Executive creative director,
Adam & Eve/DDB
It’s Cannes Week. As I write, the cream of British adland are out curdling in the Côte d’Azur sun. In the Palais des Festivals, there are shiny prizes to be won. And out in the sea, there are floaty things to be avoided. And I’m not referring to the sewage.
A few years ago, I was stung by a jellyfish in Cannes. The little mauve stinger critter lashed my cheek and caused my face to swell till I could hardly see. I probably should’ve gone to hospital, or at least a chemist. But, hey, there were parties to go to and rosé to drink. So I decided to self-medicate with alcohol.
The next few days were a whirl of social gatherings, which I attended with lips the size of saucisson and cheeks that resembled a macaque’s butt. And my old creative partner Emer Stamp remonstrating with me every ten minutes: "If I were you, I’d go home. Go home. Please. Go. Home. Seriously. You’re embarrassing me."
That jellyfish made more of an impression on me than any of the prize-winning work that year, so I’ve decided to write this Private View in its honour. Because, just like that jelly sting, good ads should shake you up and stick in your head. So move over, Cannes Lions. Welcome to the inaugural Jelly Sting Awards.
First up, a new ad for Anchor cheddar. A family of furry monsters enjoy a picnic. Why a cast of furry monsters, I can’t quite fathom. On the plus side, the animation looks great – as though Maurice Sendak had suddenly decided to ditch the pen and ink and take up CGI. But these wild things would be more entertaining if they behaved less like people and more, well, wild.
Prize: No metal for this one. But it has made the shortlist.
Next up, a film for Dove. New dads celebrate the fact they’ve become new dads. Weirdly, all these guys seem to be delighted at the news. Really bizarrely delighted. Which doesn’t chime too well with me. When I found out my wife was pregnant, I pretty much shat my pants, so I’m not sure I believe all these "real" reactions.
Prize: Bronze Jelly. This ad brought on a mild numbness.
The new Southern Comfort ad is pretty funny. Pretty dark. Pretty seedy. And a pretty decent follow-up to the hot-and-sweaty "beach" ad. OK, so it’s trying a little harder than the original spot, but the idea that you can "tan your lemonade" with Southern Comfort is a brilliant lesson in concise copywriting.
Prize: Silver Jelly. Slight difficulty breathing.
The best thing I can say about these Domestos ads is that they totally grossed me out. But I mean this as a total compliment ’cause these ads all feature beautifully illustrated images of evil monster germs chilling on holiday. Made me feel a bit sick in the mouth – which, in this case, is a good thing. Powerfully sickening stuff.
Prize: Gold Jelly. A pretty damn severe reaction.
The pick of this week’s bunch is HSBC. A businessman’s life told through the multitude of moments he experiences in the office lift. Lovely idea. Expertly crafted. Atmospheric. Absorbing. A bloody good bank ad. The one thing that lets this film down is the idea line at the end, but we’ll ignore that for now because the Jellies are all about CREATIVITY.
Prize: Jelly Grand Prix. Au secours! This monster ad caught me right in the chops. Call moi an ambulance! Maintenant!
Executive creative director,
Banking, booze, bleach, cheese and toiletries. No, it’s not my to-do list, it’s this week’s selection of ads. It’s a reminder that, in spite of the new Uber economy, the old world keeps turning and agencies still have to find modern and culturally relevant ways to talk about the unsexy, the necessary and the difficult.
First up is Southern Comfort from Wieden & Kennedy New York. Boom! This is superb. It’s pertinent, funny, sharp, beautifully observed and well-directed. We see three men of all shapes and sizes getting a spray tan to a thumping hip-hop track. Elegant and simple, it knocks it out of the park.
The agency has imbued the brand with such confidence that it knows what it is and who it’s for, and doesn’t shy away from updating a fusty old bourbon for the next generation of drinkers. Many a drinks brand could take a sip from this bottle.
Dove was one of the first to embrace higher-purpose advertising with a view to creating cultural capital. The latest in the "dads who care" series captures the moment when women tell their partners they are going to be dads. Apparently, home-filmed and collated, it all feels a bit overcooked. If they’d just settled for a logo at the end, I may feel warmer towards the whole idea, but the multiple lines of copy try to tell me what to think and feel and it’s like a fire hose of emotion. I get it, I get it – men have feelings too. Nice idea but let me figure it out for myself.
You can’t get more traditional than three print ads for a bottle of bleach. But hold on. This weird and wonderful collection of ads shows germs taking selfies on holiday with a subtle cloud of Domestos approaching in the background. Bleach as photobomb! There’s a bit of cultural collateral wonderfully employed to refresh a tough category. My only quibble, it might go over the heads of the audience as it’s potentially a bit clever for the product. But better that than the invisible wallpaper so often seen in FMCG.
The cultural technique of our time is emotional advertising. Grey has layered it on for this HSBC ad. They should call it "It’s a wonderful lift: a man’s life in one elevator – the ups and the downs". (I’ll stop now.) It’s an admirable piece of work strong on technique, storytelling and emotion. But I’m still not sure. Emotional advertising works for brands we like, such as John Lewis. HSBC is not in many people’s basket of loved brands. In fact, with its profile in the news recently, it is often perceived as one of the bad guys. So the question becomes: if big showcase ads like this are about creating culture, can you create culture in a vacuum? Does "everyman in a lift" turn our attention away from the bigger political banking agenda? Would Grey be better off doing the equivalent of their fabulous Volvo safety paint work for HSBC, something useful that qualifies as corporate community service? So, nice ad – shame about the brand!
Finally, the latest Anchor cheese ad from Creature is a strange beast in more ways than one. We watch a family of furry monsters have a picnic. They all communicate like an average family from south London and then eat some cheese. Have I missed something? Maybe there’s an online series to come, or more ads to complete the story. It will need much more if these characters are to become the next cultural crossover like PG Tips Monkey or the meerkats.