Claire Beale on Advertising

The genius, the Hitchcock script and the wine ad that will pop your cork
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The Independent Online

This fall, film-maker Martin Scorsese embarked on a secret experiment in film-making. A project which could have big repercussions for future film preservation. Or maybe not.

Scorsese is a genius, of course. Taxi Driver, Goodfellas. But his latest production is clearly something else. You see, Scorsese has discovered an unfinished script written by Alfred Hitchcock for a film that was never made.

So Scorsese decides to make it. And he captures the whole project in a behind-the-scenes short about the making of the film. You can watch it on YouTube, it's well worth a view. The Hitchcock tribute called The Key To Reserva is beautiful, authentic. Think Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, North By Northwest (which is the source for the music).

It's set in New York's Carnegie Hall, where an orchestra is playing before a high society audience. A drama unfolds involving a locked case, a search for the key, intrigue, murder, romance ...and a bottle of plonk.

Yes, plonk. Mid-range Spanish wine. Freixenet to be precise. Because, if you haven't guessed already, I confess what Scorsese has actually made is an elaborate ad. Not that you'd know until the final minute or two: it's deftly done.

Using a vintage director (and editor Thelma Schoonmaker) to shoot a wine ad is not quite as incongruous as it might appear. Freixenet has dipped into the Hollywood A-List for its Christmas campaigns for the last 40 years. Liza Minnelli, Meg Ryan, Paul Newman, Gwyneth Paltrow. But this year, and onwards, the Spanish brand has dropped actors in favour of directors, who will be given carte blanche to shoot the Christmas campaign any way they fancy.

With the Scorsese effort, Freixenet gets four for the price of two. Two films (the making of and the mini-movie itself) and two directors (Scorsese and Hitchcock). And Scorsese the actor, playing himself in the making of film, is superb. Still, it's all very fancy for what is essentially a pretty ordinary brand. When the hero in Scorsese's film unlocks the case to reveal a bottle of Freixenet you're left feeling a little cheated, a little grubby.

It's not the first time Scorsese has pocketed adland's filthy lucre. He's made a couple of ads for American Express. But has he sold out with this job? If he hadn't produced such a stunningly convincing homage to Hitchcock, you'd probably say yes. But the sheer entertainment value of the end result more than makes up for any discomfort the work's commercial backbone might induce.

As for Hitchcock, would he approve? Hmm, I'm not so sure. Neither, it seems, is Scorsese. The "making of" film ends with a wonderful shot (think Rear Window) panning back from an office where Scorsese is seated.

He's talking about what Hitchcock might make of it all, and asking if he has preserved his vision. "While I'm doing this I think I feel him kinda looking over our shoulders, you know...the only thing I hope is that he takes it in the right spirit." (Pun intended?) Pan back, pan back, and you see the big black Birds gathering on the office block sills, watching, waiting.

Now to the small screen. In TV advertising terms, 3m won't buy you a lot of bangs. At least not if you're chasing elusive viewers (particularly young men) and you want to put your ads in some hot peak time programmes.

Dutch beer brand Grolsch has just solved the problem by signing a 3m, 12-month sponsorship deal with Channel 4. So it gets to butt its short brand messages right up against the programmes, which in these zap-happy fast- forwarding times is quite the place to be.

If you're a comedy nut, you'll be seeing quite a lot of Grolsch over the coming year, because the deal means the brand will be sponsoring 17 comedy series on Channel 4 and 12 on E4. And it includes some of Channel 4's best-loved shows: Friday Night Project, Peep Show, 8 Out of 10 Cats. In fact, pretty much everything guaranteed to get a belly laugh will be enveloped by the Grolsch credits.

But therein lies the challenge. You see, if you think some of our TV ads are bad, just consider the calibre of sponsorship. Appalling. Seems agencies can't be bothered to pour much love into idents, and TV companies don't generally have the balls to reject credits that undermine their lovely programming environment. Lazy stuff.

For comedy fans, Grolsch's idents will become fairly ubiquitous and since they'll be running around some of the sharpest scripted shows on the telly, audience expectations will be high.

The sponsorship bumpers are being created by The Leith Agency and will aim to "communicate the quirky Dutch attitude of the brand". Somehow that doesn't fill me with confidence that we're embarking on a new creative era in the world of sponsorship, but you'll have plenty of opportunities to make your own mind up.

Down in the adland village the year is ending far from quietly. Party season might have kicked in (all the adland Clubs have their end-of-year Black Tie parties and balls and client entertainment reaches champagne fever pitch).

There's only one downside. The small matter of a few chunky pitches about to kick off. Most sexy is the pitch for the London 2012 account, which has just got underway. The brief is to promote the 2012 Olympics worldwide, and the run up to next year's Beijing Games will see advertising of the London Olympics begin in earnest.

Initially the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (Locog) is looking for an agency to help on its strategy, devising a communications plan that will run for the next four-and-a-half years.

For the winning agency (or agencies) this could be the best advertising prize of the next few years. Not only will it have an international scope, but it will be a truly multi-media campaign, spanning online, mobile and design as well as traditional advertising.

The pitch might mean a hard slog in the run up to Christmas, but the booty on offer should set the winning companies fair for a bumper 2008 and beyond.

In the world of media, too, there's an end-of-year pitch bonanza in the form of Nationwide. You'll know the ads, by Leagas Delaney: they feature comedian Mark Benton as the bank manager from hell. But the bank is now looking for a new media partner to drive its communications approach and maximise the value of its advertising spend.

There's a 20m account in the offing nice and juicy by media terms and you can bet that any media agency without a bank account will be putting the champagne back in the fridge and firing up its power point in preparation for a tilt at the business.

It's always good to end the year with some real new business prospects, but you can't help wondering whether clients secretly quite enjoy putting a brake on the industry's seasonal excesses.

Claire Beale is editor of Campaign

Beale's best in show: Tesco (the red brick road)

This week's choice is really one of those so bad it's good ads, and I suspect it is designed to be exactly that.

It's the second outing by the Spice Girls for Tesco. Now Tesco spends a lot of money on its advertising, 66m a year in fact. And the guys that make the ads (Jason Lawes and Sam Cartmell, under the supremely wise Paul Weinberger who surely has imbibed Tesco into his DNA by now) have been doing so superbly for years, first at Lowe and now at The Red Brick Road. So they know exactly what they're doing.

And you won't find them getting all starry-eyed over five female singers: Tesco has always used great celebrities really well. So I think the reason this ad makes you squirm a little is because of the Girls themselves, and that's part of its, erm, charm. They're all a bit hammy, but they're clearly up for ripping the piss out of themselves and having a bit of fun with this ad.