"ALL WORK NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY," whispered my son in my ear, sounding not unlike Jack Nicholson. Fair enough. It had been a hard week, with full-on remote schooling from 8am to 4pm, and it was time for a bit of play. He agreed to put the axe down. Play’s important.
As children, we learn through play. And being playful makes us forget we are learning. That’s why campaigns that are playful work so well. We’ve just been working on one of the most playful brands in the world, Oreo, helping people get playful during lockdown. Advertising can be terribly hard work sometimes. When did that happen? Why did that happen?
Let’s rediscover the fun with some of the most playful creative work in the world. Here, we have a different kind of play for every school day.
There’s nothing quite like a kickabout down the park. This cracker for Nike is one of my all-time faves. It is so playful and the total opposite of all those super-cool, super-slick ads for sports brands and all the fresher for it, in my opinion. It captures perfectly the Sunday league matches on Hackney Marshes, with the famous players having a laugh and indulging in a bit of shirt-pulling.
Oh, we do love a board game. And of all the games, the Rube Goldberg-inspired Mousetrap had to rank among the top three. It didn’t matter who won or lost – did anyone ever really keep track? – it was simply the sheer joy of playing the game, watching the ball roll down the slope into the bathtub, triggering the kicking boot to release the mousetrap. As adults, we got to enjoy the thrill once again when the Honda creatives used the same kind of idea to show us how reliable their cars were.
LadBible 'The Trash Isles'
Did you ever used to build castles and forts using the cushions off the sofa or a sheet hooked up around your bunk bed? Creating your own kingdom that you could rule, decreeing who was allowed in and who wasn’t, was one of the earliest power trips as a kid. I used to take it one step further and invent my own languages that me and my friends used to speak.
The folks at LadBible clearly loved playing at creating their own lands, too, because they turned the giant mound of floating plastic in the Pacific Ocean into their kingdom. They made Judy Dench the ruler and let us all play by becoming citizens of the Trash Isles.
John Lewis 'Tiny dancer'
There’s a prima ballerina inside every little girl and you only need mum to be out of earshot for the lights to dim, the overture to strike up and the next Darcey Bussell to launch herself across the living room – landing with a most un-Darcey like thud on the floor.
The John Lewis "Tiny dancer" commercial for home insurance captures the virtuoso performance perfectly, even down to the genius shot from outside in the street through the living-room curtains. Cue rapturous applause. I am a fan.
Metro Trains 'Dumb ways to die'
Of course, there’s one type of play we know we must never ever do – DON’T PLAY ON THE RAILWAY TRACKS. This is playfulness at its darkest from John Mescall, who knew how to get rebellious teens with their headphones at full blast to take them off and listen to a public-safety message. Not only that but sing along to it too… "Take medicine that’s out of date, use your private parts as pirhana bait… dumb ways to die, so many dumb ways to die." This campaign deserved every one of the hundreds of awards it landed.
Emma de la Fosse is chief creative officer at Digitas UK