Good Ad Bad Ad
In which a leading advertising expert picks some of the best and worst around. Mark Reddy, head of art, BMP-DDB, thinks the best ads are those with a grain of truth in them. Interview by Scott Hughes.
Monday 26 January 1998
Bartle Bogle Hegarty
We open on a Mediterranean hillside, where there is a family working hard in the midday sun. An old woman, standing by a tree, looks at us knowingly, and flings a ladder down in front of her, before falling flat herself by the side of it. Family members swarm around, wondering what's going on. We then cut to another matron, who looks around furtively, and, with a mirror in front of her, dabs blobs of red on her face. On seeing her, nearby children scream and run in the other direction.
We then see the whole family gathering around a fabulous array of food, before a lady at one end of the table pushes herself back from it, falling down as if stricken with some mysterious disease. Then, while everyone is looking at her, the matron at the other end of the table picks up a ladle and hits herself over the head with it.
So what are the old dears doing? The voice-over says: "One reason people live longer in the Mediterranean is their diet. Fresh fish, vegetables and olive oil help keep them healthy. So sometimes, they need to visit their doctor for other reasons" - at which point we see the women lined up in a doctor's waiting room, beaming beatifically. The surgery door opens, and there stands a handsome Adonis of a doctor, 25 if he's a day, with black curly hair.
It's slightly old-fashioned in a way, but I think that's why I found it engaging. We've got used to seeing this welter of car adverts, with spectacular effects but very thin plots, so it's reassuring to find in amongst these commercials a nice, well-wrought story. And it's not just the story that's well-wrought: it's exquisitely cast, and the costumes, sets, photography and music are fabulous, too. It all adds up to a very substantial film.
McCain rising pizza
Bartle Bogle Hegarty
This opens with an archetypal commercial character on the phone, saying: "In half an hour? Great." We then cut to an old lady, who's preparing a McCain pizza in her oven at home, and before our eyes she dons a black leather jacket and motorcycling helmet. She then somersaults out like Bruce Lee - and lands on an old Norton motorbike. She's become the pizza delivery man.
The voice-over says: "Because the new McCain Rising Pizza rises in your own home for that fresh-baked taste..." and pauses, at which point we come back to Gran, screeching to a halt on the bike outside a terraced house. She runs up to the front door, and the chap who we saw in the first frame (obviously the grandson), takes the pizza - before the voice-over concludes: "...it's the pizza that really delivers."
Puns are dangerous things to do in advertising, because you need a very, very good one to make an interesting or thrilling commercial. This one - "It's the pizza that really delivers" - is terribly laboured, to put it mildly. Basically, the ad has no veracity; we've seen all the imagery here before.
And, whereas the ad casts old people with great style and understanding, this is a very crass, cliched use of an old person. You can half imagine the creative team saying "Let's dress an old lady up in biking leathers. That's really anarchic." The more creative thing to do, as in the ad, is to take real characters, find a really good story, direct it exquisitely, and rely on human observations. The best commercials, I think, are those with a little grain of truth in them.
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