child road safety campaign
Client: Fiona Seymour, publicity team head, Department for Transport
Brief: Dramatise the real consequences of children not following their
road safety fundamentals
Agency: Leo Burnett
Writer: Christopher Birch
Art director: Caroline Rawlings
Directors: Smith & Foulkes
Production company: Nexus Productions
Exposure: National TV
Due to Campaign being sent Waitrose's Christmas ad from a previous year, the private view reviewers made comments on the wrong ad. Apologies to all affected.