Mahatma Gandhi is sitting on a train. It's about to pull out of the station. Some bloke runs along the platform and bangs on the window. "Oi, Mahatma, matey, give me a message to take to my people." Gandhi writes something on a piece of paper and throws it out of the window as the train speeds off. It reads: "MY MESSAGE IS MY LIFE." I love this story. And it got me thinking about brands' messages. Who out there has a voice and what are they actually saying?
The ChildLine (3) TV spot is a bit of theatre in an underpass. A dramatic set-up that shows images of kids projected on to the walls in a musically choreographed manner. The voice here is, I guess, a cry for help. The editing is cleverly designed to build the track as their messages become more and more positive. I hope they also did this for real as well as doing a TV spot. It would make a riveting piece of ambient design.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families (1) is another powerful message, again from kids (handy little blighters, aren't they?). This time, the message is to make parents aware of the fact they will be exposed to a drink at a very early age. We see a six-year-old girl saying that in four years' time, she'll be offered alcohol at a party. It stops you dead in your tracks. The casting is great and it's sensitively shot. The director has added his voice too, and it's a nice, unobtrusive one.
These days, it seems there's an app for everything, except writing Private View (Mr Moira, I hope you're on the case). This week's gizmo comes courtesy of Nike (2). If ever a brand had a voice, it is they. What I like most about this is that it's more of a branded utility. Giving us something useful in our lives. They have very smartly realised that every city has its own distinct voice. And have asked opinion-formers to give us in-depth data about six of them. The graphics are cool and the info is useful. Chuck away your Wallpaper* guides. This is 50 times better and can be updated on a regular basis.
Shreddies (5) takes us into a surreal world where grannies knit the pesky little bits of fibre and drop them into milk. Yum yum!? I've never thought of Shreddies as a brand that stands for anything in particular. They have no voice. But this is a damn good effort to do something different, even though it doesn't quite come off for me. I think it's better to die on your sword trying, though, than lie down and have your head knitted by a granny (well, marginally better).
The British Heart Foundation (6) uses a powerful message to make its point of view. We see a series of faces in close-up. We don't see them speak. Rather, we just listen to their voices, which is a good way to focus our attention on the emotion. In one, a woman tells of the heartache caused by the death of her father and how terrified she is that her mum could suffer the same fate. Her lifeline was the British Heart Foundation. The story is etched in the woman's face. Truth in advertising is rare. Your heart skips a beat with this one.
Diesel (4) has done a stupid idea. A campaign where girls take photographs of their fannies before lions pounce on them, that kind of thing. An irreverent message that cuts through the plethora of fashion crap. Mainly because it's saying something new. It's making a lot of noise already; I've read loads of blogs about it recently.
Diesel has always had a voice. One of the loudest. And it's now even louder. So the message is clear: stupid is actually very sensible.
PLANNER - David Bain, partner, Beattie McGuinness Bungay
My old schoolmate Chockins was the first advertising guru I ever met. Utterly fearless, magnificently daft, Chockins would do almost anything to make you laugh. One time, he poured a flask of molten leek soup down his pants during RE. Thankfully, the incident was scorched on my memory more permanently than it was on Chockins' teenage undercarriage. But if Chockins was a brand, the soup-kecks fiasco was his most compelling ad - his Tango slap, his "cog", his meerkat.
But the world of advertising, unlike my dear old Chockins, has had to grow up very fast lately. The game is no longer just about creating memories for brands with big emotive gestures, repeated ad infinitum. Life in most markets is just too full, fast and jostling for the kind of idea that only creates a memorable character for a brand. Besides, in our digitally enhanced, 25/8, content-drunk mega-culture, there are lots and lots of big, bold characters elbowing advertising out of the cultural limelight. Perhaps ideas these days need not just a "character" but a "plot". They need to start somewhere and end somewhere and develop rather than simply repeat. Often they move things along by the things they do rather than the things they say. Really progressive campaigns might have multiple "characters", all doing different things all at once.
This week's Private View has some good old-fashioned, Chockins-esque knacker-burners and some more progressive productions all vying for our jaded attention.
Nike's (2) new iPhone application, True City, is something of a gritty urban drama, revealing the Nike "insiders'" guide to London, rendered in all its magnificent geo-locational glory. It is a classic bit of Nike lifestyle branding, sharply scripted and beautifully delivered. But don't let anyone pretend this application is about being "useful" - it's about finding a new way for Nike to be cool. Bravo, swooshlings.
Diesel's (4) new campaign would have struck a chord with Chockins, all those years ago in 4H. It is an invitation from a jeans brand to "be stupid" while wearing their pants. But Chockins knew that stupid is as stupid does and that 48-sheets with skinny models in skinny jeans are neither particularly clever nor sufficiently dumb.
Wieden & Kennedy's new campaign for the Department for Children, Schools and Families (1) is about as far from stupid as you can get. Though the idea is familiar - innocent children dramatising future problems to shock adults - the strategy is so sharp that all is forgiven. This dramatisation of the domino effects of underage drinking is a case of an agency doing the right thing, the right way, in the right medium.
The NSPCC's ChildLine's (3) "how u feelin?" is spelt in a way that can only mean we are targeting children (or perhaps Noddy Holder). This is a modern, invitational idea about "emotional literacy" (I got an F). While I am sure the TV is just one member of a winsome cast, I am not so sure it's the most powerful character on the stage.
It looks like an interactive experience flattened into something linear, inert and unnecessarily beepy. A good example of poor plot structure.
The British Heart Foundation (6) is famous for shouty, uncomfortable advertising such as "watch your own heart attack". Its new campaign is of an altogether more sympathetic and quieter nature, featuring some real stories of people they have helped. Again, this feels like an idea that lives better in the spaces the brand owns rather than the ones it has to pay for.
Finally, we are left with Shreddies (5) and some spruced-up, sexed-up knitting nanas advertising their new recipe. There is even a cameo from a sadly doddering Leslie Phillips, his "ding dong" long reduced to a little tinkle. It's sad, it's bad. It mixes gussets, girdles and breakfast in one gip-making, milky melange. I may never get it out of my head.
Project: Young futures
Clients: Alison Gilbert, group brand manager, COI; Laurence Russ, group
brand manager, DCSF
Brief: Encourage young people to have a safe and sensible relationship
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Writers/art directors: Paul Jordan, Angus Macadam
Director: Walter Stern
Production company: Academy
Project: Nike True City. Make the hidden visible
Client: Julian Howkins, digital brand manager, Nike
Brief: A new application for the iPhone that unlocks access to city
insiders' views of sport, life and culture in London, Berlin, Paris,
Milan, Amsterdam and Barcelona
Creatives: Matt Irwin, Marcus Efstratiou
Designer: Nick Bastian
Exposure: Online, mobile, print, ambient
Project: How u feelin?
Client: Keith Bradbrook, director of communications, NSPCC
Brief: Make ChildLine part of the fabric of young people's lives
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Writers: Rory McCaskill, Howard Green
Art directors: Lovisa Almgren, Pablo Videla
Director: Dennis Lui
Production company: RSA
Exposure: National TV
Project: Be Stupid launch
Client: Riccardo Bellini, vice-president global brand and marketing,
Brief: Reconnect Diesel with a new generation of youth, in a
21st-century multi-platform way
Art director: Anomaly
Exposure: Global print, outdoor, digital
Project: Knitting nanas
Clients: Ronnie Parry, marketing director; Whitney Velasco-Aznar,
marketing controller; Manjit McGovern, product group manager, Cereal
Brief: Nanas' best-ever recipe
Agency: McCann Erickson London
Writers/art directors: Liz Pollard, Janet Newman
Directors: Mark Denton, Sean de Sparengo
Production company: Coy!
6. BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION
Client: Nick Radmore, head of social marketing and brand, British Heart
Agency: Grey London
Writer: Grey London
Art director: Grey London
Director: Saul Dibb
Production company: Home.Corp