Claire Beale on Advertising

Fallon takes the chocolate biscuit, but let's keep it from the children
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The Independent Online

A little end-of-year quiz to kick things off this week. What do the following ads have in common? Skoda's The Baking of Fabia; Sony Bravia's Play-Doh; Orange's Continuous Colours; Sony Walkman's Music Pieces; and Cadbury Dairy Milk's Gorilla.

The answer is easy for any student of adland 2007. All these ads are made by Fallon, and it is the agency that has just been crowned cock of the advertising walk, as Campaign's Creative Agency of the Year.

Fallon's credentials for advertising's highest accolade are clear just from scanning the above list of its campaigns. It makes great advertising. And in the case of Gorilla, I would argue that it makes advertising great (again).

We all know by now that Gorilla is a brilliant, exciting, fun campaign. Think Cadbury now and you think Gorilla, Phil Collins, drums. Bet you don't think Salmonella or the Trident chewing gum racism fiasco.

But it is fair to say that there are some adlanders who have been a little sniffy about the drumming gorilla. Oh, yes, it is amusing, they will admit, but what has it got to do with chocolate? Where is the strategy? Where is the sales story? But last week Cadbury was rather pleased to announce that sales of Dairy Milk are up by about 9 per cent since August.

Cadbury chief executive Tom Stitzer told City analysts that the drum-playing primate had reinvigorated the company's fortunes, and you could smell the relief, and not just from Cadbury but from the ad industry too. It's touching how excited adland gets when big clients attribute their success to an ad campaign like this. It vindicates the industry in the most visible and persuasive terms. This ain't just advertising, it's a critical business tool.

Best of all, though, for the downturn-nervy ad industry was Stitzer's proclamation that Cadbury is now planning to increase its marketing budget as a result. It was manna.

The thing about Fallon, though, is that it doesn't just make great ads, it piles on new business. The agency snaffled the 44m Asda account from its sister ad agency Publicis right back at the beginning of the year, and its total new-business tally across the last 12 months takes total billings to a luscious 130m.

And it is interesting that Fallon has pulled all this off in the year when it is arguably furthest from its original conceit. The agency is no longer an independent creative hot-shop: it is now a fully-paid-up member of the Publicis Groupe. And it is not even a standalone unit within the mighty Publicis empire: this was the year that Fallon got shotgun hitched to Saatchi & Saatchi.

Oh, and 2007 was the agency's first year without the blood of two of its founders: Andy McLeod and Michael Wall. So, all things considered, it could have been a very different story.

As it was, 2007 was undoubtedly Fallon's year: the year it proved that outstanding creativity and real business success can co-exist very comfortably.

There was also much relief in adland last week that the news we are all scoffing more chocolate did not overshadow reports that advertisers are taking their role in the healthy lifestyle debate more seriously than ever. The media watchdog Ofcom unveiled a study showing that all food and drink advertising to children has dropped by more than a quarter since 2005.

For an ad industry lamely trying to defend itself against the anti-advertising, obesity-obsessed pressure groups, this was good news indeed. But it would have been easy for mischievous media to have set the Ofcom survey alongside the Gorilla results. So perhaps adland's increasingly responsible attitude to targeting food high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) at kids is starting to be recognised.

Or maybe not. It has certainly been a vigorous week of attack and counterattack in adland. Is advertising "responsible" for all our social ills? Or is advertising becoming more "responsible"? Of course, I would say the latter.

Last week, 11 of the world's biggest food and drinks advertisers made a pledge to the European Union to stop advertising HFSS brands to children under 12. Mars, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, Burger King, Unilever, Danone are amongst those on board. Sure it is a case of pragmatism, of jumping before they are pushed. And, for some, last week's promise is simply a PR-puffed statement of pre-existing marketing strategies: canny advertisers saw this coming years ago and shifted focus accordingly. But let's not be unduly cynical. The truth is that advertisers are listening and responding, and though the detail of the voluntary pledge is still rather hazy, this is a very public pledge that will not now be ignored.

Don't imagine that this is anything like enough for the anti-advertisers, though. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) seems particularly keen to get its teeth into adland's soft underbelly. A new NUT study into the commercialisation of childhood is seeking to make a link between marketing and the immensely emotive issues of bullying and childhood illness.

Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, waded in to launch his own enquiry into the affect of our commercial culture on children as part of his ten-year plan. Balls has paid particular attention to alcohol ads and a 9pm watershed for booze advertising looks increasingly inevitable. As you would expect, the drinks industry has come out fighting on this one, once again proving to other marketing sectors the power of unified action (car manufacturers and toy companies take note).

The idea that banning booze ads from TV before 9pm will stop under 18s being exposed is patently ridiculous to any parent of teenage kids. Does anyone really think that all 16 and 17-year-olds are tucked up under the duvet by 9pm? The only winners from this sort of knee-jerk regulation would be the broadcasters, who would be able to charge a premium for alcohol brands chasing the post-9pm window.

Much more practical and potentially potent measures are already under way. The Drinkaware Trust, a charity supported by the drinks industry, is focused on providing help and information on responsible drinking and it has just joined forces with young people themselves to devise a new website offering practical advice.

The site is modelled on social networking sites like MySpace and is designed to appeal to teenagers without patronising them. You will start seeing the web address flagged up on alcohol ads another example of how the alcohol industry (in general) is pursuing a relentlessly responsible course in an effort to stave off further advertising curbs, and a potent message for the season.

Beale's best in show no more landmines (clemmow hornby inge)

Here's the challenge: you are a charity fighting for donations alongside thousands of others, many of which are better known, more emotive, have bigger marketing budgets and touch UK lives more directly. How do you cut through the clutter on a gnat's-arse budget?

If you are the charity No More Landmines, the answer is to bring in the ad agency Clemmow Hornby Inge and create one of the coolest viral films around, load it up on to YouTube, and wait for the buzz.

It's all based on the premise that, for millions of people, the ground is a dangerous place to be. So the film follows the free-runner Lewis moving round London's South Bank parkour-style, without touching the ground at all. He climbs over benches, trees, bridges and walls to do it, and the result is a wonderfully mesmeric, absorbing film that raises free running to an art form.

Within the past week, the film has become the most viewed not-for-profit video of all time on YouTube, and has made it into the top five most-viewed clips on the UK site. Not bad for a charity I bet most of us have never heard of.

OK, I'm not sure that the guys who have given the ad such a big thumbs-up on YouTube are necessarily prime targets for charity donations, but it is surprising how many of them have picked up on the landmine message and not simply enjoyed the sport of the film. And if it is all about creating a buzz, then the film has definitely done that. To see the ad, type "landmines" into YouTube; to donate, go to

Claire Beale is editor of Campaign