"Are we seeing the green shoots of recovery?" is the question at the moment and no-one is quite sure of the answer. For my tuppence-worth, I think we are far from out of the woods. But ask anyone at Rainey Kelly, I do tend to always fear the worst. (Because it quite often happens.)
However, at Honda (2) this week, the green shoots are there for all to see. The company is announcing that after four months of shut-down, it is reopening its Swindon factory. I think, strategically, this is a very clever piece of work. It turns what was very bad PR into a piece of good news. The ad is written with a charm that not only puts Honda at the heart of the nation, but reminds us how important it is to the nation. All art directed in a very stylish way that doesn't feel too much like a car ad.
Next up, we have an extraordinary new product from Andrex (5) - toilet paper that has shea butter on it. Not since Last Tango In Paris have I really put butter and bottoms together. I can remember at the tender age of 14 a heavily thumbed copy of the book going around school and us all wondering why anyone would go for the back bottom when all we dreamed about was being allowed anywhere near a girl's front bottom. Anyway, Andrex has decided this is what the world has been waiting for - toilet paper that will moisturise your anus. Now, I have to tell you this is a brief I would not have looked forward to getting. But with the help of the Andrex puppy doing a spoof of a perfume ad, JWT has got as near to getting away with it as anyone possibly can.
Before the Cannes Festival began, I was getting e-mails from the organisers offering discounts to tempt me down to the sunny South of France in epidemic proportions. Later, after judging began, the focus shifted and all the e-mails seemed to be telling me how well DDB was doing in the Press and Poster shortlists. However, I'm not sure this ad I've been sent for the Financial Times (1) from DDB is up to its usual masterful standards. I do, however, think the endline "We live in Financial Times" is a work of genius.
Last year's Hovis (3) ad from the lovely people at Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy was my favourite ad of the year. It was brilliantly simple and effortlessly charming. So, in my world, this new ad had some pretty big boots to fill. It follows much the same format as last year's ad. This time, we see a little girl's journey through time from sepia photos to modern day via the Hovis bakery. It's quite charming but seems to lack the sheer scale and conviction that made last year's so brilliant. But that is probably a sign of the times.
Of all the power companies, I think EDF Energy (4) has been doing the most interesting advertising recently. I was a fan of its recycled bits campaign. This new ad carries on the green theme, asking Britain to rally together as it did for the Olympics in 1948 to make the 2012 Olympics a chance for Britain to lead the world in the fight against climate change. It's really well written, stirring patri-otic stuff. Not bad for a French power company.
And, finally, it's that time of year again when we British have been hoping against hope that a British, or even Scottish, player might win Wimbledon. The new BBC (6) Wimbledon idents from Red Bee very stylishly show that not only do you have to battle the other players, you also have to battle yourself. Sadly, I fear if Andy Murray had to play himself in the final, he would still probably lose. But, as I said in the beginning, I am a miserable old bastard. And as for the green shoots of recovery? I think this still remains a pretty tough time to do great advertising.
PLANNER - Laurence Green, chairman, Fallon
In Jonah Lehrer, planning has a new poster boy. It's an assertion based admittedly on just one bedroom wall - my own. (My wife is exceptionally tolerant and Blu-Tack was the deal breaker. It's the pictures of Robert Senior that trouble her, but he can be very insistent.) Neuroscientist and all-round wonderkid, Lehrer's new book, How We Decide, is an anecdote-rich investigation of, yup, how we decide.
And right now - barring a last chapter volte-face that would shame even Scooby Doo - it seems that our old friend emotion again emerges as the leading man. Not that we are governed by random, unexplained urges, oh no. It turns out our emotions are, in fact, deeply empirical. Like, actually based on stuff. Cool. It's why good clients ask how they should feel rather than just what they should think after hearing our ideas. Grateful, loyal and blind to the potential of other agencies being the obvious answer.
So how do I feel after the EDF Energy (4) spot? Inspired by its footage of the 1948 Olympics and a broken country rebuilding itself, that's for sure, but ultimately confused. Because having invoked the spirit of the Blitz and our cinder-track heroes, London 2012 is, we're told, "our chance to lead the world in the fight against climate change". Total non sequitur or masterly sleight of hand, you decide. Because my head hurts.
Hovis (3), too, is busy plundering the past and tugging on the nation's heartstrings, just as Jonah teaches us. This time, its rolls in the shop window and the passage of time get clockwiped rather than played out in previous thrilling fashion. Against the bar it has set for itself, it's all a little underwhelming. Less "difficult second album", more a reminder of what I'll call Jonah's Law: that the very best communication makes us feel something, not just think it.
Few things in life elicit a more visceral response than sport, so we'd expect the BBC's (6) Wimbledon trails to skewer us emotionally. Not least with Andy Murray in the mix and a perfectly plausible, creatively rich starting point: that "the toughest game of all is against yourself". I want to see racquets being flung, demons being conquered, Nadal outlasting Federer in last year's final. I want headband-era, not headphone-era, McEnroe. I want Alex Higgins in tears (OK, wrong sport, but you know what I mean). Instead, I get technique. And something that should have been intense and heroic turns into the equivalent of a Tim Henman exhibition match.
Loo roll, it's fair to say, roars from the emotional starting gate less readily than sport, but the cunning genius of "puppy love" has given Andrex (5) the hex on its competitors for years. (When we were briefed on Velvet, we reviewed the available weaponry and reached Crocodile Dundee-style for ... a baby.) Here, the puppy appears in the Boddingtons face cream commercial from 1993 in order to launch Andrex's new shea butter variant; that sound you can hear is the everyday heavy lifting of a big FMCG brand.
The Honda (2) "factory reopening" campaign tests my determination to respond emotionally, perhaps because I am so obviously supposed to like it. But I can't help feeling that this is good internal, maybe local communication thrust awkwardly on to a national stage.
The Financial Times (1) campaign is a triumph, by contrast, from thinking all the way through to execution. And although the Obama execution is a bit "son of snowplough" to beady-eyed commentators like me, there'll be no truck with it in the real world. Its readers, especially, will enjoy the gossamer touch of smoke on shea butter. I know I did.
Emotions, then. Harder than I realised to be led by, what with being English and a bloke and a planner and everything. So good luck, adfolk, and remember: the toughest game of all is against yourself.
1. FINANCIAL TIMES
Client: Financial Times
Brief: Reaffirm the Financial Times as a trusted source of global news
Agency: DDB London
Writer: Jonathan John
Art director: David Mackersey
Exposure: UK print
Client: Ian Armstrong, manager, customer communications, Honda
Brief: Communicate the reopening of the Honda Swindon factory
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Writer: Ida Gronblom
Art director: Fabian Berglund
Photographer: David Sykes
Exposure: Print, poster, radio
Client: Marie Davies, marketing manager, Hovis
Brief: A product ad in keeping with the "go on lad" brand ad to launch
the new range of Hovis rolls
Agency: Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy
Writer: Gavin Torrance
Art director: Danny Hunt
Director: Ivan Bird
Production company: Rattling Stick
4. EDF ENERGY
Project: Olympics 2012
Client: EDF Energy
Agency: Euro RSCG
Art director: n/s
Production company: n/s
Project: Andrex shea butter
Client: Carol Smith, Andrex marketing manager, Kimberly-Clark
Brief: The new Andrex shea butter campaign is designed to appeal to
women who really care about the way they look and feel
Agency: JWT London
Writer: Jamie Thompson
Art director: Roydon Turner
Director: Martin Brierley
Production company: Bare Films
Project: Wimbledon trail
Clients: Louisa Fyans, head of marketing; Karen Potterton, marketing
manager, BBC Sport & Events
Brief: Promote the BBC's exclusive coverage of Wimbledon
Agency: Red Bee Media
Writers: Jim De Zoete, Toby Crawford
Art director: Toby Crawford
Director: Toby Crawford
Production company: Red Bee Media
Exposure: BBC TV