I've been accused of many things in my time, but I can't say I have ever been mistaken for a hairdresser. In his recent address to the IPA, Rory Sutherland lamented: "We are in danger of becoming like hairdressers or plumbers - where most of our time is spent mildly denigrating each others' work."
You know, Il Presidente isn't wrong. I think it's safe to say that it won't be the advertising industry talking the country out of recession. So, I'm here to try to buck the trend. Just some friendly, balanced opinion. Quality control knob still stuck at ten.
First up, is an elegant commercial for The Prince's Rainforest Project (4). It's a charming and beautifully paced film, with a rather peculiar frog upstaging a bunch of heavyweight supporters of the cause. It ends with old Charlie HRH explaining the virtues of preserving our planet past next Tuesday. (He might have a point. But that's coming from a guy who flies to New York to collect an award for his green credentials!) Yeah, it's another one of those celebrity-riddled, vignette-style charity films but it is a good one. My only niggle is the call to action. Registering my support at a website doesn't really compare with the breathtaking Earth Day event.
The new 3 (5) spot is engaging enough. Through a series of match cuts, we see a guy constantly walking through camera as he waxes lyrical about the freedom of speech. Hmm, a little generic, don't you think? Okay, it's a well-written spot with a great performance. But the editing style reminds me too much of an old milk campaign with Paul Whitehouse, which was brilliant. Then again, it is good to see intelligent dialogue back in fashion.
Bloody hell, brace yourself for Rubberduckzilla! It's another wonderfully bonkers Oasis (1) film. A fruit drink for those who hate water is a smart strategy. And in this nutty Japanese jaunt, we see two Oasis-loving girls being berated by their parents for not drinking water. In a fit of pique, padre rips up the girls' Manga-style comic and, inadvertently, summons the wrath of the water-hating-mad-duck-monster-thing. It's a fun piece but I do prefer the previous, slightly less arcane, "Cactus Boy" execution. Mind you, how the establishing shot of the two girls survived Clearcast is, frankly, astonishing.
There's sexual innuendo oozing out of the Virgin Trains (6) latest loveliness. Here we have a girl journeying to Manchester to meet her boyfriend. This fast becomes an exercise in mild mental foreplay as our heroine observes, among other things, a farm labourer sweating in a field, a full-on Champagne spray and her train speeding into a tunnel of love. It's a cute spot that will make you smile, and feel good about the brand. Let's hope there'll be no replacement bus service from Macclesfield to sour the relationship.
Now, poetry. Not a subject high on the interest scale for many. So the BBC (3) has employed Frank Skinner to draw our attention to how poetry can enrich our lives. The spot shows him eloquently describing directions to a lost cabbie. It's a tight execution. But I think a more extreme lead character would have made for a more compelling piece. Personally, I find Skinner too smug for his own good. Pretty words? Images of extreme violence tend to come to mind when he pipes up.
Last, another piece of razor-sharp acumen for the Financial Times (2). It's just plain simple, and plain funny. Nice to see there's not too much getting in the way of the idea. That's a good lesson for us all.
There you have it. Clearly, there are many good reasons to talk up our industry, and avoid the demonic trappings of hairdressing (or plumbing). On the other hand, have you ever considered highlights?
TAXI DRIVER - Orion Gotch, licensed London black cab driver
There's nothing I like more in life, after working a shift driving from A-Z in my taxi around London, than to sit back and relax and watch some great television. Sadly, with the current lack of new shows and constant repeats, it seems that the ads are far better viewing than the programmes themselves. So I'm delighted to give you my honest feedback on the latest ads to be aired and broadcast to the viewing public.
First up is an opening shot of Daniel Craig (not looking his Bondish self) and I thought: "Not another ad about DVD piracy!" It's then followed by several high-profile celebrities reminding us about the The Prince's Rainforest Project (4).
This online ad has a nice theme running through it. However, at first, I was a bit puzzled by the concept of the frog. And I think it could have used more females to give a more balanced overview. Overall, this ad gets the point across about the rainforest - so in my view, it works well. All in all a good one but I was left thinking it would be better-placed in the cinema, after waiting 20 minutes for the film to load.
Moving on to the next item, the new 3 (5) "freedom" ad filmed in West London (which is not the best part of London). It does get the message (like the link?) across about freedom and it's eye-catching enough to stick with you. As for the message about free Skype calls, that only comes apparent at the end. It might get the message across to the general public, but would I join 3 mobile for free Skype calls? Probably not.
Oh yes! This ad takes me back, way back! It's the new Oasis (1) Rubberduckzilla ad. A great flashback to the 70s Godzilla B-movies. I can see this ad and the concept of the duck working well with my passengers. It also has the potential to be aired worldwide if need be, since the idea is easily understood. The branding of the logo and bottle hasn't changed that much from the 90s campaign but now they have dropped the old slogan and replaced it with "for people who don't like water" - nice.
So let the train take the strain. Well, if I had a girlfriend up North then I would leave my taxi at home and travel by train with Virgin Trains (6). The ad follows on from the Virgin airline ad, which is great! It brings across everything that Virgin Trains has to offer (including free Wi-Fi) and in keeping with the Virgin Atlantic ad, it uses known 80s artists for the background music. For me, it just works, and is a pleasure to watch.
Following on from this, I was wondering what Sir Richard Branson is up to these days. Well, look hard and you might just catch him in the second Virgin Trains spot, which is brilliant! Best ad of the year so far. Again, it brings out the best in the brand and would definitely make me think about travelling on Virgin Trains. It uses the same winning formula of an 80s classic hit and, all in all, it generates a feel-good moment while we wait for the TV programme to resume.
Now the BBC (3) Poetry Season ad. Not bad. The idea and concept is OK, but I feel a different theme or approach would have made this campaign more desirable and eye-catching and maybe I would have had a desire to watch the Poetry Season. Fortunately, Frank Skinner does well in this ad and rescues me from total boredom.
The Financial Times (2) "we live in Financial Times". Indeed we do! I do miss the "no FT, no comment" slogan. But, hey, great pictures that deliver a strong message! Top marks for the idea and photography.
Clients: Cathryn Sleight, marketing director; George Simpson, senior
brand manager, Oasis, Coca-Cola GB
Brief: Drive top-of-mind awareness for Oasis among twentysomething males
Art director: Mother
Director: Joseph Kahn
Production company: HSI London
Exposure: TV, online, print, press
2. FINANCIAL TIMES
Client: Caroline Halliwell, director, brand and business to business
marketing, Financial Times
Brief: Promote FT.com as a source of expert analysis of global business
Agency: DDB London
Writer/art director: Grant Parker
Exposure: Global press, online, digital outdoor
Project: BBC Poetry Season
Client: Ruairi Curran, marketing manager, BBC 2 and Knowledge
Brief: Celebrate the forthcoming spring/summer season of poetry
programming across the BBC
Agency: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
Writer: Mark Waldron
Art director: Dave Godfree
Director: Kirk Jones
Production company: Red Bee Media
Exposure: TV, radio, print
4. THE PRINCE'S RAINFOREST PROJECT
Project: The Prince's Rainforest Project
Client: Briony Mathieson, head of comms
Brief: Galvanise public support to save the rainforests to help stop
Agency: Hurrell Moseley Dawson & Grimmer
Writers/art directors: Al Moseley, John Gibson, Erik Weidenhielm
Directors: Daniel Kleinman, Al Moseley
Production companies: Rattling Stick, Epoch
Clients: Alan Doyle, director of integrated communications; Pippa
Whybourne, campaign manager, 3
Brief: Drive reappraisal of the 3 brand and communicate its endorsement
Agency: glue London
Writer: Seb Royce
Art director: Seb Royce
Director: Max Vitali
Production company: HSI London
6. VIRGIN TRAINS
Project: Virgin high frequency
Client: Virgin Trains
Brief: Promote the new service and relaunch the Virgin Trains brand
Agencies: Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy, Elvis
Writer/art director: Danny Brooke-Taylor
Production company: Partizan
This article was first published on Campaign