Good Ad Bad Ad

In which a leading advertising expert picks some of the best and worst around. This week, Larry Barker, creative director of the agency WCRS, on television commercials high and low
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Fairy Liquid

Grey Advertising

The first thing to bear in mind is what the product is, and the history of its advertising. Proctor and Gamble, the client here, is known for always producing awful work, and we all know that detergent ads are the worst ones around.

But this ad stands head and shoulders above the competition. A little boy is building a rocket out of cardboard and plastic; he's got to wait for his mother to finish a bottle of so that he can use it to make the nose-cone. It still uses the positive selling point - that it lasts longer than other liquids - but it's dramatised in an original way: the kid is disappointed that it's lasting so long because he's impatient to finish his rocket.

It's shot on video rather than film, which people usually say means you don't get a quality feel, but this makes the ad very intimate - you really believe this kid. There are no lingering shots of washing-up, or of grease coming off dishes, or of mothers photographed through Vaselined lenses. The casting is brilliant, the kid acts very well, and the use of the mother is very restrained - there's just one cutaway to her looking proudly at her son. There's also a great ending: it cuts to "one week later", and the boy shouting "We have lift-off!", rather than the usual shot of glistening white china.

These ads have worked in the past by bludgeoning the consumer, but this one actually makes you feel good about the product rather than forcing you to buy it. It's a shining example of what can be done in this sector, and should be clonedn

Lombard Direct

The Media Business Direct

A man comes in to breakfast with his family and sits down on a child's squeaky toy. This somehow reminds him that he's got to get to the bank and "sort out that loan". A cartoon phone dances on telling him to phone Lombard Direct. It then drifts into details of the service.

What's so depressing about this ad is the paucity of ideas. The client must have gone to the agency and asked for something equivalent to the Direct Line red telephone, because that made the Direct Line bloke millions of pounds - and so the creatives imaginatively came up with a blue telephone. It's awful, cheap, 1960s-looking animation, and is really just pathetic plagiarism.

The ad contains the worst acting I've ever seen in my life: the guy is supposed to look at this telephone with shock and surprise, and does a hammy double-take. I suppose the cutaways to a giggling baby are meant to add charm. The worst thing about it, though, is the unreality of it - how often have you ever been reminded to sort out a loan by sitting on a child's toy?

Again, they've gone for the bludgeon approach; it's on a lot. People will remember an ad they keep on seeing, but it doesn't mean they will go for the product or service being advertised. It's an insult when something ghastly like this interrupts your television viewing, and it makes me wince every time I see it. What it amounts to is that Lombard Direct spending millions of pounds on annoying peoplen

Interview by Scott Hughes

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