Stefano Hatfield on Advertising

Big guns line up to win battle of hearts for Vauxhall and Heinz

But times have changed. Last week, news broke that the first such umbrella campaign for both brand names would run across Europe this year. A pitch, to be contested by GM roster agencies Delaney Lund Knox Warren, McCann-Erickson Frankfurt and 180 Amsterdam will be run by Opel's Frankfurt office.

I am sure the resulting work will turn out just as awe-inspiring as the first McCann work for the Vauxhall-Opel Antara SUV is bound to be. McCann-Erickson London creating Vauxhall ads for the UK, not Lowe? It's the kind of thing Sir Frank fought tooth and nail to prevent happening when he ran his eponymous agency. Today, he will be hoping there is a better life at the end of the Red Brick Road.

Let's be honest, though. After years of neither brilliant nor terrible advertising, what does the name Vauxhall stand for today? Does it really represent anything better or worse than - for example - adopting the Opel name over here? Now, there's an idea. And given how increasingly desperate GM's finances are looking in the US it might be an ever more attractive one to the number crunchers in Detroit.

HEINZ IS one of those brands that any self-respecting ad agency would love to get its teeth into. It is still ubiquitous in virtually all our homes and minds. News that it is to ask its roster agencies Leo Burnett, Beattie McGuinness Bungay and WCRS to pitch for a brand campaign sets up a good old-fashioned beauty parade of a pitch.

Leo Burnett, which has had the lion's share of Heinz for several years now, will face challenges from two of the hottest agencies around, both of whose key principals have a history of populist advertising. Which is exactly what Heinz needs: to be part of UK pop culture. And ubiquitous in our hearts.

"UPGRADE TO BA" is a typically challenging strategy from Bartle Bogle Hegarty. Allegedly, it is the one with which it managed to prise the British Airways account out of the hands of the Saatchi brothers last year. But since then there has been no "upgrade to BA campaign", and instead we have a new campaign featuring BA's attempt to take on the low-cost airlines with a whole raft of new low fares to European destinations.

Whatever the merits of the new campaign, one clear knock-on effect of the initiative will be to make it that much harder to justify the "upgrade" thought. Can BA really compete on both fronts simultaneously? Good luck to BBH. You can't help feeling it's going to need it.

IN NEW YORK last week, I took time to bask in the unseasonally hot Union Square sunshine watching the crowds outside the multi-storey shrine to the organic food trend that is Whole Foods. It's coming to Kensington High Street in London soon (in the old Barkers space, since you ask). Lucky Associated Newspapers hacks who will be able to just nip downstairs.

Whole Foods is a great example of a chain that is taking root without mainstream advertising at the heart of its marketing. It is simply so good that word of mouth does the trick - rather like the New York home-delivery service, Fresh Direct.

As we all know, over there yesterday, over here tomorrow. Of course, we already have the not at all bad Ocado delivery service, which just makes us wish that it could have grown organically too, without needing some of the more annoying advertising ever inflicted upon us. But, rather unnoticed by much of the media, another big non-believer in mainstream advertising took its first baby steps into the food business last week. Amazon.com began selling Corn Flakes and gourmet food alongside its Da Vinci Codes and Naked Chefs. It is either the next, next big thing, or the beginning of the end of Amazon's Jeff Bezos. For what it's worth, my hunch is the former.

I RISK the wrath of my anti-McDonald's young daughters, but I have to give credit where it's due - even to the evil empire. It has displayed a sense of humour and a willingness to confront its critics head-on with its new "McJobs" print campaign.

As I'm sure you know, McJobs is the name given to "unstimulating, low-paid jobs with few prospects"; a description popularised by the cult 1991 Douglas Coupland novel Generation X. Although the chain hardly stood alone in the service sector explosion heralded by the Thatcher era, a job at McDonald's became the standard bearer for the slacker generation. It also became synonymous with the chain's oft-criticised business practices.

There are 18 poster ads with titles such as "McBenefit" (which points out McDonald's healthcare card), each with the tagline "not bad for a McJob". Ultimately the company wants the "McJob" slight to go away with the help of the ads. And, although you might be expecting me to end with some sarky remark, this campaign may very well begin that process. Whether I believe them or not is another matter.

OF COURSE, there are no McJobs in advertising, are there? And, just to prove the point, Leo Burnett is creating a new campaign on behalf of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising which targets teachers and is aimed at helping to increase the profile of advertising as a potential career.

Advertising is at a tricky period in this respect. Constant negativity about its relative health in the face of competition from new-media alternatives, and extra workloads for fewer staff - a situation that has become commonplace - combine to give the impression of an industry that is less fun than it used to be.

And, fun was one of its major selling points - particularly given that it cannot match the salaries of the professions, particularly at the lower end. The trouble is that it is difficult for the industry to portray itself as a more fun place to be without veering towards its past association with hedonism and decadence. And that's simply not acceptable in these politically correct times.

Or is it?

YOU CAN'T make it up. Apparently, Philips has applied for a patent that disables the viewer's ability to channel surf or fast forward during commercials. It somehow freezes the screen.

It's a move that gives a whole new dimension to the perceived wisdom among pundits and industry types alike that we are entering a new age of permission marketing. It's such a bad idea that you would love to see it come to pass just to see what viewer reaction will be.

E-mail stefanohat1@aol.com if you have an advertising McJob

Hatfield'S Best In Show: Sony Playstation

Go on. Be honest. Which of us has not at some time picked up an air guitar, jumped up high with legs kicking and shrieked "Whoo-hoo!" in, or more likely out of, tune with Blur's magnificent "Song 2" - my favourite in Johnny Vaughan's competition to find an English national anthem for the World Cup. I've seen almost 40,000 drunken expats attempt to do the Damon Albarn at Hong Kong Stadium, and witnessed baseball crowds all over America massacre the number, but it works almost as well with one or two as it does a cast of thousands. So the two guys setting up on a roof in South Africa in the latest TBWA London spot for Sony PlayStation are just acting out pretty much every male's rock god fantasy, and a good few women's too.

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