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3 great ads I had nothing to do with #19: John Townshend on Honda, Levi's and Wall's

John Townshend, creative partner, Now, reveals three great ads he admires but had nothing to do with.

John founded the start-up, Now, which has produced campaigns for Habitat, Claims Direct, Florette, Butlins and BT Business in its first year. Now is at number two in the Business League.

John is a copywriter by trade and, previously, was creative partner at Rapier where his work included the launch of Virgin Media with Uma Thurman and Samuel L Jackson. During his 12 years there, Rapier was one of the leading integrated agencies in the UK, winning Campaign's Direct Agency of the Decade, and John helped it grow from 20 to 130 people.

He has work in D&AD, the Radio Advertising Hall of Fame, and Creative Circle and the Arrows, and has been a judge at the Campaign Big Awards, D&AD and Creative Circle.

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John's choices

Honda "impossible dream"

Launched in December 2005, Honda’s two-minute-long Impossible Dream reveals Honda’s corporate philosophy of the power of dreams. To the sound of the Andy Williams song Impossible Dream (The Quest), we see a Honda test driver ride through scenic shots of New Zealand and Twin Ring Motegi in Japan. He launches a powerboat over the edge of the Iguazu Falls in South America, and emerges from the mist in a hot-air balloon.

The campaign won Television Advertisement of the Year at the British Television Advertising Awards and was directed by Ivan Zacharias and produced by Nick Landon, from the film production company Stink. The commercial was adapted for the England 2006 World Cup football campaign, where the Honda logo was replaced with St George’s flags.

The original Wieden+Kennedy campaign, and the England remake, together cost £4.5 million, and came with a making-of version, as well as an extended version that debuted in 2010, featuring a HondaJet aeroplane and hydrogen fuel cell car.

Levi's "launderette"

This 1985 commercial, promoting the re-launch of Levi’s classic 501s shrink-to-fit jeans, was a breakthrough revival for the brand that, at the time, was largely perceived as old-fashioned.

John Hegarty and Barbara Nokes, of BBH, recreated a 50s Americana launderette which presented Levi’s 501s as a retro 50s alternative to 80s punk. They used research that young Americans distinguished the fifties as a cool era.

The humour and sex appeal of the commercial, where teen idol Nick Kamen strips down to his boxers, caused an increase of 800% in Levi’s sales within a year.

The use of the iconic hit I Heard It Through The Grapevine was an early example of effective integrated marketing, sparking the re-release of the original, which entered the charts again, and the 501 logo to appear on the record sleeve.

Wall's "Talking dog"

The advertising agency McCann Erickson introduced the Wall’s dog in 1993, motivated by the talking dog from Sunday Night’s TV show ‘That’s Life’. His first ad saw his owner try to teach him to say "sausages", but he only says "Wall’s".

The dog is brought back to life by Saatchi & Saatchi in a series of ads that show men expressing their affection to their loved ones through the dog. In this advert, a man thanks his wife for serving him sausages for tea by giving her the miniaturized dog called Alan, who plays an electronic keyboard and raps in the style of The Streets.

The ad was written by Dan Warner and art directed by Andy Vasey and the director was Andy McLeod through Kirsty Dye. It won a Gold Award 2012 at the British Arrows.

About this series

In this series of short films, leading Thinkbox Creative Academy members have the tricky task of selecting just three TV ads that have inspired them: brilliant commercials, old and new, that they admire but had nothing to do with.

The idea is not only to explore some of our greatest ads in the company of people who know a thing or two about making them, but also because of the proven link between creativity and effectiveness encourage the advertising industry to even greater heights.

About The Thinkboxes

The Thinkboxes are the first awards to celebrate the UK's world-beating TV ad creativity, in all its forms, at regular way-points throughout the year. Created in association with Haymarket Brand Media (Campaign, Marketing and Brand Republic), these bi-monthly awards are judged by the Thinkbox Creative Academy; made up of over 200 advertising luminaries.

We hope you enjoy the films.

Want to watch more great work? Head to the 3 Great Ads hub

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