Executive creative director,
It’s very hard to look at Wonga’s new advertising and not have an opinion of Wonga. But I will try. Branded irresponsible and thought to be taking advantage of the vulnerable in the past, this new work has been created in a new era, a new time for the brand to put right its wrongs and forge a meaningful socially responsible role in the world.
So you would have thought.
In this new spot, Wonga makes it quite clear that it has washed its hands of any responsibility. Hard to believe, but true.
It’s the dinner ladies, groundskeepers and average Joes, apparently, who were to blame for all its bad press and government crackdowns. So, in this spot, they are paraded in front of the camera. It’s not quite an Isis production, but those involved are forced to remind us of their responsibilities. And I assume what Wonga is saying is that any misuse, over-lending or inability to repay is 100 per cent their responsibility.
The inference here is: "We offered to lend a few people a few quid. No biggie." People were just irresponsible. Really? It’s hardly an olive branch, is it? No "Look. We all messed up. They were heady times. Now let’s see how we can help each other." Nothing. A loan shark with a shirt sponsorship deal is still a loan shark. Brave new world, Wonga! Brave new world!
Mother did some research. They asked a load of people about beds and stuff… for Ikea. And, anyway, this woman turns up and gets pulses falling with a beautiful bed-based story of her husband who lives out of a sleeping bag most of the time – whether he’s on the very top or very bottom of the world. The story was so good, they thought – let’s put pictures to it. So they did.
That’s what it feels like… and I mean that in a good way. It’s no Shakespearean-voiceovered free fall in a nightie, but it’s very charming. Their breakfast-in-bed cafe idea is genius.
New York Bakery Company next. There is a ".co.uk" website so I’m suspicious already of how "New York" the New York Bakery Company really is. One thing is for sure: the ad we are reviewing was shot there. By a man with a selfie stick on the top of a skyscraper. It’s simple. Same kind of strategy that worked so well for Tropicana. Well-written… in a Denis Leary monologue kind of way. Pretty good.
I wonder if New Yorkers are being advertised "the soft doughy bread that Londoners love, smeared in cheap yellow margarine. Mother’s Pride." Not sure if they’d be tempted.
BMW. I can’t read the copy, but I think the images look great. It’s a trip through my life via a car I could never afford. Brilliant for BMW to let its hair down and not claim to be reinventing everything that ever exists now! And again now! And now! Sometimes "new" gets exhausting. I’m charmed by these ads, not exhausted. Confident client. Agency doing really well. Well done.
Let’s finish off with Genius Gluten Free bread. Aargh, gluten! Earthquakes, floods, sinkholes. Gluten’s fault, apparently. So Genius has removed the stuff. I’ve read about this campaign a few times… the animals are round… Stuttgart Animation Festival… based upon. I really wanted to love it. We have all found "inspiration" somewhere in the past… and if it’s worth "borrowing", then it needs to be worth the risk. This is the best agency in London and a lot of people I respect seem to be involved. I just wish they were "inspired" by something better.
Executive creative director,
There’s a bit in David Niven’s The Moon’s A Balloon where, having been nominated for an Oscar, he finds himself at a pre-ceremony ball filled with other nominees and Academy members. Niven is a nervous wreck and is certain he’s going to lose; after all, the other nominees are Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier and Spencer Tracy. As the evening wears on, though, he notices something funny – everyone who twirls past on the dance floor gives him a nod or a knowing wink as if to say: "Don’t know about the others, old boy, but I voted for you." Niven’s mood changes. He starts to believe maybe he’s won, after all. That is until he catches himself shooting a wink Elizabeth Taylor’s way… even though he had cast his Best Actress vote for Deborah Kerr!
Critiquing your colleagues’ work has never been easy. "What do you think of my new spot?" is about as loaded a question as: "Does my bum look big in this?" In both cases, the best answer for everyone involved is usually the one they’re hoping to hear.
With that in mind… let’s see what’s on offer this week.
To mark the 40th birthday of its 3 Series, BMW has created a campaign of ads and posters that are simple and cool and which absolutely catch your eye as you turn the page or drive along the A4. They more than succeed in reminding us that, for a very long time now, the BMW 3 Series has set the standard for cool, groundbreaking cars. That said, it would be hard to argue convincingly that anything particularly groundbreaking was going on in the ads themselves.
Ikea has always been one of my favourite advertisers and I love its current endline, "The wonderful everyday", which nails the company ethos perfectly. In this film, we follow an Arctic scientist who sleeps on anything that’s available while he’s away as a means of reminding us how great it feels to return to your own bed. The film is beautifully shot but, at four minutes, it is long. Dare I say three-and-a-half minutes too long?
With its Marmitian ability to divide opinion, Wonga has become the latest pantomime villain in the national debate about financial services. Still, I guess it beats nobody talking about you. In this film, the talking is done by central casting’s embodiment of Labour’s "hard-working families". The ad certainly makes the point that not all Wonga customers live on Benefits Street. But the cynic in me finds it all a bit disingenuous and defensive. Put another way, the tea lady doth protest too much, methinks.
New York Bakery Company has opted for a lo-fi, man-on-the-street (or skyscraper) approach in this film designed to underline the authentic taste of its New York-style bagels. Seems a reasonable enough angle to take, though I couldn’t help wondering why, if authenticity was the central message, it didn’t choose to cast someone who actually sounds like a New Yorker. Surely one of the lesser Baldwin brothers would have been within budget?
And, finally, Genius Gluten Free bread. I’m a big fan of simple ads dramatising a single key product benefit, as this spot does. But, while the approach seems right, creatively this feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. Feeling bloated surely offers up a long list of funnier, more memorable sight gags than this one?
In case you were wondering, Niven did in fact win the Oscar for Best Actor in 1959 and he did so despite appearing on screen for only 16 minutes – a reminder to us all that brevity is not an inhibitor of creativity but, more often than not, an enhancer.