Be more relevant. That's what I was always told. Especially when times are hard. But maybe not.
Is "HERE'S A REALLY GOOD REASON TO BUY" better than "JUST BUY IT AND GO ENJOY YOURSELF"? Is it better to give the consumer a rational reason when all they really want is an emotional one that will enable them to escape for a few seconds?
But what's more relevant? It's a debate I am having frequently with our fresh-faced planner Christopher Blayze, and one I am not really sure about. In this week's work, you can see both strategies, so let's see if we can shed some light on this.
First one on the e-mail is a spot for Aero (4). We see some dude showing off his skills around a skateboard park. As he flips, power-slides, inward-jumps and scoots (courtesy of Douglas, aged nine) around the place, he piles through a sea of chocolate balloons. I like simple visual ideas, so I loved this. More importantly, it wasn't relevant in any way to real life - no smart insight, no cleverly observed slice of life. Just a simple ownable product analogy - bubbles. A bit of fun that left me feeling positive. It was just a shame they couldn't stump up the cash for some CGI bubbles rather than balloons. Still, times are hard.
Next up on my screen are some posters for Nationwide (3). These guys are grabbing relevant by the nasal hair. The strategy is: "We are not one of those greedy banks, so you can trust us." An understandable POV and one that should work a treat for those keeping their savings under the bed. But the way the work looks and sounds makes it feel very middle-of-the-road and incredibly apologetic. I'm sure the agency had harder-hitting executions, which are probably still Blu-Tacked to their walls, but the client no doubt wanted to make a statement without upsetting anyone.
I just think if you decide to be "today relevant", you should not shrink from it. History shows that straight-talking sincerity doesn't kill creativity - it makes it flourish. Not sure what happened here.
Next up is some print/poster work for Bombardier (1): "Drink of England." It features family crest images of all things English. I love these. Especially Les Dawson, who always looks great in women's clothing. They are relevant in terms of a good old English "we will overcome" call to action. The main difference to Nationwide is that it's entertainingly relevant.
Visa (6) cunningly hides its relevance in its metaphor: a young guy on crutches showing off as much aerobatics as the Aero skateboarder. But unlike its "running man" predecessor, it lacks the simplicity of thought and strategic rigour. And, to be really honest, I don't quite see how a guy with a couple of crutches flinging himself around a busy street provides a neat analogy that "life flows better". But at least it's entertaining to watch.
Boursin (2), famous for its catchphrase "du pain, du vin, du Boursin", is next. We see a couple frolicking in a field of wheat before settling down for a romantic picnic, of ... bread, wine and Boursin. But as the voiceover reads out the famous endline, we see a combine harvester bearing down on the happily oblivious couple. We then see the final words "du tracteur". If ever there was a metaphor for the world we are living in, this is it. But I got a chuckle out of this spot and it looks beautiful. So du hell with whether it's relevant or not.
Last in the e-mail are some energetic films for Lastminute.com (5) that show the breadth of its offerings. It's a departure from their pink internet homeland, but they are enjoyably relevant in the respect that they are showing us that we can still enjoy life in the real world, despite the grimness of it all. They are not up to a Bartle Bogle Hegarty gloss level, but the great sense of positivity and togetherness help make up for that.
So, is being relevant today more important than encouraging people to forget the dark clouds? I suppose it depends how you do it - but if we can't believably offer hope to deal with the world, then we have to provide an enjoyable diversion to escape from it.
SUIT - Mark Collier, managing partner, Dare
You'll be relieved to know that I won't be banging on about the power of interactivity and connectivity this week because there's no digital work for me to talk about. Instead, this particular selection is dominated by TV, with some print work thrown in for good measure. In a former life, I was the head of TV at one of our finest advertising establishments, so hopefully I'm still able to spot a winner.
My first contact with the new Aero (4) campaign was not via the TV at all. It took place at Oxford Circus Tube station, where a smiling young promotions lady, accompanied by some chocolate-coloured balloons, was doling out free product samples. As for the ad itself, after a less-than-subtle opening product shot, we see a skateboarder, Bob Burnquist, doing his thing through thousands of, yes, you've guessed it, chocolate-coloured balloons. "Feel the bubbles," the end-super says, which is what Bob the boarder is clearly doing, quite literally. The concept of skateboarding through balloons is not a new one, as more than three million YouTube viewers of the "balloon bowl" video will tell you. But I'm not convinced this one will bear repeated viewing, unlike another commercial that featured round bouncing objects a few years back.
After a ten-year absence, "du pain, du vin, du Boursin (2)" is back. This time, we see some nicely shot images of a couple frolicking in a field, enjoying the product before the famous words appear. And that, we think, is that. However, we haven't banked on the final denouement in the shape of a bloody great combine harvester, or "tracteur", that is heading straight for our loved-up couple. This particular rug-pull doesn't quite work for me, I'm afraid, but I'm still happy to welcome back du old endline.
Next up, a series of films for Lastminute.com (5), picturing people in different holiday locations and situations all over the globe. They've all got one thing in common - they're giving us the thumbs up sign to indicate what a good time they're having. The trouble is that, after a while, shot after shot of smiley, happy people sticking their thumbs up becomes somewhat predictable. By the end, you're left hoping that one of them is going to break ranks and flick a V sign just to liven up the proceedings.
The new Visa (6) commercial is the second in the "life flows better with Visa" series and shows a bloke on crutches dancing down the street. While the sight of a man on crutches brings back particularly painful memories of my last skiing escapade, I do find the ad strangely engaging. Granted, it's another remake of a YouTube favourite, the RJD2 video, but it works well with the brand.
That's it for TV ads this week. Not sure I've spotted a bona fide winner in that lot. What about the print work?
The Bombardier (1) campaign is a colourful celebration of all things English, featuring famous figures from history and comedy, surrounded by classic images of our green and pleasant land. It's supposed to reflect the fact that it's the official beer of English Heritage. If Englishness is the brief, then I guess it ticks the box, but it says precious little else about the beer.
"Proud to be a building society," the strapline of the new Nationwide (3) print campaign proclaims. Well, I have to say, both client and agency have every right to be proud of this work. It taps in brilliantly to the prevailing mood in the country about the excesses of financial service companies. Everything about it is right. Tonally, the hardworking copy is spot-on, raising a knowing smile with its self-deprecating humour. All in all, a master-class in simple and effective communication.
So I needn't have worried. I've found a clear winner. It's not a TV ad. Neither does it show any trace of interactivity or connectivity. But that won't stop me saluting the power of blue type on a white background.
Project: Bombardier: Drink of England
Clients: Paul Smith, brand manager; Emily Hudson, brand marketing
manager, Wells & Young's
Brief: Position Bombardier as the official ale of England
Writer: Mark Prime
Art director: Lee Hanson
Illustrator: David Lawrence
Exposure: National six-sheets
Clients: Ian Greengrass, marketing director; Chloe Feminier, brand
Brief: Position Boursin as a regular fixture in people's cheese
Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
Writers/art directors: Nicola Hawes, Andy Forrest
Director: Steve Hudson
Production companies: Hungry Man, Franco American Films
Exposure: National TV
Project: Savings campaign
Client: Keith Bibby, head of marketing communications, Nationwide
Brief: Demonstrate Nationwide is a safe place for your money
Agency: Leagas Delaney
Creative team: Tim Delaney, Rob Burleigh, Matt Moreland, Chris Clarke
Exposure: Nationwide outdoor, broadsheets
Clients: David Rennie, marketing director; Clare Heathcote, marketing
manager; Katie Jordan, brand manager, Nestle Confectionery
Brief: Broaden the appeal of Aero
Writers/art directors: Bruno Xavier, Ronnie Vlcek
Director: Ty Evans
Production company: Superstudio
Exposure: National TV, viral
Project: The great thumb wave
Brief: Lastminute.com helps people make the most of their free time with
new and unexpected ideas for every single day
Writers/art directors: Lisa O'Neill, Gemma Fowler
Director: Kim Gehrig
Production company: Academy
Client: Mariano Dima, executive vice-president of marketing and
Brief: Visa brand campaign
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Writers/art directors: Kate Stanners, Paul Silburn
Director: Joey Garfield
Production company: Academy
Exposure: TV in the UK, Poland, Finland, Italy, Greece, Germany