My name is Charles Saatchi and I am an artoholic. That is the title of a Q&A with Charles Saatchi published by Phaidon a few weeks ago. It's also the answer to the ninth question on the list: "What is the most honest thing you can say about yourself?" Most of the questions unsurprisingly centre on modern art, but a few make reference to our humble little world as well. This is, after all, a man who grew up working alongside the likes of David Puttnam, Ridley Scott, Alan Parker, Colin Millward and someone called John Hegarty. In another of his answers, he accepts that the prime concerns of advertising are novelty, immediacy of impact and relevance to the audience (in contrast to quality, timelessness and historical significance, for fine artists). So, let's give this week's work the Charles Saatchi test.
The Financial Times (2) wants everyone to know that Mrs Moneypenny is celebrating her tenth anniversary of writing for it. At least that's what the brief says. Not sure you'd get that immediately from this ad, though, which serves more to underline Mrs Moneypenny's USP as a mom and an exacting boss - something anyone who reads her already knows. To me, this is one of those ads that just sort of feels like you've seen it before, even if you haven't. What would Charles Saatchi say? Half marks for target relevancy, I suppose.
Similarly, Virgin Trains (4) has built a campaign around the all-too-well-known insights that UK traffic is horrendous and the once marginally glamorous experience of flying has now become a dull and humiliating one (pay to pee?!?!). But we already know that, don't we? The other problems here are some pretty old-school lines and pretty forgettable art direction. Charles' verdict? Not shocking. Not new.
Just when you thought there was little left in the world to quantify, PG Tips (5) is declaring itself "the nation's favourite cuppa". To announce this, we have the familiar faces of Monkey and Johnny Vegas. If you like this double act, then I guess you'll like this ad. But, really, if you were starting from scratch with these two comedy titans ... is this the ad you'd make? Familiar is probably the apt word here. Charles says? Get the formaldehyde.
There's something about the Department of Health (3) spending hundreds of thousands of pounds telling grown-ups to wash their hands after sneezing into them that I find a bit ridiculous - especially in a country where so many tax-funded hospitals function as places more likely to cause infections than cure them. Nevertheless, this was the brief. In terms of how that brief was executed, well, it does what it says on the tin, I suppose. Still, is there any information here I wasn't taught in grade school? No. Charles is waving me on.
And speaking of doing what it says on the tin, Argos (1) is first out of the gate with a nice big Christmas ad. There's nothing particularly new here, sort of a "you do this bit and leave the rest to us" approach, but it's done quite well, and you'd be lying if you said this spot doesn't make you smile or doesn't succeed in reminding you of what you like about Christmas. It feels to me like Argos is gradually finding a genuine and likeable tone of voice. Certainly more genuine and more likeable than the approach Marks & Spencer is likely to take this Christmas. Two thumbs up from Charles.
And finally, Sony Ericsson (6). Hey ... can we all just agree that we aren't going to make any more big, rainbow-coloured films? Or, for that matter, any more films showing the whole of humanity coming together as one to celebrate with childlike joy? And if we ever get forced into a position where we have to make films like that, can we try to make them better than the ones we've seen before, not worse? Charles? Charles? Charles?
My name is Mark Hunter and I'm sorry if my opinion of your work upsets you. But it's really not me, I'm just channeling Charles Saatchi. If it helps to ease the pain, just remember this is a man who once paid obscene sums of money for a giant pile of poo.
CLIENT - Farouk Ramzan, banker and brother of leading agency chief executive
'Tis the season to be ... inundated with Christmas consumerism, and the Argos (1) campaign is first off the blocks. As the eerily green glow from Harrods lights up the skyline, the Argos campaign provides a counterbalance at the other end of the spending scale to show you how its online products can help with every Christmas stereotype imaginable.
From the unwelcome relatives (are they universally all unattractive by law?) and the post-lunch stupor in time for Her Majesty's sermon to the competitive game-playing by dutiful parents, all the heart-warming cliches were covered ... rather well. Perhaps it just struck a chord with me because my Grade 2 violin playing was inflicted upon my relatives each Christmas until I was too old to carry off the delight that I experienced playing as badly as I could every year. Perhaps it is a function of the omnipresent MasterChef series on multichannel TV, but has anyone told the owner of the oversized turkey that doesn't fit into the oven that there is no way it is going to cook in time if the lunch crowd is already there? How many minutes per pound was that?
The Argos success was unfortunately countered by the rather tired PG Tips (5) effort. The Monkey and Al combo has seen better days. Days when I was rather confused by the idea that the nation can be linked to incompetent amateurism. We have enough of that during the summer's Wimbledon tennis fiasco. Perhaps it is time to stop milking the preceding original - or do you take lemon with yours?
From the intrinsically British Christmas and demonic tea-drinking sock-puppet to the beautiful people in Barcelona. The Sony Ericsson (6) spot, I hate to admit, worked for me. I know that the multicoloured space hoppers are rather close to the bouncing balls campaign, but I liked the fact that the running of the bulls in Pamplona gives less opportunity to meet good-looking Spaniards, all of whom are maniacally bouncing on individual ads for Ecstasy or Pikachu Japanese superheroes. Not sure about the strength of the tagline "spark something" as it relates to the ad, but you get clear reinforcement of product functionality - telephones, not sports bras.
The Department of Health's (3) swine flu submission nearly delivered, on the basis that the powerful tagline of "catch it, kill it, bin it" was underplayed when compared with the last campaign. It is a shame that they couldn't move away from the public service announcement feel to the ad, notwithstanding the subject matter. Being whispered to about not catching gonorrhoea and other STIs was definitely more fun. I just can't believe that parents come home from work and immediately change the channel that the ADHD children are watching and then leave the room. A little forced but the green fingerprints and miasmic sneezing mist are effective. At least it shows that everyone does close their eyes when they sneeze.
I marvel at the sales pitch that must have been made to get Virgin Trains (4) to buy the print campaign. A consummate triumph of form over substance given the complete lack of visual or copy impact. More Diesel Fumes Than Vin Diesel, I'm afraid.
Finally, given that the Mrs Moneypenny piece in the Financial Times (2) was a cute and intelligent birthday reflection of the hard-talking column, there is no need for the ubiquitous joke about 007. It was a disarmingly simple concept executed well. Unfortunately, I try never to read the FT - it rarely suits my shirt/tie colour combo and someone may confuse me with a *anker.
Project: Together, lists
Client: Nicola Brown, advertising manager, Argos
Brief: Persuade the public that Argos is the best place to get the gifts
they really want this Christmas
Agency: CHI & Partners
Writer: Clark Edwards
Art director: Nick Pringle
Production company: Partizan
Exposure: TV, online, press, radio
2. FINANCIAL TIMES
Project: Mrs Moneypenny
Client: Caroline Halliwell, director of brand and business-to-business
marketing, Financial Times
Brief: Celebrate ten years of the FT's
Agency: DDB London
Writer: Andy McAnany
Art director: Christian Sewell
Illustrator: Christian Sewell
Exposure: Financial Times
3. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
Project: RHH (respiratory and hand hygiene)
Client: Marrianne Town-Smith, integrated senior communications manager,
Department of Health
Brief: Germs spread easily
Agency: DDB London
Writer: Jonathan John
Art director: David Mackersey
Director: Paul Gay
Production company: Hungry Man
4. VIRGIN TRAINS
Project: Virgin Trains
Client: Sarah Coppley, marketing and sales director, Virgin Trains
Brief: Promote Virgin Trains over other modes of transport
Agencies: Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy, Elvis Communications
Writers: Richard Nott (Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy), Daniel Headey
Art directors: David Dearlove (Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy), Claire
Exposure: Outdoor, radio, press
5. PG TIPS
Project: The nation's favourite
Clients: Emma Reynolds, brand development marketing director; Kate Hick,
brand-building marketing manager, PG Tips
Brief: Communicate that PG Tips is the nation's favourite tea brand
Art director: Mother
Director: Garth Jennings
Production company: Hammer & Tongs
6. SONY ERICSSON
Project: Spark something
Clients: Matthias Fichtl, director of global marcoms; Andrea Heinrich,
manager of global marcoms, Sony Ericsson
Brief: Generate excitement about the launch of Sony Ericsson's Satio
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Writer: Andy Greenaway
Art director: Eddie Wong
Director: Tony Petrossian
Production company: Play Films
Exposure: TV, online, press