I have to admit an almost erotic obsession with Grand Designs; I hoard each episode on my Sky+ box and save them for special, watching them back with covetous, penny-round eyes. But my enjoyment of Kevin McCloud's comedy sideburns last week was truly and emphatically ruined by an ad for the Co-op (1) that took so long to fast-forward through that I've developed arthritis in my thumb. Dear Christ, it goes on. I've just dutifully forced myself to watch the whole thing in real time so that I can review it fairly. And, dear Christ, it goes on. There seems to be some recent assumption that big instantly translates as clever, but it ain't necessarily so. There has to be a strong enough guiding concept to carry the weight of such a long format, and the idea at the core of the Co-op spot is as lacking in upper-body strength as I am. I was surprised to learn that the ad is 150 seconds long. It felt like I'd pissed away hours of my life watching it.
Another big ad, for the Halifax (5) this time. It would be easy at this point to go all ad blog and self-importantly bleat on about how the whole conceit feels a little behind the fashionable advertising zeitgeist, but let us not forget something quite important here - Halifax did it first, and many years ago. However familiar the spot may feel, if anyone has permission to have themselves an expensive television ad with people running around climbing on top of each other, they do. It's almost like the last decade of inanely grinning, gimpish staff musicals never happened. They've gone back to their roots, and it was all just a horrible dream. Whether the conceit of staff going to extreme lengths to hand their customers a sweat-crumpled fiver will actually work is another matter, of course. With a recession-maddened nation regarding bankers as a species slightly more loathsome than paedophiles, it may take more than a telly ad to regain some trust. Something like a complete overhaul of the banking system, for example, and ad agencies don't tend to do those.
Cheestrings (6), the bleakly old-fashioned factory-made cheese snack for underprivileged children, seems to have bought the stilted, 80s-wacky advertising campaign that it fully deserves.
Drugs and me don't get on very well, which means that I am not as cool and hard as some people who work in advertising. But I admit an admiration of the "honest, open and non-judgmental" Frank (3) strategy. Shame that the latest spot seems to have shed this strategy and gone all Reefer Madness, bellowing that the more you mess with weed, the more you mess with your head, Daddy-O. I suspect that this may have something to do with the recent high-profile reclassification, which is fair enough. The online seems less hysterical than the offline, if a little dry, offering up the facts in an easy-to- digest and even easier-to-navigate format. I wasn't wildly impressed by the interactive "mess with your head" bit, which seemed a little sticky and quickly lost my interest, but, as a whole, the website seemed to do its job in an adequate manner.
I love butter almost as much as I love sleep, or egg. This new ad for Lurpak (4) features all three, which is a good start. Nice enough writing, nice enough render, nice enough.
We proudly, if competitively, share the Department for Transport (2) account with Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, so writing this pains me a little: its new TV spot for Think! is truly excellent. To compete against all the extraordinary Think! work that has gone before is one of the hardest briefs in town, and the Marylebone Massif have excelled themselves with a haunting, chillingly underplayed TV ad that may just affect the behaviour change it sets out to achieve. Hats off to it.
CREATIVE - Mark Whelan, creative director, Cake
Come on, cheer up!
Listen, I'm no Sir Martin Sorrell, I can't predict the future or tell any of you what to do. But I do think this: if we all cheer up, others follow. For we are the nation's soothsayers, the aesthetes, the bacchanalians, the eroticists, the visionaries, the revisionists and all-round show-offs. And all of that in the space between two halves of Coronation Street.
We should encourage our clients to unleash this power of positivity upon a populace who are being driven under the slimy rock of despair. Preach, teach and beseech them that we have means to make a nation smile. We can't place the entire burden upon Ant and Dec.
Tell them to follow the lead of T-Mobile's dance-off, Adidas' Originals party and now the Co-op (1). Here's an organisation with a DNA of positivity. Based on the truth that it does no bad shit, this film bigs up its goodness in all its businesses. Its banking bit has always been about no bad shit in investments - this has a whole new meaning today. In fact, probably its only wanton acquisition to date is the Dylan track featured here.
The new Halifax (5) ad is following in the "human event ad" genre. The T-Mobile ad wasn't the first, it was just very nicely done. What I take from this film, however, is that too many grey suits in one place is never a good thing. Ironically, I think Halifax may have invented the genre years ago with the human pyramid/X thing. I think the banks need to start doing some good shit (see the Co-op) before most of us want to hear from them again.
Lurpak (4) is giving us a nice, warm under-the-duvet feeling (stop it) about Saturday breakfast. Owning the moment in a Diet Coke way. Good thinking, planner; well written, team; charmingly shot, director. But, most of all, good braveness, client! Bet you had someone saying: "But you are limiting our dairy application usage occasions to one family unit, er, unit." But you ignored it as total crap. And, as I have always said, it's so good to see the back of a tromboning man.
There's a website for Frank (3) about cannabis. The whole Frank thing is brilliant. But the site feels a bit Web 1.37 - unless I am so far out of it (in an age way) that this lo-fi experience is spot-on for the target. My "cheer up" call isn't relevant here, but it does resurrect the debate around how you talk to this audience about drugs; for instance, the appropriateness of humour. You always end up with detractors (for which read political profile-seekers) arguing that any creative communication makes the "category" cool. The normalisation/glamorisation of drugs has far more powerful influencers than these valiant attempts at education. Nobody is going to get into drugs because of a website. The most we can aim for is better-informed decision making.
There's no cheer in the Department for Transport (2) film. Nor should there be. If it stops just one person driving like a wanker, then it's been worth the effort. And it's another fine directing effort from Andy McLeod. He's going places, that boy. Not a man for outward displays of unbridled joy, probably because the inside of his head has more blinking lightbulbs than Winter Wonderland.
His erstwhile partner Rich has his roll-up-tainted hand in some bonkers nonsense from Cheestrings (6). Brilliant as always. It will put smiles on the faces of kids everywhere. And probably the board of Kerry Foods when it starts to land.
So, I'm going first. As of now, I'm cheerful. The sun shone on Saturday. Mickey Rourke is back. Empire Of The Sun has a great song and video. Isabeli Fontana walks this earth.
So, let's get cheering. Let's lead the cheer. Let's cheerlead. Let's all dress as cheerleaders. After you, Sir Martin.
Project: Brand campaign
Client: Patrick Allen, executive marketing director, Co-op
Brief: Co-op is about co-operation and sharing. This is why it's good
Agency: McCann Erickson
Writer: Chris McDonald
Art director: Matthew Statham
Director/photographer: Ramon Bloomberg
Production company: Blink
Exposure: TV, cinema, online
2. DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT
Clients: Nick Michael, senior marketing manager; Camilla Wilkinson,
marketing manager, Department for Transport
Brief: Jolt people out of their complacent attitude towards speeding in
a 30mph zone
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writers: Bern Hunter, Phil Martin
Art directors: Mike Bond, Brian Campbell
Director: Andy McLeod
Production company: Rattling Stick
Exposure: National TV
Project: The cannabis experience
Clients: Frank - Home Office, Department of Health, DCSF, COI
Brief: Raise awareness of the risks of cannabis use among 11- to
Agency: Profero London
Writers/art directors: Warren Frost, Patrick Lendrum
Lead designer: Patrick Lendrum
Project: Saturday is breakfast day
Client: Jessica Hardcastle, senior brand manager, Lurpak
Brief: Remind people that there is no better way to spend your Saturday
morning than tucking into a homemade breakfast
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Writer: Peter Gatley
Art director: Noe Kuremoto
Director: Simon Ratigan
Production company: HLA
Exposure: National TV
Project: Giving £5
Clients: Philip Hanson, director of marketing and e-commerce; Steve
Griffiths, head of consumer marketing, Halifax
Brief: Demonstrate how Halifax looks after customers and rewards them
Agency: DLKW & Partners
Writer: Richard Holmes
Art director: Remco Graham
Director: Garth Davis
Production company: Exit Films
Exposure: National TV
Project: Mr Strings
Client: Kelly Rafferty, marketing manager, cheese and dairy UK, Kerry
Brief: Refresh the brand in the eyes of mums and kids
Writers/art directors: Matt Keon, Richard Flintham, Rick Gayton, Darren
Director: Tom Kuntz
Production company: MJZ
Exposure: TV in the UK and Ireland