Tough times, innit?
Certainly if this week's work is anything to go by.
A rum old bag. Actually, they don't send you a bag anymore. All digital. Which I'm afraid is the most progressive thing about this round of stuff.
The Heinz Ketchup (3) ad has some nice bits in it. Shot nicely. Nice music. But Heinz Ketchup isn't nice. Heinz Ketchup is the elixir of life. The only thing my boy will put his chips on. (That's how he likes it. A red sea with a couple of flailing starchy boats trying hard not to sink into its depths.) He adds tomato sauce to baked beans, a product that is three-quarters tomato sauce already. It's like red crack. The lubricant of choice for discerning foodies (me) and TV dinner philistines (my missus) alike. She puts it in her homemade half-fat Cathedral City pitta "pockets". I add it as an accompaniment to my herb-crusted rack of lamb. Five tablespoons of sugar? Give a toss. Some things are just worth Type 2 diabetes. Life's too short not to have this particular brand of mass-produced gunk in yours. You know when you eat in a pub that gives you sachets, and the sachets they give you aren't Heinz Tomato Ketchup? You know you've gone a bit wrong when that happens. There's every chance you'll witness a fight between two feuding families and a proper glassing. And you know when you go to a pub that has it in proper classic bottles? Gastropub. You could ask anyone a question regarding Heinz Tomato Ketchup and we'd all spout forth. We just need a trigger. This ad isn't it. It's just nice. Opportunity missed. Blimey, that's half my words done. Luckily I can be brief with the rest.
I can't fathom the Harvey Nichols (6) ad. A "GORDON Brownie" (a chocolate brownie with Gordon Brown's face scribbled over the top) is used to tell us Harvey Nicks can cater for all PARTIES, no EXPENSE spared. Something to do with the expenses scandal, Holmes? But what it's actually banging on about, I don't know. Intriguing. Maybe I'll get myself down there to find out more ... Reckon!
The Vimto (4) ad is nice in parts. The casting of the fairground chap is good. There are a few nice touches in the art direction. But the pay-off isn't rewarding enough. It's a shame but I think this one will just float off into the ether.
Network Rail (5) is nice too. A beautifully shot but utterly corporate effort. It'll go down very well at the annual meeting.
I hate the guy in the Home Office (1) binge-drinking viral. He's got a touch of that bloke from My Family and the BT ads about him. Not funny. Annoying. None of the public ensnared in this viral look the slightest bit engaged. Just a little embarrassed. Bad casting. Shame, because I like the strategy. But those beautifully crafted films showing people getting ready to go out left much more of an impression on me.
Open on a bunch of lads playing Sunday league football. In my day, it used to be a Jamaican beach or some such. Nowadays, everyone wants that jolly down to Hackney Marshes. Sign of the times. Anyway, this ad isn't without sweetness. A ranting manager jumbling his words up when he eats Rowntree's Randoms (2). But, like this weary review, it feels a bit familiar.
That's the lot. Far too much negativity. So, to balance my massive chi, I'd like to give a big shout out to whoever does the posters on the Tube that tell us not to drop litter and to be careful on the escalator and what time last trains run. They always cheer me up during rush hour when I'm squeezed and hunched into that prized corner bit by the door where suitcases should go. They are quirky, uncomplicated and stylish, and I luv 'em.
SUIT - Paul Hammersley, managing partner, The Red Brick Road
How refreshing that after months of miserable news, talk of "green shoots" is suddenly all around us. Coupled with predictions of unemployment rising to three million in 2010, it sounds pretty wishful to me, but at least the power of positive thought is shining through and it may just be self-fulfilling.
So positive, if perhaps slightly delusional, thought seems to be the order of the day and I will follow that lead here as best I can. To that end, let's start with the strongest work on offer to get us off on the right foot.
I like the Home Office (1) binge-drinking work and I know from experience that this stuff is difficult. Getting the balance between being serious but not hectoring; engaging the audience in the debate with a little wit and levity while not trivialising the subject; this is all difficult to achieve and I think that this work does it well. The wonderful look of consternation on the onlookers' faces will surely strike a chord with the audience ... at least when they're sober.
The Heinz Ketchup (3) work is likeable and reassuring and part of the trend towards rather self-referential work, presumably aimed at restating brand credentials at a time of general consumer uncertainty. For someone from a household of three children, it does seem slightly redundant to point out the ubiquity of Heinz Ketchup but it's a nice way of targeting the infrequent or lapsed user.
On the subject of children, my ten-year-old, like most kids her age I suspect, is in the habit of describing everything that makes no sense to her as "random". The issue with this Rowntree's Randoms (2) work isn't the commercial, which is a perfectly charming way of not trying to make sense of something that makes no sense in itself. The issue is with the product itself; calling these sweets Randoms may be honest but won't hide the fact that as a new product launch, they really make no sense at all.
In contrast to our overly positive state of mind, our more familiar cynicism has been well fed recently by the MPs' expenses saga and it's surprising we haven't seen more advertising capitalising on it. The press ad for the Harvey Nichols (6) food hall is one of the few that has; it's a little bit of fun and you get three ideas in one in return for your attention.
Think positive, think positive ... on to Vimto (4) and some animated fruit that are "seriously mixed up". To be honest, I thought this was a brand long since dead, so it's a delight to see it on TV again but I fear it's a rather old-fashioned and familiar idea for the demands of a successful brand revitalisation task.
Last stop, Network Rail (5) (sorry). There are two problems with this ad; the first is that it's not really an ad at all - more of a cut-down of a pat-on-the-back corporate video; the second is that whatever impact or persuasive power it may have relies on the strength of the facts it presents and they just don't seem very impressive. The West Coast line has an appalling and well-justified reputation and I can't see this making much difference to that.
To make sure I finish on a positive note, this last offering did at least prompt me to hunt down that wonderful late-80s British Rail "night mail" commercial (at first glance it seemed similar) and the 30s film that inspired it. Both are worth a look if you weren't around 70 or even 20 years ago.
With his normal sensitivity and fine timing, Hack, one of my partners, tells me this was a pathetic attempt at positive thought. My apologies, as a cynical old Brit, I did my best.
1. HOME OFFICE
Project: Know your limits - binge-drinking
Client: Catherine Worswick, Home Office
Brief: Challenge 18- to 24-year-old binge-drinkers to consider the
consequences of their actions
Writer: Anthony Stamp
Art director: Richard Yates
Director: Saul Dibb
Production company: Home Corp
2. ROWNTREE'S RANDOMS
Project: Rowntree's Randoms
Client: Cheryl Allen, brand manager, Rowntree's and Polo
Brief: Develop a nationwide campaign to support the launch of Rowntree's
Agency: JWT London
Writers: Kevin Masters, Miles Bingham
Art directors: Miles Bingham, Kevin Masters
Director: Paul Goldman
Production company: Partizan
Exposure: National TV
3. HEINZ KETCHUP
Clients: Adrian Mooney, marketing director, sauces; Michael Docherty,
senior marketing manager, Tomato Ketchup
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writer: Martin Lorraine
Art director: Steve Jones
Director: Dougal Wilson
Production company: Blink
Client: Neil Gibson, head of marketing, Vimto
Brief: Combine the product truth of mixed fruit with a brand attitude
that will appeal to teens
Art director: Driven
Director: Against All Odds
Production company: Passion Pictures
Exposure: National TV
5. NETWORK RAIL
Client: Mark Shaoul, head of marketing, Network Rail
Brief: Announce the completion of the £9 billion upgrade to the
West Coast mainline
Writer: Chas Bayfield
Art director: Toby Burnett
Director: Henrik Hansen
Production company: RSA
Exposure: National TV, cinema, station transvision screens
6. HARVEY NICHOLS
Project: Gordon Brownie
Client: Harvey Nichols
Brief: Promote Harvey Nichols Foodmarket
Agency: Mr H
Writer: Ruan Milborrow
Art directors: Ruan Milborrow, Luis Rodriguez
Photographer: Mark Nightingale
Exposure: The Spectator