Good Ad Bad Ad

In which a leading advertising expert picks some of the best and worst around. This week, Tim Ashton, executive creative director at Bates Dorland, on television commercials high and low
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This is a pair of ads, and they represent everything I like about advertising. I wouldn't change a thing about them; in fact, if you changed even the slightest thing, they wouldn't be as good. Here, less is genuinely more, and the casting and performances are brilliant.

Each ad has the same idea behind it, and the same end-line - "Surprisingly ordinary prices". The first features a dentist doing a check-up on a patient with his assistant, trying to get him to open his mouth wider, and wider still. Then the dentist says "I bought a Golf GTI the other day - it only cost pounds 14,650", and the patient's mouth finally opens wide enough. The second has a woman sitting in her kitchen reading a newspaper, suffering with the hiccups. She happens to glance at an advert in the paper for the Polo, and her hiccups are cured.

What the ads are saying is that when you come across how incredibly cheap it is to buy a , it is enough to shock you. And, like all good ads, they're based on truth: shock does make your mouth gape open, and is the best way to cure hiccups.

These ads are car ads in name only. They exist because of some crystal- clear, "consumer-like" thinking. And, presumably, because of an open-minded, brave client. The ads also don't feature any cars - there are no shots of cars driving down long country lanes, no sunsets, no rock tracks, and no cutaways to plush interiors. They just throw one idea at the consumer - that a isn't as expensive as you'd think. The idea is so blindingly simple that you or I could have written and directed these ads, but we didn't, goddammitn

Carling Premier


This features everything I hate about advertising. It's a waste of money for the client, who announced that it was launching a new lager called Carling Premier, and that one of the things that had come out of its research was that this lager kept its head while being drunk.

There is little to say in beer advertising; you have to find the point to concentrate on and make the most of it. But this ad uses the most vacuous of puns: "The pint that keeps its head". The first part of the pun doesn't work for me, and the other implies that the world is losing its head. But it isn't: you could argue that since the end of the Cold War, it's been more stable than ever.

The ad was shot in LA, and is a string of Levi's-type cliches. The soundtrack is "California Dreaming" by The Mamas and The Papas, which has already been used in hundreds of commercials, and the casting and visuals are cliched too. The plot is so weak that we have to have a radio voice-over at the beginning: "The water crisis continues."

We see a guy walking through downtown LA meets Tropicana beach, among Avedon-like, art-directed, vested models. We witness the trade of an illegal drug called H2O - geddit? - and see a man in a peepshow booth looking at a tap dripping. The guy goes on walking, past a cinema image of waves crashing, before climbing up a water tower to a bar where a woman is pouring beer.

The budget was probably about pounds 0.5m, and I imagine it was a wonderful shoot, but the commercial is rubbish

Compiled by Scott Hughes