Claire Beale on Advertising

Rotten 2012 Olympics logo will struggle to hook corporate wallets
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The Independent Online

An iconic rendering of four key brand pillars: access, participation, stimulation, inspiration. Or Lisa Simpson performing oral sex? The official press release would have us believe the former. The cynics are sticking firmly with the latter. Frankly, who cares? Only seven days after the dah-dah launch of the London Olympics logo and all it really means is a joke: a brightly coloured jigsaw of shattered pride.

A joke that's no longer funny. The nation's sport is spent. Oh, we've laughed. We've cried. We've blogged. The Sun reckons a monkey could do better. An online petition to "Change the London Logo" attracted more than 48,000 signatures in less than 48 hours.

The farrago over the 2012 logo has been one of the biggest PR own-goals in recent memory. The media has been roundly, joyfully, critical. The punters wasted no time raising their digital voices. And the professionals who reckon they know a thing or two about branding and design have been almost universally dismayed.

Now, 6 July 2005 seems rather a long time ago doesn't it? Winning the Olympic bid drew firmly on some of Britain's world-beating marketing nous. No doubt about it: slick packaging, a thick slathering of style over the substance, some great advertising, a damn fine PR drive and some good old-fashioned flesh pressing played no small part in landing the 2012 games for the Capital. Our best-known communications mogul, Sir Martin Sorrell, was at Seb Coe's side when it was all announced. Yes, this was a classic pitch and we won it.

So it's no surprise that so many in the advertising and marketing industries have felt so let down by the visual summation of all that feverish pride. And as the official Olympics partners unleashed their own advertising last week, parading their support of the games, there was a tangible sheepishness about having to slap the distinctly unaesthetic logo on to their own beautifully crafted ads.

There's a cliché in adland of a constant tension between clients who want their logos to dominate their ads and creatives who want their work to run unsullied by anything as clumsy as the client logo. Finally, though, both sides seem to have found common ground: the use of the official Olympics logo was mercifully minute on most of the sponsors' ads last week.

It's a rotten logo. Not entirely as bad as most people are relishing saying. And not nearly as bad as some from recent Olympics past (there's a gallery of old logos on MSN). But not nearly good enough to do justice to the richness of our creative industries.

The fault does not entirely lie with the design agency - Wolff Olins - that conceived the logo. Actually, they came up with a rather elegant design for the 2004 Athens Olympics. But I suspect that this £400,000, 12-month decision-by-committee has fallen foul of that most modern of diseases: the desire - exercised most dangerously by people who aren't - to appear modern.

It's all neon nu-rave revival, a sort of stuffed shirt's view of what the graffiti-literate young kids on the street might like (in five years‚ time?). It's supposed to be "dynamic, modern, flexible reflecting a brand-savvy world where people, especially young people, no longer relate to static logos but respond to a dynamic brand that works with new technology and across traditional and new media networks."

You can't fault the thinking, though its expression is pure uncle-dancing-at-a-wedding; today's logos do need to work in motion and across media. And it avoids the clichéd soft, curly, cutesy logos that are currently wearily familiar. It's bold, brave, different. But the aim of the logo (any logo) is to symbolise a brand's emotions, values; there's nothing here that plays to the enormous strengths of London's existing brand values - surely a wasted opportunity.

More important, though, than all this jabbing at aesthetics, this particular logo also needs to attract serious commercial investment. The London 2012 logo is the core representation not just of sporting hopes but of commercial ambitions. With public ridicule off the barometer, what are the chances of the 2012 Olympic logo helping hook corporate wallets?

* If you haven't haven't gathered, social networking sites are the latest marketing frontier. And Facebook is fast becoming the one to back.

In the last few months, Facebook has thrown open its registration box beyond university campuses, it's started taking banner ads and sponsored messages. Now Apple and H&M are launching branded groups on the network and purists are crying foul: yet another charmingly uncommercial website is falling prey to the cold fingers of commercialism.

Actually, there are plenty of commercial companies already pasted all over Facebook, though many of them in far from positive contexts. Take the Homebase network, populated by a healthy number of the DIY chain's workers from across the country: "I'm glad it pissed down on Bank holiday Monday, I didn't have to serve any customers for hours" or "how do we go on strike? I need more money".

There's no doubt that Facebook is today's Big Thing on the UK web. Its user profile is older (for which read a bit wealthier) than MySpace, it's attracting more networks built around workforces (from Homebase to PriceWaterhouse Coopers) and so it's ripe for a commercial tickling.

At the moment it's third in the UK's social network league. MySpace has an audience of 6.8 million, Bebo has 3.6 million, Facebook currently trails with 2.7 million, but has grown by 500 per cent in six months.

So Apple and H&M will no doubt find their fans amongst the Facebookers and, this being a networking site, those fans will tell their friends and the seeded and subtle commercial messages will grow into big fat peer endorsements.

The trouble is that by the time most advertisers have cottoned on to the Facebook opportunity, the Facebook community will be on to the Next Big Thing.

Interesting news that Unilever's global media chief Alan Rutherford is off to head the full service digital agency Digitas, part of the mighty Publicis Groupe empire.

Nine years inside one of the world's biggest advertisers will have given Rutherford an almost unique insight into the demands and opportunities for mainstream brands in the digital space. So, though he has his detractors and as far as I know has about as much creative sensibility as, well, a fast moving consumer goods marketer, it's easy to see why he was the fancied candidate.

And easy to see, too, why Rutherford might want to quit grinding media agencies down on fee negotiations to flex his talents in the digital space. He'll now be responsible for driving the Digitas brand into new territories, particularly Asia and South America.

In the week that global talent managers Kendall Tarrant changed their name to The Talent Business and launched in New York, Rutherford's appointment is also evidence that – since genuine stars are thin on the ground – agencies are having to take a cross-discipline and global perspective on their search for the best people.

Beale's best in show: Robinson's by BBH

I can't quite shake the idea of Robinson's as a drink for tennis stars who never win anything. But the latest batch of cute animation ads from Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) do a fair job of drowning out all thoughts of Tim Henman.

Beautifully drawn, this campaign tells the story of how the natural goodness of fruit is harnessed by Robinson's to make a healthy drink for children, and how Robinson's' fruity water is one way of encouraging children to drink more H2O. Which we all sort of know. Where these ads really score, though, is by ditching anything preachy or guilt-inducing in favour of seduction by sheer, simple charm.

The animation is superb: sweet, gentle, lovely music and voice-over and it's guaranteed to get your children watching. And the softness stands out against the usual background of ad break frenzy. The endline, too, is simple and elegant and nail-head precise: "Raise them on Robinson's". Funny to note that the Robinson's ads are running at the same time that Asda launches its milk commercials with Paul Whitehouse; they're not allowed to run in children's programming because the fat content of milk contravenes the junk food ad ban.

I only hope Robinson's don't now go and ruin it all by unleashing another Wimbledon toe-curler.