Stefano Hatfield On Advertising

A good year for bouncy balls and real women, a bad year for drugs

MAKING MILLIONS

The absolutely extraordinary sums being bandied about for agencies such as VCCP, Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy, and Delaney Lund Knox Warren mean that there has never been any time like the present to set up an agency and sell it off for gazillions in record time. Small wonder, then, that the likes of bankable names such as Trevor Beattie and Robert Campbell have done, or are in the process of doing, just that. Well, you would, wouldn't you?

LOSING MILLIONS

After the appalling, drawn-out saga of the failure to file its reports on time, and the loss of parts of massive accounts such as Bank of America, General Motors, Nestlé and L'Oréal, is there at last an end in sight to IPG's woes? With the massive US Army win in place in the States, a "For Sale" sign up at Springer & Jacoby, and new brooms making clean sweeps at Universal McCann, Initiative, FCB, Lowe and McCann-Erickson, one can only hope so. However, the badly bungled PR disaster that was the agency rebates saga may yet result in Tesco not being the only client to subsequently walk.

OVER THERE FROM OVER HERE

Brits and former leading London lights again continued to make big waves in the US. The most notable export this year was Mark Wnek, previous incumbent of this page, who went over to try to revitalise the damaged Lowe brand. Elsewhere, Nick Brien took control at Universal McCann worldwide, Paul Shearer went to be ECD of a suddenly struggling Fallon, and Paul Woolmington and MT Carney (ex Doran) announced that they were to set up Naked. Meanwhile, the Aussie Brett Gosper now runs McCann USA, and his compatriot Dave Droga has set up his own thing. Watch this space for ex-BBH-er Cindy Gallop, sure to do something huge in 2006.

BBH!

The agency that is currently setting the global standard. If this is not surprising creatively, then its astonishing new-business successes - headed by massive Unilever wins (including taking Persil off JWT in London) and wresting British Airways at last from M&C Saatchi - forced any remaining doubters that BBH was unquestionably the UK's agency of the year. Alongside Crispin Porter & Bogusky of Miami, the agency brand with the most momentum currently, anywhere in the world.

SIR FRANK LOWE

The Christmas-party season was in full swing when, to misquote Paul Hammersley, "the hand of Sir Frank Lowe reached out, Carrie-like, from the grave to pull Hammersley back into Lowe's new start-up with Paul Weinberger". And, yes, while it was a surprise that Tesco unceremoniously dumped the old Lowe agency to move to Sir Frank's place, when you consider the £3m IPG rebate to Tesco; the way in which Garry Lace was installed as Lowe CEO without chairman Weinberger knowing; and the sheer quality of the experienced Tesco team Sir Frank is putting together, it is suddenly not so shocking. Without doubt, the story of the year. Probably the story of next year, too.

BORING BUT IMPORTANT

Google, Yahoo!, and their ilk are changing the face of the digital advertising world as we speak. There is every indication that they may become the world's most powerful media owners in the time it takes you to Google "Time Warner"... EU advertising legislation changes (yes, you may well yawn!) mean that the whole product-placement arena is set for huge growth. Which is confusing news for us Sex and The City devotees, already long accustomed to blatant plugs for Apple. And Aegis, Havas, Vincent Bollore, WPP, combining media, minuscule increases in ownership stakes - yep, all worth a yawn. However, the mooted plan to bring MPG back into Euro RSCG is actually a little bit interesting. That is, if it happens. OK, the exits of Mick Desmond and Graham Duff from ITV were anything but boring, but the interminable Contract Rights Renewal saga may prove to be next year's most tedious story.

.

FIVE ADS WE LOVED

Sony "balls"

Unquestionably the ad of the year. From the opening bars of the soundtrack and the first few falling coloured balls, this spot is arresting and hypnotic. Destined to be an all-time classic. It immediately associates Sony with colour, and induces that rarest of reactions: I want to buy a colour Sony TV now!

Orange "dance"

An exquisite execution that is by far the best in an usually fine, but not entirely consistent, campaign. You find yourself wondering exactly how the director Dougal Wilson made it all appear so seamless. A couple who turn washing-up after dinner into a romantic ballet. Not married then, Dougal?

Metropolitan Police "Roseanne Holland" poster

"Don't let drugs change the face of your neighbourhood" is the most stark reminder of what drugs can do to you. I found myself staring at it in disbelief, and feeling evangelically anti-drugs. Powerful stuff in a category that has experienced shock fatigue.

Dove "real women"

This campaign won't trouble the scorers too much at creative awards, but is still one of the more audacious, radical campaigns for a mainstream brand in years. It is a huge idea, and one that crossed over into acres of press coverage debating its merits. And it's international advertising at its best: it works in any language, anywhere.

Honda "impossible dream"

As I said last week, the greatest achievement of the consistently outstanding Wieden & Kennedy advertising for Honda is that it makes consumers reappraise their view of the brand. It helps us to forget any impression that Honda and its advertising was mediocre. It's totally different from "cog" and "grrr", and probably won't clean up at the awards in the same way, but it doesn't matter. It works brilliantly.

FIVE ADS WE HATED

Mazda "erect nipples"

This ad implying that even mannequins get so turned on by a ride in a Mazda that they emerge with plastic nipples erect is proof, if it were needed, that it is time to get some women into creative departments. In 2006, advertising can have no excuses.

Jamster "crazy frog"

Has it gone away? We hope so. Proof that there's sadly still life in that tried and tested old media format: spend loads of money buying airtime and bashing consumers over the head with repetition. The weird thing is that we seemed to like it enough to turn the "annoying thing" into a cultural icon. What does that tell us about ourselves?

Toshiba "'ello Tosh"

The ad more people tell me is in need of a good slagging than any other currently on the box. I don't know which is more lame: the ad itself with its innumerable irritations, or the industry old-timer's knowledge that it is simply an ancient idea re-redredged up lazily and clumsily.

Golden Skins "ginger boy"

To the incredulity of much of the audience, this won poster of the year at the Campaign Poster awards. The magazine calls it "brave". I think the image of the red-headed boy, naked from the waist up, looking adorable and expectant, either in make-up or made to look like he is in make-up, is irresponsibly close to the world of child pornography.

Bulldog "open the gate"

Oh, I know I only just trashed it, but this really is British advertising at its self-indulgent worst. It goes on seemingly interminably, and no one I've met has the slightest clue what it's about. Most haven't resisted their zapper long enough to find out.

Send festive cheer to: stefanohat1@aol.com

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