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.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Life and Style
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Web Analytics Manager / Optimisation Manager

£50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Analytics Manager / Optimisation Manager ...

Graduate Sales Executive

Up to £24k + Commission: Sphere Digital Recruitment: Premium Ad Verification C...

Agency Sales /Senior Sales Manager

£40,000 - £65,000 + commission : Sphere Digital Recruitment: Great opportunity...

Marketing Manager

£26 - 32k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Manager is needed to join a unique and ex...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style