None of the big ideas I've been asked to look at here have evoked any significant comment on campaignlive.co.uk, which is where I'm reviewing them. That's a worry. We're all supposed to strive for big ideas, aren't we? But what if big ideas don't spark big conversations anymore?
Perhaps we need to look at the work a little differently. Ask ourselves what is it in an idea that has talkability, the tinder, the hook that will involve people. That tinder might be expressed as an ad but it could just as easily be a widget or a promotion or a cause or a feature. We'd also have to think about how we can help the conversation spread. And that would fundamentally change the shape of the idea; it would need a beginning, a middle and an end. It would no longer look big, it would look long.
If we look at this line-up through the lens of "is it a long idea?" rather than "is it a big idea?", we might see things differently.
"It has to be Heinz (3)", unless you're skint, in which case value beans will do very nicely. Clearly, own brand has made significant dents in sales, and this tries to claw it back with some heartfelt observations of life. It takes you to a warm family place in the middle of our winter of discontent. Will people be talking about it? The conversations might be happening, but I don't think the brand will be involved. It feels small.
After some Googling, the online version of the O2 (6) "priority" film is much better than the broadcast version. It's got 20 "hotspots" embedded in it that reveal codes you can text in to win tickets. That gives me a reason to watch. They're hiding more codes over the next few weeks in places like Facebook photos (which is clever). It's even got a Twitter feed. It gives me something to get involved with and a platform to tell my mates about something that's of value. I think it's a long idea. I wish it didn't feel quite so corporate, though.
Nintendo (1). Hmmm. I love our Wii; I love the way the DS keeps the kids quiet in the car. But I loathe Ant and Dec. I don't even know which is which. One of these ads has them playing the Wii in Ant's (or Dec's) home, the other in a Manchester pub (which was backed by a competition to star in the ad, which sounds quite engaging). It sends me off to a website where I can get more involved. This is an ongoing partnership, so we're in for more. It has the potential to get longer.
Debenhams (5). "Design in every Department" is a brand re-launch, apparently. So, bloke arrives at a party, stumbles into some bird so hard that she "throws" an earring. Twenty seconds later, via some shots of other people dressed up at the party, he finds her again and gives her the earring back. Who knows what happens next? I'm not sure I care enough. It's not big, it's not long.
Fifa Earth from EA Sports (2) is very long. It's a console footy aggregator. It gathers together information about all the Fifa 10 games that are being played around the world in real time, and then serves them up as a world league in a slick little interface. It also gathers up all the relevant Twitter feeds from around the planet so you can see what people are really saying about the action. It puts itself at the heart of the global conversation. It will be loved by the cognoscenti.
The Newspaper Marketing Agency (4) wants to persuade us that newspaper ads work. With some print ads. Which then send you to a website to learn more about why newsprint is the dominant media of our time (ironic pause). The newly free Evening Standard has bet the farm on your advertising revenue. That's a bolder statement than any of these ads.
Long is the new big.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE - Robert Senior, chief executive, SSF Group
I know it's not clever to be wilfully disparaging about other people's work, a lesson I've learnt the hard way. And heaven knows it's tough out there; getting anything resembling good work out right now is at the frontline of a very bloody battlefield.
But we're in November; we're all tired and, frankly, quite bored of being on trial for suggesting commercial viability. And on top of all that, I've got a hangover. So forgive me if my usual sunny disposition escapes me.
Luckily, Mel, who's worked with me for nine years, has helped to add some joy.
First up, Heinz (3). Quite nice, if quite nice is your thing. A series of familial (and perhaps overfamiliar) vignettes of family idiosyncrasies. All of which to position Heinz brands as an integral part of British family life. Feels like there's a bigger thought here waiting to come out and that fewer examples better told might have added extra taste. But what do I know? Mel liked it and even popped out at 9.30am to buy some Heinz tomato soup. Job done.
Over to O2 (6). Oh, joy of joys, no bubbles. That's the best bit. It's something to do with getting priority bookings at the O2, using music talent backstage to convey a sense of closer proximity to the show. It's all fine, as countless suits insist on insisting. Mel thought it was "a nice offer but wouldn't make me switch service provider".
The latest Nintendo (1) campaign features Ant and Dec in their Shepperton living room, pretending to spontaneously eulogise to each other about Nintendo gaming. Charitably, I suppose its point is to drive people to their website, enjoynintendo.com, to discover the delights of various challenges and stuff. But when I see the expression on my kids' faces when playing on the Wii - natural, instinctive and excitable - I am left wondering why the advertising seems to contrive to capture none of it. Mel likes Ant and Dec but doesn't believe them. Very charitable.
This next one cannot be the agency's fault - Debenhams (5) took the decision at the beginning of the year to cash in the crown jewels of vaguely premium brand status, when it hollered "everything must go" (70 per cent off sale). Well, it's now back whispering "everything is beautiful". And, to be fair, it does look beautiful in a Baileys Irish Cream circa 1988 meets the ambassador's reception sort of way. Minus any irony. Mel's only high point was the music.
And so to this week's real high point, the EA Sports (2) Fifa Earth website. My first impression was yet more online smoke and mirrors, but, 15 minutes later, I was still there, farting about like a vicar in trainers. I believe they call it rich media. I call it bloody good.
Mel is still trying to figure out what it's about - which makes me feel even better. As EA Sports won't stop telling us: "It's in the game."
To the four of you out there who, like me, still love reading newspapers, the Newspaper Marketing Agency's (4) print campaign is enough to make you weep. Apparently, newspapers work in tunnels. What? Unlike books, magazines or iPods? A second execution tells us that you can hit more than just flies with newspapers, a compelling case if ever there was one for advertising revenue. The third execution has a gag about exposing yourself. Enough said. As far as I can see, this campaign serves two unintended purposes - (i) it accelerates the demise of newspapers by highlighting print advertising at its worst and (ii) it's a magnificent campaign demonstrating the importance of strategic planning (Nikki, where were you?), which the APG should sponsor in these pages. Mel summed it up perfectly: "I don't get it."
Blimey, I feel much better now. My sunny disposition intact, I'm off to read The Guardian.
Project: Nintendo peak season 2009
Clients: Rob Lowe, James Honeywell, senior product managers, Nintendo UK
Brief: Showcase the enjoyment Nintendo brings to genuine fans throughout
Writers/art directors: Dave Buonaguidi, Sue Modral
Directors: Tim Kirkby, Phil Lind
Production company: Kream
Exposure: TV, online
2. EA SPORTS
Project: Fifa Earth
Client: Neil Lambert, campaign manager, Electronic Arts
Brief: Continue the campaign communication of "let's Fifa 10 - how big
can football get? - and leverage the statistics of gameplay (more than
two million every day)
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam
Writer: Barney Hobson
Art director: Rick Chant
Project: It has to be Heinz
Client: Giles Jepson, marketing director, sauces and soups, Heinz
Brief: Develop an umbrella brand campaign, featuring Heinz's iconic
Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Writer: Andy Booth
Art director: Jim Seath
Director: Simon Ratigan
Production company: HLA
Exposure: TV, radio, in-store
4. NEWSPAPER MARKETING AGENCY
Project: Brand campaign
Clients: Maureen Duffy, chief executive; Anne Foster, director, strategy
and marketing, Newspaper Marketing Agency
Brief: Keep newspapers top of mind among brand advertisers and their
Agency: McCann Erickson London
Writers: Simon Learman, Geoff Smith, Johnny Skinner
Art directors: Brian Fraser, Simon Learman
Exposure: Outdoor, press, online
Project: Design in every department
Client: Ali Jones, marketing director, Debenhams
Brief: Communicate Debenhams' commitment to design and quality in every
aspect of the brand
Agency: JWT London
Writer: Jonathan Budds
Art director: Anita Davis
Director: Thomas Napper
Production company: HSI
Exposure: TV, online
Client: Ed Pellew, advertising manager, O2
Brief: Communicate priority tickets for O2 customers
Writer: Veryan Prigg
Art director: Kieran Knight
Director: Saam Farahmand
Production company: Partizan
Exposure: National TV, outdoor, press, retail, online, DM