Good Ad Bad Ad
In which a leading advertising expert picks some of the best and worst around. This week, Greg Delaney, chairman and joint creative director of the agency Delaney Fletcher Bozell on television commercials high and low
Monday 24 February 1997
Rainey Kelly Campbell and Roalfe
There's a guy sitting on a bench. Someone shuts a window somewhere above him, causing a statue to break off the building and plummet towards him. The guy is joined on the bench by the Grim Reaper who taps him on the shoulder, pointing upwards to the plummeting statue. We then go into a sequence where the guy's life flashes before him. The things they've chosen to put into this ad are interesting: there's a lot of sexual activity, and naturally a lot of travel shots. We see him playing golf on top of a building, skinny-dipping in the bath with what look like two naked girls, and wearing make-up - a reminder of Richard Branson dressing up as a bride to launch his wedding service.
It's all a lot of fun, and that's the Virgin difference: they've brought in rock 'n' roll values against the stuffy, British, efficient and quality image of BA. Virgin are saying they're more in the entertainment business than the travel business. The brand represents the free spirit, so it's wholly appropriate that it offers enjoyment as opposed to merely getting from A to B, and I applaud the lack of aeroplanes and more mundane aspects of travel. At the end of the ad a lot of destinations flash up, which says: it's a big world out there, and we can help you get out there and start enjoying it.
It's like a wish-list for lads - travel, crazy times, scantily clad women - as if the guy had walked into the ad straight out of Loaded, which might put some people off. It is a deliberate attempt not to please everybody, though, and if you don't want to have a good time then there are alternatives to Virgin. But the best thing about the ad is that it's very watchable: there's a lot in it, and so its life as an ad is longer. As for the end line, "When your life flashes before your eyes, make sure you've got plenty to watch": it's funny and true, and the target audience will agree with it.
J Walter Thompson
A gospel choir stands on a hillside on a beautiful sunny morning singing "Oh What A Beautiful Morning", clutching bowls and packets of cornflakes. It comes from the school of advertising that says that everything is made more perfect by the product concerned, and it gives advertising a bad name.
People often object to the so-called hard-sell that's used in, say, washing powder adverts, but it's this kind of soft-sell that I object to - ads that tell me how wonderful everything is. People are less and less interested in being told beguiling untruths about a product, and want advertising to be more honest. There's a voice-over that says, "It takes 140 days of sunshine to make every morning as beautiful as this", but we know that every morning isn't going to be beautiful just because we've had a bowl of cornflakes. There then follows what I call the "cornography" - that old shot of milk splashing over the cornflakes.
Basically, it's daft, and the choir, standing on a hillside eating their cornflakes, look stupid: we know these people have been paid to stand there and sing. It treats me like an idiot. Maybe it's a prejudice of mine that adverts should speak the truth, but I really don't like the idea of exaggerating everyday life without some admission, even humorously, that we know life isn't this good. Imagine this ad doing the life-flashing- in-front-of-you sequence, like Virgin: it would be a sanitised, Stepford Wives version. It's about time these ads spoke about things that concern us, and stopped indulging in glossy fantasy
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