Mark Wnek On Advertising

Don't you just love it when a good plan comes together?
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The Independent Online

Bloody good week for the Adguru (as I am now styling myself). I couldn't help but notice that the much-maligned Harry Hill Boots Christmas ad campaign from those wonderful Mother boys and girls - and championed by this column - contributed to a bumper Christmas of sales. Merrill Lynch says Boots had the best Christmas of any large general retailer in terms of sales growth. Well done chaps - and Boots CEO Richard Baker. I love it when a good plan starts coming together.

Bloody good week for the Adguru (as I am now styling myself). I couldn't help but notice that the much-maligned Harry Hill Boots Christmas ad campaign from those wonderful Mother boys and girls - and championed by this column - contributed to a bumper Christmas of sales. Merrill Lynch says Boots had the best Christmas of any large general retailer in terms of sales growth. Well done chaps - and Boots CEO Richard Baker. I love it when a good plan starts coming together.

Not to be outdone, one of my favourite former clients and now group CEO of WHSmith, Kate Swann - a diamond-bright lady for whom the word "feisty" might have been invented - "stunned" the City with figures which, though sales were 1 per cent down on last Christmas, delivered increased profits - and that's despite an advertising campaign "starring" an animated worm (don't ask). Everyone seems to have been putting the boot in on Kate since the second she arrived at Smith's - even though most of what was wrong with the place had nothing to do with her. Did I say I love it when a good plan starts coming together?

Meanwhile, my Wnek's Best in Show from 13 December - production company Great Guns' spoof exposé of traffic wardens, AppealNow.com - won the top prize at the recent inaugural Viral Awards. My favourite review of the night was by Emily from eatmail.tv - it reminded me of my NME reading days: "Last night, I attended the super fabulous Viral Awards. Got twatted. Now I'm suffering. Still, I don't suppose Courtney Love attends the Grammys and sips mineral water all night. Aside from the ridiculous amounts of alcohol consumed, there were plenty of awards to be doled out. Our personal highlights were Trojan Games, Precious for Pot Noodle, TBWA recruitment and the BSM clip. But the one that stood up and spanked our collective arses was AppealNow. Genius."

It seems virals have reached the "tipping point" and that the young people increasingly lost to TV advertisers have found a medium they love. Unless, of course, Emily turns out to be a 52-year-old postmistress.

On the subject of virals, have you seen the VW Polo one, where a suicide bomber parks in front of a café in a Polo with explosives packed around his body? As he presses the button to set off his bomb, we cut to outside the Polo. All we hear is a muffled 'boof!' as the windows of the Polo go red from the inside. Other than that, the Polo is intact. Endline: Polo. Small but tough. I can't see how leveraging one of the most tragic consequences of our planet's social turmoil can ever be acceptable as an advertising tool. At the same time as I'm disgusted by what I've seen, I am shocked to find the professional adman and consumer expert in me nodding along to what has been an extraordinarily clever and unforgettable product demonstration. Such is the dubious power - but power nonetheless - of a media channel with zero content regulation. As a middle-aged father, fearful of the kind of world my children are about to enter, maybe my stomach simply isn't strong enough for this kind of marketing.

But there's no doubt that the advertising industry's regulation-beleaguered creative community loves the scope virals give one to produce ideas without some plonker from the BACC or Ofcom rugby-tackling you at the slightest whiff of bum, nipple or expletive.

* Andrew Hovells, 31, account planner at The Publicity Bureau in Doncaster thanks me by e-mail for my support for the deceptively clever and undeniably super-effective First Alternative campaign starring Michael Winner. He says he loves the ad industry and is "dismayed at our self-indulgent trade press that seems far removed from the real world".

* Unlike proper journalists, I'm hugely susceptible to flattery, so I'm delighted to plug The Publicity Bureau at Railway Court. No cosy hole in the corner operation this, but a dynamic place, billing £40m with clients like DFS and Netto. Call them on 01302 730303, and if Hovells is anything to go by, they can be guaranteed to do a fantastic job. I'd back them against a bunch of overcharging, hand-on-hip, pony-tailed, Soho-dwelling cappuccino chasers any day of the week.

There's always another chance in this game

This journalism lark is fab. Have you noticed how you can write one week that, for instance, Chelsea haven't got a hope in hell of buying the Premiership, and then write that they're shoo-ins to win it the next, and what's anyone going to do about it?

The only people in the ad game who can get away with that kind of thing are researchers, who get paid to tell you that a given ad is going to tank and then, when the client decides to run the ad anyway and it's a massive success, get paid again to tell you why it did so brilliantly. Nice work if you can get it.

Humble pie is rarely on the menu at Grub Street or Research, er, Avenue. But I am swallowing a mouthful this week on the subject of Nik Studzinski, creative director of Publicis. I was on a bit of a grumpy anti-youth kick a couple of weeks ago while writing about the outgoing Publicis creative whiz, Gerry Moira (on the subject of Moira, the joke doing the rounds at Euro RSCG is that every time Gerry and Ben Langdon have a tête-à-tête, they get mistaken for Dolly Parton's cleavage), and bad-mouthed some of Publicis's creative work. A lot of people then told me that actually the work has got a lot better under Nik and I should check it out. I did and particularly liked what he's doing on, among other things, Renault, Garnier, McVitie's and, particularly, believe it or not, Bounty.

I then rang Studzinski, expecting a slap round the face with a cold fish: in fact, he was charming and I have become a fan. Crap journalism, but a happy ending.

Send your libels, complaints and fan mail to mark@adguru.co.uk

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