This week’s glorious bouquet...
...is awarded retrospectively to JWT and one of their clients for an epically long-running campaign. When Lynda Bellingham’s untimely death was announced in the media this week, she was often referred to as ‘the Oxo mum’. She last appeared as Katie in the rather poignant final commercial in 1999 - 15 years ago - and that was the culmination of a campaign which ran for 16 years from 1983. JWT’s original TV spots featuring Katie and husband Philip actually date back to 1958. So this rather simple, slice of life approach promoted the product for over 40 years. Back in the 80s, I thought the Lynda Bellingham commercials were as annoyingly uncreative as any contemporary TV sitcom featuring a twee 2.4 children nuclear family. But I wasn’t the target audience. Watching a selection of Oxo films this week, I was struck by how beautifully crafted and acted they were - and vastly superior to the Findus (or is it Bird’s Eye? I really can’t be bothered to check) slice of life TV campaign aired recently.
...And a solid blue glass brickbat
...goes to Diageo for Haig Club, launched with a TV commercial directed by Guy Ritchie (famous at Stuff & Sense for being the son of an adman). The award is not for the blue bottle which looks like a perfume container, but for the brand's chosen spokesperson. David Beckham – a very public teetotaller. And the waffle attempting to explain Beckham’s involvement could be more honestly be replaced with one word: money. (I have since heard from people who claim to have had a drink (Becks?) with Beckham. So maybe the brickbat belongs to Team Goldenballs.)
The Best Soundtrack Award goes to…. Cue a fanfare for Rainey Kelly’s TV work for M&S – fashion AND food. Get music for a commercial wrong, and it grates on the nerves, putting you off the product every time the first notes are played. No danger of that happening here. Ed Sheeran’s ‘Sing’ used with the female fashion (the actual styles don’t look that much to me – but my fussiest contact in the target audience is impressed enough) is an earworm – but one which doesn’t annoy most people. For the beautifully shot food porn, they chose an instrumental version of Rather Be by Clean Bandit. When either commercial comes on and I’ve got my back to the TV, the music instantly flags up M&S. Spend a few minutes online reading comments made by people who have obviously googled the music and you’ll see what a positive impact the choices have had.
A rancid cake fashioned to look like a felled forest to… Lakeland, purveyors of culinary etc - and distributors of junk mail. Arriving less than a week after the perfectly-timed mega catalogue which I haven’t had time to look at. Surely Lakeland, along with other established traditional mail order companies who act similarly, are chucking away revenue and eating into margins by bombarding the wrong people. And looking like bad ol' junk mailers.
A Special Photography Brickbat... I met a third Suchet brother once – not the acting Poirot, nor the newsreader cum Classic fm DJ – and he was a delightful chap. If DJ Suchet is as charming as his brother, something must have gone horribly wrong on this shoot. He looks like his patience is all but gone. I can almost hear him saying through clenched teeth: “Will dat loddy art director make u' his loddy ind, my snile has loody rozen.” I have never seen a smile more rictus. If this is the best shot, what the hell are the others like?
A special bouquet modelled out of cake to Lakeland, purveyors of culinary and household gadgets. With PERFECT timing, their hefty catalogue – packed, like all good mail order books with things you never realised you needed – crashed through the letter box the morning after the evening The Great British Bake Off Final was televised. The contest culminated in a Showstopper. This cover is brilliantly elegant – and no permission needed from the Beeb! (And they were wise too to only feature Mary Berry’s products well into the catalogue.)
The Award of a rusty spinning top goes to the Labour Party spokesman who on BBC 1’s live coverage of the Heywood and Middleton By Election result kept on repeating robotically: ‘We increased our share of the vote.’ They did – but by a pathetic 1% compared to UKIP’s massive hike. The LibDems and Tories lost loads (with some Libdems probably voting Labour tactically.) The automaton might have sounded almost in touch – and scored political points - if he’d simply said "Our share of the vote didn’t go down"... and the presenter might have said "Your share actually went up"...
You know the Advertising Standards Authority – it’s the standard bearer for all that is legal, decent, honest and true. (Can they really justify what the 2nd ‘A’ stands for? Might be fun to complain one day.) Their weekly judgement email sent down from on high is consistently entertaining. Mostly the companies investigated have names like Chiseller Finance t/a Mugmoney and don’t respond to the complaint then shut up shop before it’s upheld. But most weeks there’s at least one proper should-know-better organisation listed, not for fraud but because someone was offended. This week, American Apparel are rapped over the knuckles for online pages showing a female model in ‘provocative’ poses wearing schoolgirl’s clothes. A little racier than George at Asda’s Back to School campaign, I’d imagine. They did it. They got caught. They took it down. But, of course, they had to protest that they were in the right. Cue a load of guff about “a range of different images of people who were natural, not posed and real”. They even threw in some Dove body imagery stuff about non-airbrushing. The model was a 30-year-old photographer apparently. Dressed as a schoolgirl.
Then AA even more confusingly argued that they “drew a strong distinction between their advertising in print or in conventional media”. In their view, one is “circulated indiscriminately throughout a population” and so they carefully monitor content. The other, people have sought out and know what to expect and so don’t need protecting. If you “opt in” to an email campaign after seeing a deliberately provocative ad, anything goes. (This is digital silo ‘thinking’.) There’s even more bollo. The pics were “posted by a junior and relatively inexperienced member of their social media team”. The best comes last. The images were “not part of any Back to School campaign or marketing effort”. Yeah, right.
It would be so much more refreshing if they took after the Daddy of the current Shock Merchants. Paddy Power employs someone with the title Rulebender Dude – or something like that – so you know how they’re going to act. They churn out vulgar stuff designed to cause maximum tabloid outrage. The Mail, Express et al will then extend the coverage for free by splashing their indignation all over their pages. And then other media decide that’s news. Job done. Their most gratuitously crass effort to date was an ad saying ‘It’s Oscar Time’, with Pistorius as the golden statuette and the subhead: ‘Money back if he walks’. Fnarr, fnarr. Following a totally expected deluge of outrage, the ASA unprecedentedly asked PP to withdraw it while they made up their mind. It became their most complained about ad of all time, topping a KFC effort showing people talking with their mouths full. Paddy Power responded to gaining the number one spot with: “In your face KFC.” (I don’t know whether the ASA felt forced to call their parents in for a chat at that point.)
As with so many of the conflicts around the world, the different sides simply don’t understand each other’s rights and responsibilities. Studying each week’s report would help, but when it comes to digital in particular the ASA is well played out, innit? So I suggest it hands over one case each week to Paddy Power to adjudicate. For this report, it could have been the Medical Aid for Palestine fundraising mailing. UK Lawyers for Israel and Baroness Deech had complained.
Paddy Power’s ruling is just in. They’ve chosen for someone dressed as Conchita wearing a Nazi helmet to shout it through a megaphone: “We hear you Deechy Baby and your dishonourable friends! But these Palestinian medical ads putting people off holidaying in Israel???!!! Are you having a laugh? We wouldn’t fancy copping for a return missile from your neighbour just as we’re celebrating beating Jerry to a deckchair. So give it a rest, M’Luds and Lady.” Maybe not. Even giving deliberate offence needs to be done with a certain sensitivity. So bog off. That is, if you wouldn’t mind awfully.
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