Media: Good Ad Bad Ad - New Deal St. Luke's, BP Doner Cardwell Hawkins

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The Independent Online
In which a leading advertising expert picks some of the best and worst around. This week Patrick Collister, executive creative director of Ogilvy and Mather, sees too much green whitewash from BP, while applauding the Government's brave New Deal message. Interview by

Scott Hughes

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St. Luke's, Hawkins

This ad has a businessman, travelling on the train, getting up and starting to talk to the other passengers about why the Government's New Deal for the young unemployed is so important. It's never going to win any prizes, but I do think it's a really skilful bit of communication. Genuinely creative, without using any kind of gimmickry or device, and for that it's to be applauded. There's a ringing sincerity to it, too.

The New Deal message is a very important one, and the agency has managed to get it across very directly, in an uncluttered, unsentimental, totally plausible way. From this, I really do believe that there is a New Deal, and that there are people out there who really want to make it possible for young people to find work and create futures for them. (In a further execution, you see how this businessman was himself given a break as a young man.) To be able to communicate that clearly takes some doing, but this seems effortless. You don't see the skill that's gone into it - and that's the skill. It's very realistic: at the start you see this guy put his paper down, and gulp a bit, because he's doing this speech cold and people will think he's a nutter.

The other thing I quite like about it is that it reminds me of my youth. The businessman's speech - of how if one employer backed the New Deal, he would be seen as mad, and if two supported it, they would be seen as misguided, and if more joined, it would gradually develop into a cult, then a movement, then a revolution - recalls Alice's Restaurant, the anti- Vietnam protest by Arlo Guthrie.

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Doner Cardwell Hawkins

This ad has a small boy in a car with his parents, watching as they drive alongside a big BP truck. He says, in voice-over: "What if you had special trucks that could turn into petrol stations?" and with that, the car drives up a ramp into the moving truck, which turns into a petrol station complete with shop. The boy goes on: "Then we could buy what we need and get to where we're going a lot faster", before an adult voice, representing BP, replies to him with a speech about "keeping people moving" and "value for money".

It's been shot relatively nicely, and there's lots of green in it, so you know that people are using the word "branding" in all their meetings. But it's diffuse, vague - it all adds up to a huge waste of money: I'd say the production costs were in the region of pounds 350,000, and then there's the airtime - it's a 40 second ad. And there are any number of commercials doing exactly the same thing: spending huge amounts of money without delivering a message robustly or memorably.

I don't really know what they're on about here. The only message coming across clearly is that BP stations are good for kids. Great! I think it's fundamentally cynical to take children and use them in messages about how we're getting the future right today. It's just a cliche, and I don't believe it any longer.

I guess it's the product of a number of people going about their business professionally, but with a total lack of flair and focus. It bears all the hallmarks of being written and bought by committees. And, as David Ogilvy once said: "Never in the world has anybody built a statue to a committee."

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