Good Ad Bad Ad

In which a leading advertising expert picks some of the best and worst around. This week, Steve Henry, creative partner of the agency Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury, on television commercials high and low



People are normally critical of car ads - and there are a lot of bad ones, it's true - but I've been pleasantly surprised by a lot that are around at the minute. I like the Peugeot 406 commercial, the Volkswagen Passat ads with the test dummies, the Fiesta "faces" spots and the Nissan Sweeney spoof, but this BMW spot really stands out.

I don't know how the director has achieved the look, but it's incredibly striking visually, and spot-on for the BMW brand - aspirational and beautiful. It starts with a voice-over saying "Every car has a soundtrack - here's ours", and we then hear the sound of a car engine. But if anything lets this ad down, it's that; it's called "music", and yet more could have been done with the soundtrack.

But it's very brave, because car dealers have the view that to shift metal, you have to show metal. There are so many formulas and cliches about showing cars in adverts, and this breaks with them. The ad is basically a series of short vignettes, in which the images are manipulated and distorted either by using lenses or shooting into mirrors, or in post-production. These techniques have been around for a while, but here they've been used in a way that's fresh and extraordinary - especially for this market-place.

The Nissan Infinity was launched in the States about 10 years ago with a series of ads that didn't show the car at all, and that perhaps went too far too early. People felt it was an experiment that hadn't worked, but they are still talked about even now. It's become a challenge to see how well advertisers can evoke what the car is about without showing itn

Tic Tac

Ferrero Confectionery (in-house)

Lots of ads try new things that don't quite come off, but I won't criticise those, because after all it's trying new things that pushes the industry on. Instead, I'm picking a commercial which is predictable, advertising-by-the-book stuff.

This is another ad from the house of Ferrero Rocher - the people who brought you "the Ambassador's reception". It stars a woman who is unreally beautiful and, I imagine, instantly annoying to all women watching. She has a Stepford Wife, game-show-bimbo look about her, and she talks us through a number of Germanic-logical reasons to suck Tic Tacs - the calories in each one, how long your fresh breath will last ... it's all very off- putting. She says that a Tic Tac lasts two hours; following that logic it would take her about six weeks to finish the pack, which wouldn't do very much for sales.

It's as if it's from a pre-feminist time-warp - it reminded me of American ads of the Fifties. It's insulting to real people, and I imagine every word and every camera angle has been mandated. It's a shame, as Tic Tac is interesting and quirky as a brand: it's been around a long time, and BMP has done some good work for it in the past.

There are lots of ads out there which, because all the formulaic boxes have been ticked, become invisible, but this stands out. Maybe it will become a cult classic, like "the Ambassador's reception". That's its only hopen

Interview by Scott Hughes

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