Mark Wnek on Advertising

First Alternative is a Winner despite 'Marketing' cynicism

Andy Brown has just become famous. Brown is the marketing head of insurer First Alternative, whose motor insurance commercials, famously fronted by Michael Winner, have just come top of
Marketing magazine's Most Irritating Ads of 2004 league.

Andy Brown has just become famous. Brown is the marketing head of insurer First Alternative, whose motor insurance commercials, famously fronted by Michael Winner, have just come top of Marketing magazine's Most Irritating Ads of 2004 league.

The commercials are the ones with Winner waddling about in front of a row of cars parked outside a country house and getting into an argument with a girl over whether or not she's his sister. Brown is my kind of client. He doesn't care what anyone thinks about his advertising other than the 90,000 policyholders who have signed up with First Alternative since the commercial first ran five or six months ago.

I'm not surprised that these ads, like their predecessors for sister company Esure, are successful. Winner is a brilliantly salient spokesperson and the work has a bumbling DIY quality which gives a sense of honest brokerdom: there's nothing slick and soapy here.

In an advertising environment ruled by a creative aesthetic aimed at those living and working within a five-mile radius of London's Soho - an aesthetic slavishly and disgracefully pandered to by the numpties on the trade journals - Brown, and those like him, should be given a special award for serious, grown-up marketing and a bumper pay rise.

When David Fincher, director of Seven and The Game, shot Alien3, he said that he made the movie for his 12 best friends, so he didn't care who else liked it. Not surprisingly, this didn't go down too well with the moguls. Also not surprisingly - but extremely worryingly for clients, you might think - Fincher is a massive hero of Adland creative folk. Indeed, he started as a commercials director at Propaganda.

Fincherites are everywhere and have surprising cohorts in weird places - like the trade and national press. They and their cohorts revel in the purely aesthetic qualities of ads and commercials, oblivious to their raison d'être as sales tools. They sit on advertising awards juries and give out prizes to people for advertising, which often doesn't even sell to as many as 12 people. The winners of these awards get hired by other agencies at massively inflated salaries. Their cohorts write glowing accounts of these ineffective sales tools, never mentioning an ad agency creative unless he or she is prefaced by the phrase "award-winning". Eventually, these "award-winning" creatives become creative directors - bosses in charge of all advertising.

Fincherites don't care a fig for selling to anyone, particularly not to anyone uncool, aka the vast majority of people in the UK. Someone needs to stop these people flushing the art of advertising down their aesthetically beautiful plughole before it's too late. "Calm down, dear," I hear you call in unison. "It's only a commercial."

* I've always maintained that advertising impact is increasingly predicated on an advertiser's ability to bend outmoded advertising regulation. The only reason one advertiser gets away with more than another is because they're better at arguing. In the old days, ad agency CDP hired a special legal counsel to argue with the regulators. Which is why they got away with tobacco commercials showing football players smoking on the pitch.

Recently, drinks manufacturers have been having their knuckles rapped and their products withdrawn for too much sexual content.

Offenders include drinks called Sex on the Beach, Quickie, Stiffy's Shots, Foreplay and Blow Job. M&S had a Valentine's Day drink called Love Potion removed on the grounds that the packaging was misleading but - and here's what I mean about good arguing - a complaint that it alluded to sexual success was dropped. A drink called Love Potion and sexual success? It's like chalk and chalk.

* I couldn't help but giggle at a recent quote in The Sun from the tall, dark and rather gorgeous Francesca Newland, the deputy editor of ad trade rag Campaign. Talking about the rise and rise of Jude Law and Sienna Miller, she said they were the new Posh and Becks - only more edgy.

Miss Newland's brother, Martin Newland, is editor of The Daily Telegraph, so incisive journalistic insight obviously runs in the family.

Well done, but watch your back

More and more people are remarking on the awesome power of my pen. But even I was shocked at the instant effect of my piece last Monday regarding the continued absence from Adland of the excellent Gerry Moira, former chairman of Publicis.

Only two days later, the trades were lauding Gerry's re-entry into the adbiz as chief creative at Euro RSCG London.

My former agency has been in dire straits on the small matter of attracting any clients. World-wide, according to reports, it is in the process of losing key client Intel - an unthinkable calamity.

In the time-honoured manner of a certain kind of ad agency management that you might think had disappeared in the 1980s, guess who is carrying the can for Euro RSCG London's new business meltdown? The chief executive, obviously. What? No? OK, sorry, I give up. Answer: the creative director, Nick Hastings.

I have little regard for Nick Hastings, a guy who I brought in together with the rest of BDDH management team. When Nigel Long, the guy who had taken a chance on an unemployed Hastings and hired him, was himself fired by Ben Langdon, I was amazed that Hastings - and the rest of the BDDH team - didn't walk with their colleague. Still, such are the morals of Adland. That said, Euro RSCG London's problems are no more down to Nick Hastings than the Israeli/Palestinian problem is down to Virginia Wade.

Still, Gerry Moira is a fantastic hiring for Euro and I wish him all the very best. If anyone can make a difference he can. Just watch your back, my old son, watch your back.

WNEK'S WORST IN SHOW: ROBERTO CAVALLI

It's not often that advertising actually makes me angry, but this frankly disgraceful stuff from Roberto Cavalli really does. It's not a matter of its aesthetic qualities which are OK, nor even of the children's clothes advertised which look interesting. It's the hair-brained idea that small children posing as sexy models (don't even start me off about the little girl sucking her thumb) is in absolutely any way at all amusing. There isn't enough room in this newspaper for me to describe the myriad of ways in which stuff like this is offensive and dangerous. The fact that it appears on the first two double page spreads of, wait for it, a parenting magazine - Junior - demands little else but the immediate removal of whoever is in charge of ad sales.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Social Media Director (Global) - London Bridge/Southwark

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Social Media Director (Gl...

Personal and Legal Assistant – Media and Entertainment

£28,000 - £31,000: Sauce Recruitment: A Global media business based in West Lo...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil