Good Ad Bad Ad

In which a leading advertising expert picks some of the best and worst around. This week, Robert Bean, chairman at Bean Andrews Norways Cramphorn, on television commercials
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TBWA Simons Palmer


Saatchi and Saatchi

is such a hot, cool brand - if that's not a contradiction in terms - but here it is with an advert open to all-comers. It sounds like a pretty mainstream strategy.

The camera goes into a mass of Sunday league football players on a field marked out with lots of pitches, and the film freezes at the point when, in a crowd of ordinary, overweight blokes with ill-fitting faded yellow shirts, you suddenly see Eric Cantona. And then the camera freezes on Ian Wright, David Seaman and Robbie Fowler. But the really great thing about this ad is the backing track - Blur's "Parklife" - which is relevant to playing in the park, and which is really entertaining to listen to as you watch this rather gangly game of football.

The end-line is: "Whatever league you're in." What the ad shows is something we can all relate to: we're all able to see ourselves on one of those pitches, and we've all got ill-fitting faded yellow shirts. And in the faces of your team mates or, better still, the competition, is someone like Eric Cantona or Ian Wright. Bringing these immortals down to mortal level is a really inclusive thing to do. But it's also a very dangerous trick for such a cool brand to play, because it runs the risk of ending up talking about the ordinary. But they pull it off magnificently: it's funny, witty, well-shot, relevant, entertaining and sharp. And still maintains its ability to draw the biggest talents for its advertising.

There's also an ad for Sky's football coverage around at the moment, which says: "We know how you feel. We feel the same way." This is saying the same thing about , but in a much more subtle, but no less powerful, way.

This opens with an impossibly good-looking bloke sweeping a floor in a big office - so you know in the first few seconds that something is wrong. The ad then cuts to a computer screen that seems to be on the blink, and the office sweeper hits the top of the computer as though to correct the picture. But by some extraordinary linkage, the Russian president and then the American president appear, saying, "It's alarm time - should we press the button to let off the bombs?" We see a map, various explosions occur and, finally, a green rubbery Martian comes through the office wall. The office sweeper tells him to shove off, before stopping to have a drink of his Carlsberg.

I've seen this commercial four times now, and I think I got more confused each time. My only idea is that Carlsberg may be playing on its famous property - the word "probably" - and it's left to the audience, as they try to figure out what caused all the mayhem, to say: "Probably, it was when he hit the top of the computer - it must have sent lots of signals to the White House or the Kremlin saying `You're under attack'." But even if it was that, I haven't the first idea of what it has to do with beer of any sort.

It seems that the problem of product parity is exacerbated in the beer sector - and has been for a number of years. Each beer is trying harder and harder, using wacky techniques and over-elaborate storytelling, to stand out from all the others and, as a result, I find most beer advertising very kooky. This Carlsberg ad is a good example of that, and I think it does the advertising industry a disservice. If there is a question mark hanging over the industry at the moment - and I think there is - trying harder and going further is not the answer n

Interview by Scott Hughes