Good Ad Bad Ad
In which a leading advertising expert picks some of the best and worst around. This week Giles Keeble, creative director of McBains, writes on television commercials high and low
Monday 09 June 1997
This stands out as a decent third ad in a nicely put together campaign. It's a fresh way of advertising in a category not known for terrifically creative work. It features a female cat doing her damnedest to attract the attention of a tom and failing, because he is so immersed in his bowl of .
This follows a tradition of advertising begun by a famous Australian ad, in which a budgerigar sits on the edge of a cat's dish and the cat just carries on eating. You might also call it a feline version of that Fosters Haagen-Dazs spoof, in which a man who's been smearing ice-cream over his partner goes to the fridge for more, but then spies a can of Fosters and goes off to drink that instead.
The last few years have seen a number of attempts to break out of the pet food formula - the cat and dog form of the testimonial - but sometimes things break out of formula and are no more effective. The combination of photography and use of music makes this ad very watchable, and helps it to get its point across. I think the "catisfaction" line at the end is a bit off-kilter with the style of advertising, but I suppose that means that when these particular commercials are dead and buried it can be preceded by a different kind of ad.
I can only speculate as to where the idea came from, but my guess is that it is inspired by the opening of the great Saul Bass's film, Walk On The Wild Side. It's very stylish, and the fact that it's for cat food makes it even more remarkable.
J Walter Thompson
My bad ad, which I nominate reluctantly because there are so many candidates, is the most recent one for Chicken Tonight. This is difficult territory, because the original Chicken Tonight commercial is the kind of advertising that is so insultingly loud and intrusive that you know it is probably deemed a success in terms of what it must have done for sales and distribution. Nevertheless, it obviously got through to the client eventually, via research, that it was irritating, so now they feel they're being terribly clever and understanding by admitting it.
It's self-referential, like a lot of advertising, but to admit you've made a bad ad - presumably to get yourself back into the good books of housewives everywhere - is inversely patronising. If you're going to do a piss-take, you look at what's been going on on TV or in the movies; you don't celebrate bad advertising. The original ad was the kind that gives the industry a bad name, and this new one is irritating simply by being crass.
So we now have the Chicken Tonight chefs singing terrible songs off-key. Every mass-produced food seems to have its "chefs" (how does this get through the ITC?) But they're great chefs, you understand - just tone deaf - and then comes the really clever bit: the original music is reintroduced (in case we had forgotten the brand association) and we get the line "Great chicken. Lousy music". What is going on out there? My primary emotion on seeing this film was one of acute embarrassment - for the client, for the creative team and for the business. For the moment, I'm going to tell people that I'm a politician.
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