There's a story I vividly remember from when I was a fey and pallidly plump child. It was the one where the Princess gives her Dad the hump by telling him she loves him "... as meat loves salt". Beautiful, that. Flavour, so necessary that it can be used as a metaphor for depth of love. Necessary in everything: food and drink, life and art, sex and cigarettes ... even advertising.
Actually, especially in advertising. I reckon it's pretty difficult to screw up in marketing unless you fall into the Bland Trap. I'd rather be embarrassing than forgettable (as anyone who has seen me dance will happily testify).
Which makes the particularly flavourless bucket of work I'm reviewing today rather depressing.
The new TV spot for Thomas Cook (4), for example. This is so profoundly bland that it actually comes full circle and manages to be horrifically embarrassing as well. The beautiful Redknapps biff about on some foreign beach in blissful tanned ecstasy while voice-overing about how they "... dream of it". Or something. Christ knows. It's dreadful, generic nonsense whose only flavour is the sour taste of a truly awful ad lie. I've been on a Thomas Cook holiday, and really can't imagine the glossy Louise standing in a queue of holiday-makers from Portsmouth, sunburnt and furious with baby sick on her chest and a T-shirt that reads: "Who needs brains when you've got these?" I could be wrong, of course. She hasn't had a hit single for ages and maybe those Nintendo ads don't pay as much as I thought. Look out for her in your local Netto, buying Lambrini and Cheestrings on special offer for when the Beckhams pop round.
At least the new ad for Moneysupermarket.com (3) has an interesting strategy behind it. Genuinely interesting, all about how the British are too uncomfortable to haggle properly and how the website can offer a shame-free place to get a proper bargain. A lovely thought that invites all sorts of surprising executions. Unfortunately, they seem to have plumped for an extremely ordinary ad with that Omid Djalili bloke weakly attempting to do a Blackcurrant Tango.
The new ad for Innocent (5) tries yet again to prove the theory that you don't need great advertising if you have a great product, and limps along in the bland footsteps of all of its forgettable predecessors. But it's got a rabbit in it. Which is a slight leap forward. Boom boom.
I assumed that the new ad for Match.com (1) was an in-house production. The same unlovely animation as the last ad, same pedestrian voiceover wittering on about how lonely people have the right to begat a whole new generation of lonely people by getting together for awkward sex, same old same old. I was surprised to find that it's new work from its new agency. Odd. Maybe this is just a holding pattern until the real work comes along.
A new ad for Lactofree (6) milk features a glass of the product apologising to those fashionable types who get all mucussy when they consume anything that has originated from a cow's dangly bits. Hard to do well are talking products, especially when they just dully talk through the brief. I'd point to the truly marvellous Natural Confectionery Company campaign on how to do it very well indeed.
And, finally, Horlicks (2). If it were written by a planner as a brief, I think I'd find it an intriguing place to start. But as a piece of public-facing creative, it really is as flavourless as the product it sells. Too much of a Lurpak wannabe, too much time wasted talking about tea and coffee, nothing interesting to see here. In fact, if I'm going to be really honest (and obvious), I'd say the ad is even better at sending me off to kip than the drink is.
To sleep, then, perchance to dream of pissed-away media budgets. Night night.
PLANNER - Amelia Torode, head of strategy and innovation, VCCP
New year, new batch of telly ads. Welcome back to the madness that we call advertising.
The buzz around the infamous Thomas Cook (4) ad precedes it. I first heard about Mr and Mrs Redknapp's ad on Alan Davies' Arsenal podcast It's Up For Grabs Now and, brilliantly, it's as ridiculous as he warned. However, rather like a traffic accident, you just can't seem to turn away. Perhaps the client brief was "get people talking", but was it worth it? The widespread outpouring of scorn surely can't have been the hope? The idea of Jamie and Louise scouring the internet for the best package holiday deals and then not just booking it but "Thomas Cook-ing it" is so awful it's laughable. Soft lighting, soft focus, quasi-soft porn. I could make a joke about the scene where Jamie strides out of the ocean in tight trunks as being an example of a great package deal, but I won't.
Being a close friend of Aleksandr Orlov, I think that he would be happy to see new work from Moneysupermarket.com (3) as it was diabolical before. I really liked the insight that Brits are crap at haggling, which means that often we don't get the good deals. There's a lot that could have been done creatively with that insight and Omid Djalili, a genuinely funny man, but the execution leaves me cold. The "face to camera, spokesman walking down busy street" has been done to death and I don't think that the script is as sharp as it needed to be. It's certainly not a link I'd e-mail round to friends. However, it's potentially a great campaign thought, but I do wonder if punters will remember what brand it was for.
I struggled with Fallon's new ad for Innocent (5). That may be a case of sour grapes (never good when it comes to smoothies) as I was the pitch planner on Innocent at VCCP until we decided not to pitch (long story). So I know the enormous sales pressure that Innocent is under and its stated ambition for a step-changing, disruptive creative idea that would reposition Innocent as a health essential. At least that was the brief we got. So I'm not sure what superimposing a talking rabbit on to the sunny park backdrop of past advertising campaigns is going to do for its struggling business. Sorry.
Match.com (1). Hmmm, now that was another pitch that I was the planner on. We did actually pitch this one and lost out to Mother's Start Your Love Story idea. So again I will try to be fair and unbiased in my views. The observation that love can take a bloody long time, just like London buses, doesn't seem to me to be terribly insightful but it's an enormous step on from the rather creepy Cupid and Fate ads, which always felt too beery and blokey to me. However, the twee humour and cartoon world doesn't tell me anything new about Match or make me feel anything or compel me to sign up. Apparently, it's an interim campaign, so interesting to see how and where it's taken on.
There had to be something more interesting to do with the Lacto-free (6) brief. A talking glass of Lactofree milk apologising and then extolling the virtues of Lactofree in Lapsang Souchong and Early Grey feels lazy. I wouldn't have signed this off, but then what do I know? I'm not a creative director.
And, finally, a relaxing wind-down with Horlicks (2). I think it's a beautifully constructed ad. More than a little reminiscent of the Lurpak campaign, but as I loved that campaign, I don't mind. It captured those hot drink moments in a day and reminded me that my evening is sadly bereft at present of suitable beverages. Seriously. I actually added Horlicks to my shopping list after seeing this ad and that has to be a good thing.
Happy new year. Now back to work. Cheers.
Project: Bus stop, lift
Client: Katie Sheppard, Match.com
Brief: Showcase the site's success in the UK and encourage singles to
start their own love stories at Match.com in 2010
Writer/art director: Mother
Director: Romain Segaud
Production company: Rattling Stick
Exposure: National TV
Project: Made for evenings
Client: Sandi Boyden, senior brand manager, Horlicks
Agency: Grey London
Writer/art director: Grey London
Director: Vaughan Arnell
Production company: Serious Pictures
Exposure: National TV
Client: David Osborne, marketing director, Moneysupermarket.com
Brief: Show that Moneysupermarket.com is the easiest way to get a great
deal, whatever you're spending your money on
Agency: Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy
Writer: Richard Stoney
Art director: Dave Hobbs
Director: Ric Cantor
Production company: Outsider
Exposure: National TV, cinema, online
4. THOMAS COOK
Project: Thomas Cook
Client: Michael Johnson, Thomas Cook
Writer/art director: Robert Campbell
Director: Andy Morahan
Production company: Great Guns
Exposure: National TV
Project: Innocent rabbits
Clients: Thomas Delabriere, Amy Shah, Dan Germain, Innocent
Brief: Encourage more people to drink smoothies at a time when everyone
is more health conscious
Writer: Laura Visco
Art director: Mariano Cassisi
Director: Thomas Mankovsky
Production company: Blink
Exposure: National TV
Project: Doorstep, flatmate
Clients: Jess Hardcastle, group brand manager, milk; Samantha Glassford,
brand manager, Arla Foods
Brief: Inform lactose-intolerant consumers that they can enjoy dairy
favourites again without the side-effects
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Writer/art director: Sophie Lewis
Director: Eric Lynne
Production company: Partizan
Exposure: National TV