Claire Beale: On Advertising

Terminal 5 fiasco turns the Dairy Milk trucks into an ad for our times
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The Independent Online

Trucks. Trucks, trucks, trucks. I know: the ad's been out for days. It should be old news. Let's move on. But Dairy Milk's new campaign will not lie quiet. It commands debate. Is it any good?

It's Cadbury's successor to the drumming gorilla. You'll have seen the racing trucks on television. You'll have read about them on blogs and forums and in newspapers. You might have talked about them down the pub. You'll probably agree that the new ad is not as great as the last one; you'll have been disappointed.

But one way or another you'll almost certainly have spent more time over the past week thinking about Fallon's new Cadbury ad than you have any other campaign out there. Any ad would kill for that sort of cut-through. And, a week after all the anticipation has been slaked, I am writing about it still.

So: is it any good? Gorilla was the best ad of last year. Brilliant. Trucks is good. But not brilliant. It's entertaining, it's got feel-good, the soundtrack's great, the no-hard-sell is intriguing and different. And the "Glass and a Half Full Productions" device, used in the manner of a film credit as the ad opens, is now clearly established as a kitemark that demands engagement.

But it doesn't have the warmth or, um, humanity of Gorilla. Trucks – who cares about trucks? And the drama isn't dramatic enough. It's too long. The directing's hammy. Fallon's creative goal-scorer Juan Cabral has had finer days and will again.

But we're picking nits. Just like Gorilla, this is an ad that forces you to reappraise a tired brand that had become confectionery wallpaper. And how many ads can you think of that demand anything like all this analysis and dissection?

The ad industry's problem with Trucks is that it's an inferior follow-up; expectations were highest, so disappointment is most bitter. But that's a wearily familiar pattern; why did we expect anything different this time?

The fact is that the point of reference for the Trucks ad, the context in which it should be judged, is not its relationship to Gorilla. Trucks must be measured against the whole communications soup in which it has to swim, and on that metric it is already a success.

The new ad is incorporated into a lovely website for Dairy Milk, designed by HyperHappen. The site's called and it's one of those wonderful sites that invites play, creating a 360-degree virtual Dairy Milk world. It's smart, but do you know what the best bits about the site are? The bits where you can watch the TV ads.

And next: the inevitable spoofs on YouTube. Cadbury will be pleased that people are bothering to play around with its ad, mash it up, remould it, engage with it. In this, the ad was beautifully aided by a marvellous coincidence of timing: the campaign's launch knitted perfectly with the disastrous opening of Heathrow's Terminal 5.

Airports, lost baggage, general chaos: if Fallon had created the ad to chime with the topic of the moment, they couldn't have done a better job.

So, not surprisingly, Trucks has caught the imagination of spoofers for its Terminal 5 echoes. Check out the YouTube rip-off posted by "allankent" that runs the ad with a soundtrack stolen from a news bulletin: "Some outgoing luggage had to be left behind," explains the newsreader as Cadbury's trucks spill their bags and suitcases all over the runway. And so begins the second phase of Trucks' life: the people's ads, the amateur homages and the piss-takes – all proof, these days, that – yes – Trucks is a "good" ad.

One of adland's best blogs, Scamp, has been running a poll on whether Trucks' creator Juan Cabral is worth his rumoured £1m salary.

A quarter of Scamp's voters say "yes", Cabral is worth his million. If Cabral really does enjoy such an enormous remunerative pat on the back, I say he deserves it. He is the hottest creative working in London at the moment and his work sells chocolate bars and telly sets (he did those wonderful Sony Bravia ads, too).

If Cabral worked at the ad agency CHI & Partners, we might know now exactly what he does earn. Because CHI was last week the victim of some mischievous industrial sabotage when details of the agency's payroll were emailed round the company, presumably by a disgruntled ex-employee.

Inevitably, the contents of the email leached to the outside world and began to rival Trucks as the key topic of industry debate. Mind you, judging by the mounting desperation of online commentators screaming for all the juicy details, far fewer dishonourable people were in possession of the salary facts than you might have hoped.

Whatever the specifics of CHI's payroll, the best talent in the business (and CHI has some of it) is worth every penny. Talent that creates magic and makes a difference to corporate balance-sheets is the industry's most valuable asset. And its most scarce resource.

One of the most iconic newspaper ads of all time belongs to the paper you're holding in your hands – "The Independent. It is. Are you?"

The campaign, a simple typographical treatment showing the paper's masthead above bold, black, beautifully direct type, was an elegant distillation of the newspaper's philosophy. It is an enduring example of the power of print advertising, and the clarity of the approach still informs the principles of the newspaper today.

The ad was made by Saatchi & Saatchi at the height of its powers, and it was a product of the stewardship of Paul Arden, the creative fountainhead at the agency for 14 years.

You'll have read elsewhere in these pages about the late Mr Arden, the creative legend who died last week. But I can't let this week's column go without paying tribute too.

Greatness in advertising is a rare commodity. Paul Arden had it. Arden inspired some of the famous British Airways blockbuster commercials back in the 1980s, the slogan "The car in front is a Toyota" and the luscious Relax ad for British Rail. And, seminally, it was also Arden who created the famous Silk Cut concept of an ad with no copyline, just a beautiful, gashed piece of purple silk.

Of course, such talent came with a personality to match. His intolerance for anything less than excellence is legendary. Work he considered substandard could expect the usual Arden treatment: he jumped up and down on it. But though this perfectionism was intimidating, it was also inspirational to the generation of creatives steering the industry today. His legacy thrives.

Claire Beale is editor of Campaign