Stefano Hatfield On Advertising
Straight in the top corner. That's how to score with an audience
Monday 05 June 2006
This week, it's here at last: World Cup heaven (or hell, depending on your attitude to the beautiful game). Of course, whatever you think of Rooney's metatarsal, you won't be able to avoid the tournament, and unless you are bizarrely selective and choose only to watch the BBC games, you won't be able to escape the ads.
You've seen most of them ad nauseam anyway, so which ads stand out and which are just wallpaper? Rarely has so much been spent by so many for so few memorable moments.
Back of the net
1 Coca-Cola: the pick of the bunch (see Hatfield's Best in Show, right).
2 Carlsberg: the pub team filled with English star names, both ancient and just old, bears multiple repeat views, especially in its longer form, where Big Jack Charlton is driving the white van to collect the team en route to the pitch at the rec, teasing Chris Waddle about his ride, and overtaking Peter Beardsley on his bike. Bobby Robson's team talk and Jack Charlton's interaction with the referee - "'Name?' 'Charlton'" - are classic moments of ad history. It just all looks as if it was a huge laugh to make, and it restores one's faith in middle age: if all those athletes can go to seed that badly, then us mere mortals with our wee love handles aren't doing so badly. No one does UK football-related ads like the director Chris Palmer.
3 Carling: Andy Gray's voiceover betrays the pundit's genuine enjoyment of the 100s-a-side mass street football game that is Carling's World Cup offering. I'm not sure which is more enjoyable: the sight of the skins team in their full blubbery glory; the expression on the little round guy's face as he forces the goal past the keeper; or the joyous soundtrack, a cover of George Donald McGraw's "Woo Hoo". This, everyone, is sort of kind of how football began on the playing fields of our public schools. In fact, it's not so very different from how Watford play today.
4 Nike: I hated the first "Joga Bonito" ad in the series, with a beardy, lardy Eric Cantona, and I still find it difficult to enjoy the Manchester United-in-training spot. I simply don't believe in the jovial Alex Ferguson of the ad. But it is impossible not to be captivated by the footage either of the Brazilians playing keepy-uppy in the changing room (although it is difficult to keepy uppy with the number of times that this device has been used over the years in relation to a Brazilian national soccer team); or, more notably, a young Ronaldinho showing off his skills, and segueing into the modern-day wizard of Barcelona, employing the same tricks beneath the same glorious toothy smile. The trouble is, it's just not as special anymore: partly, because there are too many World Cup or football-related ads on air; partly because Adidas copies Nike so closely these days, the waters have got muddied; and partly because this is just not as special as some previous Nike campaigns. But it doesn't matter anyway. That Rooney metatarsal has done more harm to his Nike boot than any ad could do good.
Back of the bus
1 Mars: I'm sure "Believe" seemed like a good idea at some boardroom presentation in deepest, darkest Slough in autumn 2005, or whenever it was ill-conceived. Half of me wants to laud Mars for at least being bold enough to give over the name of its premium brand. But it's not a very big half. Does Mars have a real connection with football? And "Believe" is so trite as to be embarrassing. And that's before you've even seen one of the dreadful, instantly forgettable ads. If you're going to be brave, go the whole way and really make a difference. "Believe" was a good PR stunt that generated a lot of publicity, but has been poorly followed up.
2 Toshiba: a dreary, over-complicated print campaign offering the chance to get to Germany for the Cup. You probably saw it, but wouldn't remember. It lacked either the creative flair or media muscle to break through. Could you make the World Cup seem any less exciting? Ok, apart from one of Sven's press conferences, could you?
3 Adidas: so, it's not so awful in its own right. But the idea of a pick-up game where kids get to choose global superstars ("Zidane", "Beckham"), including a post-synced Franz Beckenbauer from the Seventies, is so "been there, last World Cup" that it is difficult to recall the ad later on in the same ad break. Plus, this has so long been Nike's territory. Why can't a fantastic brand with such loyal customers find its own voice without piggybacking Nike's marketing?
4 Nationwide: I actually like Nationwide's regular advertising. It's refreshingly direct, and makes a simple, concise point about Nationwide's difference to other building societies. Even if I don't entirely believe that it wants to be different, I do accept that it is. That is, until Nationwide - like everyone else - felt obliged to produce a World Cup-related ad. It may be true that Nationwide has more of a connection with the sport than, say, Mars, because of its long-standing sponsorship of the England team. But the questions are: why, then, didn't it get more players than Michael Owen and Ashley Cole? And, having got them, why weren't the performances better? And, even more curious, why does the whole ad appear to be so cheaply made, with very tight, repetitive shots of the two stars?
5 McDonald's: what are we to make of this? The company that is bringing us salads and discontinuing its Happy Meal toys doesn't appear to have become quite as PC as it would have us believe. Part of the company's football-related offering this summer includes launching a World Cup Burger, some 40 per cent larger than a normal Big Mac. And who was it that said that super-sizing was dead? Is there really any wonder that the marketing press last week was so full of stories about consumers not trusting McDonald's' health credentials?
6 The BBC's World Cup trailer: overblown, overlong and over-ambitious. This really is a disappointment. Partly, because we have come to expect so much from BBC marketing. And, as for the use of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again", yes we will!
TO NO ONE'S real surprise, the Interpublic Group has announced the merger of the FCB advertising-agency network and its sister IPG company, Draft Worldwide, the direct-marketing and promotions specialists.
Notably, the new entity is to be named Draft FCB, giving the new CEO Howard Draft's outfit the lead role. Steve Blamer, the newish CEO of FCB, is a casualty, which is a little surprising. It was a tortuous enough process for Blamer to leave Grey and take up this FCB role. Did he not know that such a merger was on the cards when he did?
Curious. But not as curious as what the future entails. IPG has seen merger after merger within its agency ranks result in an even bigger mess because of irreconcilable culture clashes. How will the entirely different cultures of Draft and FCB gel? My fear is that the answer lies in the very obviousness of the question.
HATFIELD'S BEST IN SHOW COCA-COLA
The ad that has brought - albeit begrudging - praise from the rest of the ad industry, most of whom know how hard it is to do breakthrough on behalf of the Coke behemoth. But this has an almost unique quality among all the World Cup ads listed here (shared only with Carlsberg's "pub team"): it gets better the more times you see it. Yes, as the ad shows, we really are all brought together by the World Cup as by no other global event. But whereas that could have been expressed with stomach-churning schmaltziness, the ad agency Mother, by using animation and grotesque polar-opposite stereotyping and a great soundtrack have really created a gem that is spot on even in the cynical British marketplace.
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