Well, that’s a reassuring start for 2019. Among others, we’ve had "Great characters make great drama" by Uncommon Creative Studio for ITV, followed by "Tonight is to sleep" by Mother for Ikea, and then the best of them all – "The Crystal Barn" by Droga5 London for Barclaycard. A crisis of confidence in creativity? I don’t think so.
How brilliant to see gentle humour deployed in an ad after so many years of insufferably wet hand-wringing brand purpose and cheap sentimentality; the spot is in the fine traditions of the best of Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury. And how startling to see it come from Barclaycard, a brand operating in a sector where bland corporate conservatism or twee niceness is normally the order of the day (the fact that it came from the brilliant brains at Droga5 London is perhaps a little less surprising).
"The Crystal Barn" shows two genuine small businesspeople – Clare and Andrew Carter – at their shop in the East Midlands, describing how Barclaycard has helped them grow their company. Avoiding the usual trope – the artisan gin distillers and bakers who gave up their successful careers in the City for a gentler pace of life, blah blah – the agency opted for something more unusual. The Carters are – probably by their own admission – eccentric (well, they do sell crystals and run a professional crystal therapy and energy-healing course, after all).
The humorous film has led a few (adland) critics to claim that it is yet another example of an out-of-touch London-centric elite sneering at a group that it doesn’t understand and considers ludicrous. I think nothing could be further from the truth – it’s a celebration and affectionate look at two quirky but knowing individuals who have built a successful business from tapping into a trend. Good luck to them.
And good luck, also, to Barclaycard and Droga5 London as they uncover and celebrate more authentic businesses over this year – I'm sure they'll find some real gems. It’s so rare to actually look forward with anticipation to what the next instalment is.
Either way, it's clear that some people from across the industry have been affected by the aura of the amethyst – the talisman of the creative arts.
(Incidentally, Andrew doesn’t get the opportunity to give his full directions from the A6003 to The Crystal Barn, but you can find it here: Isebrook Farm, Warkton, Kettering, Northamptonshire, NN16 9XL.)
Jeremy Lee is contributing editor at Campaign