Claire Beale On Advertising

It's no good producing a great ad if people don't remember what it's for
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The Independent Online

Have you seen that brilliant new car ad? You know the one. You must have seen it. It's on telly all the time. It's definitely red. The car. It's genius. Best ad on the telly. Bugger...what's it for?

As any marketer worth the respect of his procurement director will tell you, that glorious post-production-fuelled 60-second masterpiece that hoovered the board at Cannes is as worthless as an IPG share option if the punters can't remember what the hell it's advertising.

The fact is, the ads that adland's luvvies love are not necessarily the ads that sell stuff. Even if consumers love them too it doesn't always follow that they'll remember what's being advertised. Or want to buy it if they can.

And the ads that shift products off shelves or build long-lasting brands are not necessarily the ones that tickle the jurors at the big creative love-in awards. Effectiveness doesn't always come with creative fireworks attached, and vice-versa.

Take Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R's ads for Marks & Spencer. The ads took the hugely coveted Grand Prix at the IPA Effectiveness Awards last week. You'll definitely remember the ads. There's the food porn stuff, and the ads with Twiggy and her mates slinking and swinging in the latest fashion collections, there's some cute kiddie work and check out the lusty lingerie ads.

For a retailer that for so long shunned advertising, M&S has come good. Stuart Rose and his team, including the much respected marketing director Steven Sharp, have invested in one of the most successful campaigns of recent years and have not been slow to acknowledge the role of RKCR/Y&R and its advertising in the M&S turnaround story.

These ads aren't luvvie-pleasers; they haven't troubled creative juries much. But they've sold puddings, pants and party dresses. Job done and sod what the creative cliques think. This is an excellent case study that also sells advertising and its role in building businesses. And it seals RKCR/Y&R's reputation as one of the best of London's networked agencies.

But one agency last week pulled off an astounding double whammy. DDB took the title of IPA's Effectiveness Agency of the Year (Four years in a row - which makes it dull for the rest of us, but you can't knock it).

The agency has turned Effectiveness paper writing into a well-oiled routine - and by all accounts actually writing the damn things can be a full-time job if you let it. That might sound like it's reducing the whole process down to - well, a process, but if I were a client I'd want to talk to the four-times effectiveness winner if I wanted to really drive my business.

So, effectiveness: tick. Then, a couple of days later, DDB came top in the industry's most robust measure of creative excellence - the Gunn Report, which tallies creative awards won around the world. Yep: DDB beat the best around the globe to take top honours for the second time in the report's history.

DDB has had some impressive creative highs over the last 18 months - like the body-popping Gene Kelly "Singin' in the Rain" spot for VW and the slickly cool Harvey Nichols press and poster work. And while it might seem like it's just for luvvies, the Gunn Report now carries real weight with real clients like Procter & Gamble and Unilever who are increasingly apportioning business on the basis of agencies' creative credentials.

True, if you were to cast a critical eye over DDB's most recent, most comprehensive reel, you might wonder whether the Gunn crown was as much a reflection of falling standards elsewhere as creative brilliance at DDB London.

And if you consider its tumultuous fate since chief executive Paul Hammersley and planning director David Hackworthy walked the Red Brick Road a year ago, you might consider this to be an agency in some turmoil; new chief executive Stephen Woodford is still confined to his garden by his Alma Mater, Engine.

But it's rare that agencies can claim proven credentials at both ends of the advertising equation. For the moment, DDB is where effectiveness and creativity meet.

THE OTHER THING to know about this year's Gunn Report is that the Brits have finally knocked the Americans off their creative perch. Yes, after decades of being convinced that London is the world's centre of creative excellence, we've finally got the league table to prove it. The US has been kicked off the top slot of the most creatively-awarded countries after a seven-year reign. If you look at the big British blockbusters that boosted our awards tally, there's clear evidence of effectiveness here too. Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO's "noitulovE" (that's Evolution backwards, just like the ad) for Guinness persuaded drinkers to spend a record-breaking £1bn on the stuff. It also happened to be the most awarded ad in the world this year and helped make AMV the world's third most garnered agency.

And the world's second most-awarded ad, Fallon's breath-taking "balls" for Sony Bravia, helped the brand sell out in the UK within three weeks of the campaign's debut, putting Sony back in a market-leading position for the first time in three years. After Wieden & Kennedy's "Impossible Dream" for Honda, an unprecedented 31 per cent of punters said they would like their next car to be a Honda.

Creativity: tick; effectiveness: tick; two fingers to the Americans: tick.

I'VE SPOTTED a trend. Remember the story about McCain's and its plan to infiltrate the nation's Christmas pantos with the Chips Glorious Chips song from its TV ad? Well now the Old Vic's production of Doctor Faustus features two moustachioed runners just like the ones in the 118 118 TV ads.

They're there to offer advice to Faustus but more importantly they're there because they have traction with the audience. We all know who they are, what they do, what they're like. We know that because they've featured heavily is some pretty successful television campaigns.

It's an example of how great advertising passes into public consciousness and becomes part of our lives. It's also a great example of the power of television, even in these digitally-obsessed times, to build mass-market brands that we can all recognise. Now that's effective advertising.

Claire Beale is editor of Campaign.


Having written about breasts last week, I'm approaching this week's Best In Show with some trepidation: pubes. Well, breasts and pubes, actually - though all the real action is down below. It's from Grey London, an agency that's not as dull as it sounds but definitely not an agency I'd normally associate with anything vaguely sexual. But check out the new viral for fashion designer Stefane Monzön; plug his name into Google.

Monzön specializes in follicular fashion (or pubic pruning), using naked models to create exotic sculptures from, erm, hair down below. Except that of course he's an adland creation and the viral video of his fashion show for the LadyGarden Collection is really one big ad for Remington courtesy of Grey and The Viral Factory.

To be honest, I found this film pretty yuck and mildly offensive. But that's sort of the idea. This is classic viral shock-tactic stuff to get you wide-eyed and interested. And it leads you in nicely, so you think you're watching a regular back-stage fashion show doc. It's only after a minute or two of strange crotch-level fumblings that you realise this is anything but a regular clothes show. Mind you, if you've gone to the trouble of finding this viral, or been sent it by a sniggering mate, you're probably already keyed up for something out of the ordinary.

I'm not sure whether Grey's ad is going to launch a new fashion in the pubic zone, and the joke wears thin pretty quickly. But it's definitely getting what has lately seemed a rather tired brand back on the radar. And it's a good example of using new media to really explore a brand in ways that traditional media rules don't allow, though I think the agency has got a little carried away with that sense of freedom. Anyway, crucially the viral has broken all seeding records to date and has already notched up more than 2.5 million unique views over the last month, which is pretty damn impressive. Whether many of these viewers are women interested in learning more about pubic topiary is another thing altogether though.