Good Ad Bad Ad

In which a leading advertising expert picks some of the best and worst around. This week, Moray MacLennan, chief executive at the agency M & C Saatchi, on television commercials high and low
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Head & Shoulders

Saatchi & Saatchi

is made by Procter & Gamble, who also make Ariel, Fairy Liquid and Pampers. They are renowned for their global marketing expertise. They are, however, never a favourite with creative departments.

This unpopularity is mainly because creative folk like to break rules. Procter & Gamble have so many rules that even the fittest creative team exhaust themselves in a (usually unsuccessful) attempt to smash their way through them.

But an occasional gem is unearthed. This ad is one such. In it, we see a series of scenes from the film Men in Black, lifted straight from the trailer, I believe. At the end, the voice-over asks: "And what keeps the Men in Black black?" and it cuts to a pack shot of .

I'm one of the few people left to see the film, but I'm prepared to believe that Mr K and Mr J would have unseemly white specks on their jackets if it weren't for the real, albeit unseen heroes of the film, Mr Head and Mr Shoulders.

It's a perfect meeting of good strategic creative planning, good account handling, and good writing. I haven't seen it often, but I didn't need to remember it. I only hope that it is working. The fact that it's running internationally, in places as far-flung as Venezuela and Russia, is an indication that it is.

Levi 501s

Bartle Bogle Hegarty

Sacrilege! Levi's as "Bad Ad". How dare he! Doesn't he realise that Levi's is an icon of the British ad industry, that some of the finest creative talent, blah, blah, blah ...

Of course, this isn't really a bad ad. It's just "not bad", and when your standards are traditionally high, "not bad" is bad.

In the commercial we see our hero fending off all comers (none of them getting too seriously hurt, of course, being well protected by the BACC). The arch baddy is kicked through the glass door of a launderette, cue beautiful girl, enter pair of Levi's, and Levi's are turned inside out in super-kung-fu time.

Yes, it's well shot, and I know that the bad dubbing is an accurate pastiche of Bruce Lee films and that the attention to detail is impressive. It's just that the original idea isn't that good, and I struggle to understand the inside-out bit. To be a touch boring, the creative idea and product benefit aren't well integrated. In other words, the link between "kung fu" and "best washed inside out" is tenuous, whereas the link between "mermaids trying to pull trousers off" and "shrink to fit" is a good one.

But that is just technical stuff: more important is how this campaign makes you feel about the brand. I didn't really feel much; I just watched it. Of course, I had a final check with the under-25s in the agency, as any self-respecting mid-thirties paranoid ad man would. I just wanted to check I hadn't missed the point.

I had, apparently. Hong Kong chic is where it's at. Oh well, it still left me cold.

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