It's a frustrating time of the year. Not only has British Summer Time started and I've still got the central heating on and my big thermal knickers on stand-by, but we're two-thirds of the way through our awards year.
The only awards worth looking forward to are Cannes and Campaign Posters; then we'll all be rushing to get everything out/proofed/up before 31 December for next year.
So are there any contenders for gongs in this week's ads?
First up, Domestos (5) features an animated evil germ with a great voiceover from John Malkovich telling us he's going to give us diarrhoea (oo-er, missus). I loved the original "millions of germs will die" campaign last year, with its brilliant animation that had me hiding behind my Vogue and reaching for the rubber gloves, but this ad seems like a watered-down version (sorry ). I detect a research virus.
Whoever came up with the new ads for Kickers (2) needs their arse kicking.
Free something? Cause something? Start something ... yes, an idea would be good. I can remember when Kickers were cool for about five minutes in the late 80s, but I always thought they looked like kids' ugly shoes.
Even borrowing propaganda-style graphics can't save these ads.
Next up, Flora (4), along with the cholesterol charity Heart UK, is helping us to look after our hearts by offering free blood pressure and cholesterol tests nationally. This emotive subject seems to lack any real emotion.
The old device of making objects heart-shaped - Ferris wheels, a towel etc - just feels a bit tired, which is disappointing from an agency with such high creative standards. Nicely shot, but it doesn't get my pulse racing.
Xfm Manchester (6) announces that a new music station has been born.
A series of press ads show an array of babies dressed up as popstars such as The Magic Numbers and "baby Liam" Gallagher giving us the finger. These ads may have gotten some column inches in The Sun, but this is a well-trodden idea. The great BA "red eye" spoof by GGT for Fisher Price springs to mind and, more recently, the beautifully camp campaign for Magic FM to name but a few. Ideas need to be loved and nurtured to grow up to be great ads. These feel so neglected I think social services should be informed.
Go straight to the naughty corner and think again.
Now for some mailers from Yell (1) encouraging prospective advertisers to take an ad in their local Yellow Pages. Each envelope features various characters from different professions such as Mrs Flower the florist, Miss Vision the optician and Mr Brick, you guessed it ... the builder.The letter inside offers free monitoring of phone-calls generated by ads booked as a result of the campaign. Not the most original execution, but it does exactly what it says on the envelope.
Last, but not least, an utterly charming ad for Camelot (3) (thank God it has got rid of that camp purple unicorn). Superbly animated and engaging, with a beautifully innocent soundtrack that got me singing along. A tale of an animated character being awoken by a bag full of smiles landing on his bed (a metaphor for a Lottery win).
He then shares his "smiles" with all of his friends. "What have you won?" the ad asks. Pity you're going have to wait until next year to find out.
Until my numbers come up, I'm gonna wear a big smile and pop down to Liberty to find a ribbon for my hair. Happy Easter all.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE - Carolyn McCall, chief executive, Guardian Newspapers
The launch of Xfm's (6) new station in Manchester was well-heralded in London with the Gallagher brothers' execution of this campaign. I liked its charm and cheek - very Xfm - and thought it a clever ad based on the musical sons of Manchester. So I was a little confused when the likes of Franz Ferdinand and The Magic Numbers popped up. At least they're fairly contemporary, but surely not at the expense of The Stone Roses. Still, a smart idea, well executed.
A nice segue from the old-school Manchester scene. I have a secret fondness for a bit of propaganda-style art direction and so was instantly drawn to the Kickers (2) work, which sadly lets itself down when you read the copy. Are my sensible lace-up shoes really going to bring freedom to something unspecified? It's a campaign of nicely art directed lines, trying to give the brand some edge and make Kickers cool again, and failing. However edgy you might try to make your brand through advertising, if the right people aren't wearing your shoes, it will never be very credible. I can't see these ads bringing Kickers to its tipping point.
The best thing about Camelot's (3) new Lottery ad is that it's a departure from that purple talking horse and the Fay Ripley "think lucky" campaign. It's also a lovely animation and generally quite cheerful as a Mary Poppins-type character, complete with carpetbag, dispenses smiles all round. However, it does convey that children and their parents are only made happy by winning on the Lottery, which is a bit sad really.
Flora's (4) "test the nation" ad is a quiet little thing, with beautifully filmed heart-shaped images popping up on washing lines, football pitches and as a Ferris wheel. The idea is simple enough - that you can have your cholesterol and blood pressure tested by Flora wherever you are in the country. Where and how exactly isn't explained in the ad and, while there is reference to a website for more detail, it doesn't seem a strong enough call to action. I'm sure it must be part of a fully integrated campaign that makes it completely clear to concerned margarine eaters how they can be tested. I hope so.
There is a new loo cleaner from Domestos (5) that lasts five times longer - than what I'm not sure. The ad for it features an appropriately disgusting germ creature delighting in the prospect of the horrid illnesses he is about to inflict. It certainly makes it clear that nasty things lurk in your loo and that they have equally nasty effects. What is less clear is why the germ is American - I thought all villains in movies had very posh English accents. Are they just our new global germ? The fact that this Domestos lasts five times longer also seems to be a bit of an afterthought in the ad, though it seems to me a pretty important thing to talk about in the context of loo cleaning. But then I always liked Big Dom.
Finally, some direct mail for Yell (1). Talking to small businesses, its basic message is that for not very much money you can advertise in the Yellow Pages and generate lots more money. It uses images based on the cardgame Happy Families to suggest the types of businesses they're talking about. What I can't tell is whether they cleverly tailored each pack to the type of business they were mailing. I would guess not for cost reasons, if nothing else. In which case, it's a fairly average piece of direct mail in a very yellow envelope.
1. YELL Project: Proven value Client: John Hayward, communications manager, Yell Brief: Encourage prospective advertisers to take an ad in their local Yellow Pages directory Agency: Proximity London Writer: Chris May Art director: Mark Dudley Designer/photographer: Vincent Vigla Exposure: Direct mail 2. KICKERS Project: Start something Client: Hugh Sweeney, Kickers marketing manager, The Pentland Group Brief: Evolve the Kickers brand Agency: Karmarama Writers: Aaron Wilmer, Will Flack Art directors: Aaron Wilmer, Will Flack Exposure: National posters 3. CAMELOT Project: Bag of smiles Client: Howard Groves, director, game development, Camelot Brief: Make Lottery players feel better about being Lottery players Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO Writers: Peter Souter, Phil Cockrell Art director: Graham Storey Director: Marc Craste Production company: Studio AKA Exposure: National TV 4. FLORA Project: Test the nation Client: Sophi Galvani, marketing manager, Flora, Unilever Brief: Let people know Flora pro-activ is testing the nation's hearts Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty Writers/art directors: Richard Robinson, Graham Lakeland Director: Stuart Rideout Production company: RSA Films Exposure: National TV, press 5. DOMESTOS Project: Domestos 5X launch Client: Nicky Boud, global brand director, Unilever Household Care Brief: Launch Domestos 5X Agency: Lowe London Writer: George Prest Art director: Johnny Leathers Director: Russell Brooke Production company: Passion Pictures Exposure: Pan-European TV 6. XFM MANCHESTER Project: Xfm Manchester Client: Xfm Brief: Launch Xfm Manchester Agency: Mother Writer: Mother Art director: Mother Exposure: Six- and 48-sheet posters running in Manchester from the end of March until the end of April
This article was first published on Campaign