Claire Beale On Advertising: Adland is singing some new songs

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The Independent Online

I am not going to talk about ads this week. No one else seems to want to. Ads have rather gone out of fashion. Clients still want ads. Advertising agencies still make ads. We're all still looking at ads. But it seems to have become deeply passé, and really rather suspect business practice, to remain simply an "advertising agency" these days.

So you'll find the best advertising (for want of a better description) agencies would much rather tell you about the new book designs they're working on, or the screenplay, or the airline livery, or the theatre show. And then, this week, the records. The first is Euro RSCG's response to a brief from Kofi Annan's Climate Justice group. This is important stuff, designed to generate tangible global support ahead of the United Nations's climate change conference taking place in Copenhagen in December.

So important, in fact, that it would have been easy to default to the tried and tested. But rather than settle for a punchy press campaign or a TV ad choked with melting ice caps and disappearing rain forests – ad agencies are usually quite good at peddling clichés – Euro created the "tck tck tck" theme and has just released a record with its sister music company The Hours.

Sound familiar? Yes, this is a sort of Band Aid for the planet, 21st-century style. Some of the world's best-known recording artists – Fergie, Bob Geldof (him again), Mark Ronson, Marion Cotillard, Duran Duran (them again) – have been roped in to record a specially tailored version of Midnight Oil's "Beds Are Burning" track. The modern, digital twist is that the record now forms the centre of an online music petition. Downloading the free track registers you as an ally in the campaign for climate justice and provides proof that the record is actively engaging people much more than a one-way traditional ad could generally hope to.

Second record-by-an-ad-agency out of the sleeve this week is by Fallon for Cadbury. It's called "Zingolo". And it all began with a brief to create a small press campaign promoting Dairy Milk's new Fair Trade credentials, exactly that sort of traditional advertising campaign that can now seem so limited. Hmm. You can see why Fallon wouldn't settle for that. Instead the agency translated the brief into a music video beautifully directed by Ringan Ledwidge – one of adland's most brilliant directors, backing a single recorded by Ghanaian artist Tinny which you can buy on iTunes. Even better, some of the profits are being ploughed back into the Ghanaian cocoa-growing community.

Now, Cadbury has proved itself a bold marketer during the past couple of years and its marketing director Phil Rumbol has proved himself one of the UK's most creative advertisers. Once Cadbury was brave enough to buy that drumming Gorilla, and once Gorilla had shown that disregarding advertising convention could shift chocolate bars, the door was open for further innovation.

Before you ask, Zingolo is not a great record. Interesting, sure, but no chart-topper. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Zingolo it is that it actually exists, that the marketing team bought the idea, found the budget and sold it into the rest of the corporation at a time when risks are too risky and money too tight.

What Zingolo also is, though, is another piece of learning, another nudging at the traditional boundaries of marketing, another way of engaging consumers, generating discussion and creating community. And another example of an advertising agency exploring new creative avenues well beyond traditional spots and space.

It is initiatives like these two records that will inspire more convention-busting advertising and marketing and the lessons learnt from them will put their architects ahead of the marketing pack. And really that doesn't sound like much of a risk at all.

Best in Show: Patak (JWT)

The list of comedians who have tried their hand at directing ads is rather long and includes Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones, Armando Iannucci and now Craig Cash. Few made the transition particularly well and no doubt Cash's first effort, on JWT's TV commercial for Patak, will have a similarly modest effect on his career. Still, it's not a bad start. We see an Asian family arriving in England in the 1970s, wowing their neighbours with their Indian cooking. So Patak's was born. It's a gentle, warm commercial, just the right side of twee, and rather better than a lot of other ads in the category.

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