Claire Beale on Advertising

It was straight out of adland's annals of shame. So it must have been Ryanair
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The Independent Online

She's got the breasts of a glamour model and the midriff of a minor, a come-hithery expression and lovely tarty-glam hair, all blonde and beautifully wavy. A bit like the rest of her.

Of course, she can't help being physically gifted. Let's not hold it against her. But we can blame her for sporting the sort of outfit some men pay women to wear: a school uniform, schoolgirl-sized. Short tartan skirt, belly-baring shirt, tartan tie, long white socks. And she's standing in a classroom, sandwiched between the words "hottest back to school fares". This is somebody's fantasy. It's also an ad.

Grown women posing as sexy school girls to sell us stuff is straight out of adland's annals of shame. It's pure 1970s. But apply today's moral compass and it's off the dial: sexist, cheap, grubby, paedophilic even.

Maybe if I tell you it's an ad for Ryanair you won't be too surprised. Ryanair has previous when it comes to offending adland sensibilities. A week after the 7/7 London bombings in 2005 Ryanair ran an ad showing Winston Churchill flicking his V for victory , with the headline "London fights back" and the words "we shall fly them to the beaches, we shall fly them to the hills". Ouch.

Then there was the Ryanair Valentine's Day promotion with the once-read, never-forgotten line: "Blow me! These fares are hard to swallow." You get the picture.

Here, I must point out that this particular abomination cannot be laid at the feet of the advertising industry. Ryanair creates all of its ads in-house and clearly rather enjoys doing so. Fine, except that ad agencies have a duty of care to uphold industry guidelines and standards; some advertisers clearly don't think they need to play by the same rules.

So as upholder of advertising standards, the ad watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority rolled out the tanks against Ryanair's latest stinker last week, banning the schoolgirl ad for linking teenage girls with sexually provocative behaviour. The ASA has received assurances from The Herald and the Daily and Scottish Mails, which ran the offending ad, that they won't carry it again. And Ryanair has been asked to withdraw the campaign and ensure that future ads comply with industry regulations. Pah, says a defiant Ryanair, which said the ASA is "Monty Pythonesque" and "out of touch". Clearly on a roll, the budget airline went on to tweak the ASA's nose, calling the venerable body "Absurd Silly Asses" and accusing it of censorship: the ad wouldn't have been deemed offensive if it had appeared in the red tops, Ryanair reckons. Which begs the question why did it run in the Daily Mail? (and why did the Daily Mail run it?).

The reality, though, is that offensive advertising is almost certainly guaranteed to pack more of a punch than all of those other bland, instantly forgettable campaigns in these cluttered, media-fragmented times. Not that that's any excuse of course.

Ryanair couldn't have bought the sort of editorial space its ad has occupied over the past few days (and, yes: hands up). But, perhaps most irritating of all, I suspect that an awful lot of people who are now tempted to take up Ryanair on its hottest fares offer don't give a damn about the tastelessness of its advertising. Quite probably, they actually rather like it.

FOR CAR advertisers with creative sensibilities – and there aren't many of those – it seems all the good advertising ideas have already been done. How else to explain Ford's new ad.

Here's the story: we see an orchestra playing a lovely piece of music. It's called "Ode to Ford". Look closer and you'll see that their instruments are actually car parts (de-greased, we hope).

It's all very stylish, beautifully directed (by Noam Murro, who did last year's wonderful "Night Driving" ad for VW), classy. It lends Ford a sense of sophistication that you wouldn't normally associate with the marque.

So, it's a very nice ad, don't get me wrong. And for Ford, and its agency Ogilvy, it's a creative triumph; compared to Ford's advertising oeuvre over the years, this is A-Class. It's just so... familiar. It's about a car in bits – like Honda's "Cog"; it's about an orchestra – like Sony Walkman's "Music Pieces". It works, but it doesn't surprise in the way that a group of musicians playing axels and cylinders really ought to.

What gives the ad an extra spark is the accompanying film that's being seeded on the web. It's a music video featuring former Mis-Teeq-er and Strictly Come Dancing winner Alesha Dixon. Dixon pouts her way through her new song "For You I Will" with her own car-playing orchestra and the result is something a bit cooler, a bit sexier than the Ogilvy ad.

Together the two films nicely combine sexy and sophisticated, and though the Ogilvy ad will be seen by a mainstream audience the Dixon video will be sought out by her fans and appeal more to young women.

So you can see the sense of the strategy. What's a bit harder to fathom is why, at a time when all agencies reckon they create commercial content rather than simply commercials, Ford felt it necessary to draft in branded content specialists Cake rather than asking Ogilvy to do the whole show.

You'll remember that when Ford backed the Where Are The Joneses? online soap last year they turned to the content agency Imagination rather than Ogilvy. When it comes to creating compelling commercial content, it seems the specialists still have the edge.

HOW WICKEDLY amusing to see two of adland's biggest bosses slanging-matching like a couple of pubescent girls in the primary school playground.

Yes, Sir Martin Sorrell and Maurice Levy were at it again last week, indulging in some joyous metaphorical pigtail yanking over billion-dollar search engine Google.

It all began with an odd press statement from Levy's camp proclaiming... well I'm not sure what really. Apparently, Publicis Groupe's Levy had a nice little chat with Google's CEO Eric Schmidt. That was about it. Not the sort of stuff usually deemed worthy of a formal statement to the press.

That was pretty much Sorrell's view on the matter, too. Sorrell said: "Next time I meet with Eric Schmidt I think we'll send out a press release. This morning I met with Maurice Levy, does this mean we're putting out a joint venture?"

Levy retorted: "I'm sorry Martin said that... it's really cheap, but it's probably the result of his lack of understanding of technology." Ooh.

Digging deeper, it seems that Publicis and Google are working together to exchange talent and learning, which is interesting. But not as interesting as two of the world's most powerful businessmen doing a bit of verbal cat-fighting.

Mind you, you can't help but think they both enjoyed the spat enormously.

Beale's best in show: transport for london (m&c saatchi)

If you live in London, this week's Best ad is your life. People on buses grunting loudly on mobile phones, kids playing music, junking litter, stress, stress, stress.

Transport for London has had enough. It's time for us to work "Together For London" to show a little more consideration for others. But before you dismiss the notion as another one of those pointless "do good" but do-nothing public info films, think again. This one's by M&C Saatchi and directed by Mike Figgis. It's set on a bus full of people like you and me, doing stuff that we think is normal but that hacks fellow passengers right off.

It's all shot on four split but interacting screens that together build up a picture of your average commute. And there's nothing much preachy about it, you'd be hard pushed even to work out it's by TFL. It's just a really interesting, well made three minute film that engages your attention and probably leaves you feeling a little guilty. Guilty enough, anyway, to take home the message: "A little thought for each of us. A big difference for all of us."

Now repeat after me: "I won't drop litter", "I won't play my music out loud", "I won't shout on my mobile", "I'll offer that person my seat". Thank You.