Good Ad Bad Ad: In which a leading advertising expert picks some of the best and worst around. This week, John Bacon, executive creative director of the agency Foote Cone Belding, on television commercials high and low
Monday 19 May 1997
This is the second time the has made a really beguiling ad - the first was one called "Letters of Love", and ran a few years ago. This is a treat too, and it really takes you by surprise.
It starts in the back of a chauffeur-driven car, where a lady mayoress- type figure is sitting with a man who could be her assistant, or even her son. She starts to recite a list of things he'll need to do - take a mirror, and a crucifix, and do everything during the day - and you wonder what's going on. He then suggests adding silver bullets to the list, but the woman says: "No, Brian - that's for a werewolf."
Then he suggests a wooden stake, and the woman says "I'd take several", before telling him to "drive it right through his heart". Brian asks what'll happen if he misses. She says: "Well, let's put it this way, Brian: you won't be getting a second chance." There's then a shot of four special stamps celebrating famous horror tales - Dracula, Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Hound of the Baskervilles - followed by the end-line "Stamps Stimulate".
Stamps are pretty bloody dull really, but this ad has a great sense of fun. You think of all the cliches they could have gone with, but they've sidestepped all of them; instead they've re-examined the vernacular of Hammer Horror films. I thought this ad was genuinely subversive, and I can't wait for the next onen
I suppose this ad is trying to take the high ground, but it's high ground that is utterly irrelevant and mind-numbingly pompous. It's a waste of the client's money and my time (it's about two minutes long).
It's a series of talking heads, each giving their thoughts on the role of technology in the future. It's the sort of corporate guff I'd expect from a large computer company; equally, it could be from a car giant.
The first person is someone from the Centre of Advanced Technology in New York, followed by a man from the Science Museum. After that comes someone from the Henley Centre, then a woman from USA Networks who rather alarmingly looks like one of the Spice Girls, and then an environmental adviser. At the end a Japanese pundit comes up, subtitled, but by that time you've lost the will to live. The end-line is "Welcome to the future in motion", followed by an 0800 number - I'd be interested to know how many calls they got on the back of that.
And in between the heads there's all this pointless footage: overhead shots of New York and Chicago, a woman wandering through a London cityscape, American railroads, and street-life in Japan. But what has any of this got to do with the RAC? I could forgive it a lot if any of it was interesting, but it's all so pompous. Obviously, the RAC is setting out its stall to have an opinion on all aspects of technology. But buying membership of a motoring organisation is a distress purchase, and what you want to hear is practical stuff.
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