Claire Beale on Advertising

The restrictions are rotten when you can't go to work on an egg
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The Independent Online

If you want a quick lesson in great advertising from adland's annals of excellence, watch the "go to work on an egg" ads that have just been revived 50 years after their debut. The vintage campaign, promoting the benefits of the humble ovum, was conceived by the novelist Fay Weldon when she was a copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather, and stars the comedian Tony Hancock. They still make for fantastic viewing, five decades on. Beautifully scripted and acted, with a thoroughly modern commercial self-consciousness, this is advertising writing at its best.

But if you want to revel in a bit of eggy advertising nostalgia you will have to look on the web (gotoworkonanegg.co.uk): plans to rerun the ads on TV to mark the 50th anniversary of the British Lion kite mark have been smashed because the ads fall fowl (sorry) of the ad police, who have suddenly taken responsibility for saving the nation's expanding waistlines.

The trouble is that the ads recommend eating eggs every day, which the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre reckons doesn't make for a healthily varied diet. The whole farrago has been a PR dream (or a dream PR strategy, depending on your levels of cynicism): hits to the website were high enough to force the suspension of several of the ad clips. But beneath the excitable press coverage about the ads' ban lies an incredibly serious point: advertising freedoms are being restricted without sense, logic or fairness.

Of course, the food industry to a degree has only itself to blame for allowing restrictions to get this far. If they had acted earlier, collectively, confidently and responsibly, the ad rules might not have been allowed to become so draconian.

If only they had taken a leaf out of the booze book: advertising alcohol is surely more difficult to defend if it's healthy lifestyles you are looking for, yet the powerful consortium of drinks companies, The Portman Group, has done a fine job of championing its business and making the case for responsible advertising. Not that they will necessarily win in the long term, of course, but at least they have long recognised their need to protect the freedom to advertise. It's time the rest of the advertising and marketing industry joined them in force.

* WHEN YOU can't even show superlative ads like the Egg ones any more, perhaps it's not surprising that we Brits didn't do too well at last week's advertising festival in Cannes. With a regulatory climate that is increasingly iron-fisted, there's less chance of creativity flourishing. Or at least that's a comforting excuse as most UK creatives slunk back to their desks this week with only a tan and a tired liver to show for their excursion to the south of France.

For those who have never been to adland's Cannes, a brief picture of what you missed last week: hired villas that cost the price of a new car to rent for the week; multi-million pound yachts complete with crew, pitched up on the waterfront for parties after a day's sailing with mates and clients from the business; ¿100 for a modest round of drinks; some of the best designer shopping on the Continent; the superlative Colombe d'Or restaurant in the hills (if you don't dine there at least once during the festival you're a loser).

It's all gloriously extravagant and, yes, not entirely justifiable. But whereas Cannes used to be an annual Soho on sea, now it bears little relation to adland habits at home. British advertising is relentlessly hard-working, cost-conscious and business-focused for 51 weeks of the year. Seven days in Cannes (if you can survive that long) is a much needed release valve.

And there's a whole other side to Cannes. The festival itself is jam packed with seminars on the issues of the day (digital, digital and, erm, digital), punctuated by probably the most important awards ceremonies on the advertising planet. Which is why it's so disappointing that we didn't shine. OK, we did win a few things. DDB, which seems to enter more categories than anyone else, predictably scooped more awards, too. The reigning IPA Effectiveness Agency of the Year proved that great creative ideas also sell products by adding a Grand Prix and several silvers and bronzes to its trophy cabinet. Most were for it's wonderful work for Harvey Nichols, a series of press ads that combine style, wit and intelligence.

But it was a far from vintage year. The resounding message was that the rest of the world is catching up. Perhaps UK agencies are far too preoccupied with navel-gazing the future, with how to redraw the advertising model, go digital, get integrated, become strategic, that they're smothering creative risk-taking. Less sophisticated advertising markets have greater freedom to set creativity soaring and scoring.

* IT'SHEARTENING that in a week of creative mediocrity the ad industry should be celebrating the impending birth of a new agency, a new advertising approach. Three of the industry's brightest young execs are breaking away from the claustrophobia of the big network to start a fresh new agency.

James Murphy, Ben Priest and David Golding, the chief executive, creative director and planning director of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, are waving goodbye to fat pay checks, ball-breaking profits targets and the heavy holding company breath on the back of their necks.

They don't have any clients yet, they won't even confirm their plans and they've probably got months of protracted exit negotiations with their paymaster, Sir Martin Sorrell, ahead of them. But come next January adland should see the emergence of a new type of advertising agency with these three at the helm.

My reckoning is that their new approach will be thoroughly, unhierarchically, multi-disciplined, with a creative ethos that applies well beyond physical advertising execution. It's the most exciting news to hit the agency scene all year and, hopefully, it will spur a new generation of agencies keen to rebuild what is essentially a decaying business model. I doubt there is anyone - Sir Martin Sorrell aside, perhaps - who doesn't wish them luck.

* TALKING OF Sir Martin, he is affectionately known in adland as 21/6: the shortest knight. But in the latest batch of birthday honours the industry got another royal thumbs up. First up, a creative gong, a knighthood for John Hegarty – whose contribution to British creativity helped put London firmly at the centre of the advertising world. Hegarty is the genius behind some of our best-loved ads and absolutely deserving of the first ever knighthood for an advertising creative.

Next comes egg-head Leslie Butterfield of the Ingram Partnership - a man whose prodigious pen has furnished the industry with some of its most thought-provoking tracts (Excellence in Advertising, Advalue). And then John Ayling, whose long-awaited OBE is in recognition of his services to the charity Lord's Taverners.

It's good to see that, though the ad industry gets a regular kicking from the fat-obsessed authorities, the Queen likes us.

>Beale's best in show shreddies by mccann-erickson

The last time I nominated an ad from McCann-Erickson as Best in Show the agency lost the business a few weeks later. No reflection on the work, of course, simply a ridiculously over-sensitive client who worried about the agency handling a rival account in another country.

That's the thing with clients, great creative work isn't often enough. Let's hope Cereal Partners is more objective, because McCanns has delivered a belter for them. Cereal advertising is so often worthy, guilt-inducing, dull. This is sweet, funny, really quite bizarre.

Shreddies, you see, aren't churned out on a factory production line. They're knitted by nannas. A granny lovingly hand knits each and every one. Which the ad says is why they taste so great, but I think might explain why they taste like old socks. It is a lovely twist on the genre and might even encourage children to tuck in. But is it just me, or does the end line " Eat Up. We'll knit more" sound like a threat?

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