Claire Beale On Advertising: Sony needs to set the ball rolling again

Go on then, what's the best ad of the last decade? Which commercial has taken you by the scruff, held you rapt, entertained you, moved you (and, yes, the best ads should be able to do all of that)?

There's no right answer. We probably won't agree, but here's what I think. The best ad of the last 10 years was created by Fallon for Sony. It's called "Balls". Of course you remember it: thousands of brightly coloured balls bouncing down the streets of San Francisco to Jose Gonzalez's "Heartbeats".

It's a beautiful piece of film, perfect in its blend of movement and languor, a real joy to watch again and again – as fresh today (though its essence has been much copied) as it was when it launched in 2005. It made Sony (in media circles at least) synonymous again with creativity and innovation, and it infected the advertising industry. Acoustic, folksy soundtracks were suddenly everywhere, ads became full of colourful objects floating through the air, and agencies learnt that an ad could become an event, engaging the public (online) even before the commercial itself was ready to air. It was a commercial that inspired the industry to be better, bolder, more lyrical.

It also propelled Fallon to recognition as one of the best agencies not only in London, but in the world. It made a hero of the marketing chief who commissioned it – David Patton, now the chief executive of Grey Advertising, and conferred a God-like aura (within the creative community) on its originator, Juan Cabral. Last week Campaign magazine recognised "Balls" as the best commercial of the first decade of the 21st Century.

Last week, too, Sony dumped Fallon. It wasn't a complete surprise. There'd been a pitch; Fallon was down to the last two. But in the end there was something shocking in the termination of one of the most creatively fruitful advertising relationships of recent years. Let's be honest. Fallon's more recent work on Sony struggled to hit the highest creative notes; perhaps the agency had taken its eye off the Sony, erm, ball. Patton has gone (to be replaced by the ambitious ex-agency man Ben Moore), Cabral is on a long leash in Argentina (though still working for Fallon) and, crucially, Sony is in trouble.

The brand that was once a Kitemark of quality and innovation has been squeezed from the bottom by brands that offer quality cheaper (LG, Samsung) and at the top by Apple, which has come to define all that's cool, clear and innovative in consumer electronics. Foreign exchange rates, a dilution of the Sony message across a confused bundle of divisions and cheap Korean rivals combined to bring Sony to the brink.

It's time for change. Sony spends a staggering $4.9bn on advertising (in contrast, Apple spends about $500m). The marketing pot is spread across a broad spectrum of products (TVs, PlayStation games, Sony Pictures, Sony Music and on and on) and any sense of a coherent Sony brand message is long gone.

The company needs to create a deeply thought-through integrated brand world that will make us all fall in love with the Sony brand again. Moore says the old advertising model is broken; Sony needs to find a new advertising approach to fix its own problems. Brilliant thinkers who can unlock consumer insights that will lead the disparate Sony divisions through the process are perhaps more important right now than the question of who might make some award-winning ads.

So now it falls to Sony's new agency, Anomaly, to revive and reposition the brand. And beautiful campaigns like "Balls" are unlikely to figure near the top of their priorities.

Best In Show: Barnardo's (Bartle Bogle Hegarty)

Barnardo's is making a habit of interrupting our Christmas reveries with hard-hitting reminders of the brutal realities faced by abused children. Last Christmas the charity gave us the award-winning "break the cycle" campaign showing how children can slip into lives of crime and drug abuse. This year Bartle Bogle Hegarty's offering is equally powerful, highlighting the charity's work in transforming the lives of sexually exploited children. A series of scenes show a young girl descending into a life of abuse. But with Barnardo's help we see the same scenes reversed as the girl is helped to turn her life around. Powerful and provocative, it demands attention and action.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Legal Recruitment Consultant

Highly Competitive Salary + Commission: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL BASED - DEALING ...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape