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  • The John Lewis Christmas ad gets cute with a loved-up snowman. There’s just one small problem…

    November 12, 2012 @ 8:30 am | by Laura Slattery

    This is the new Christmas ad for John Lewis. It’s called The Journey and the 90 seconds of snowy seasonal selflessness that lie within were created for the department store by the agency Adam&Eve DDB. According to the retail group, the ad “celebrates the extra mile we all go to at Christmas to find the perfect gift”. Well, that’s the power of love. Not that power of love. The other Power of Love.

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    Awwwww… right? It’s a snowman with a crush. Our hero got up early one morning and went all the way to the city, negotiating dual carriageways and dodging snowball fights, to buy his snowlady a rather flattering scarf-hat-and-glove set. Of course, a freezer would have better facilitated any ambitions for a long-term relationship, but still – so sweet.

    Except, if you’re in the habit of watching one of the most popular shows on British television, you might have another, rather less gooey take on this powdery pair:

    Don't blink! John Lewis goes all Weeping Angels

    And that’s just a small sample of the Twitter-people who have been uncannily reminded of the terrifying, heartless Weeping Angels. Originally created by writer Steven Moffat for the Doctor Who episode Blink and now a recurring villain, Weeping Angels seem like demure statues but have a habit of moving jumpily closer whenever you take your eyes off them, eventually getting near enough to zap you out of the present day with their raised fists and enraged stone faces. All very Christmassy, in other words, though after last year’s ad, which inspired this creepy spoof version, it’s almost as if John Lewis are doing it on purpose.

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    Naturally, you can buy a toy set of angels at John Lewis.

  • Kinsale Sharks advertising awards: watch the winning ads

    September 17, 2012 @ 11:03 am | by Laura Slattery

    The 50th anniversary Kinsale Sharks advertising festival took place this weekend by the banks of the River Bandon, with the event – a boozy get-together where the great, the good and the frantic networkers of the Irish industry rub shoulders with their international counterparts – seeing multiple bronzes, silvers and golds handed out under a starry-roofed marquee. Don’t fall in the river, was the organisers’ top tip.

    The number of delegates was down this year, and with the ceremony switching to a hotel near Innishannon because its regular Kinsale venue was closed for refurbishment, chairman of the judges Trevor Beattie dubbed it “the least Kinsaley Kinsale ever”. The English ad man, who created the infamous “Hello Boys” poster campaign for Wonderbra as well as various FCUK campaigns for fashion chain French Connection, kicked the ceremony off by paying mocking tribute to the Irish Daily Star for publishing topless pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge. “To make us feel at home, they put a picture of Kate’s tits in the paper,” he said. “Fifty years of Kinsale, and we’re still getting excited over a pair of girl’s tits.”

    Well, some of us may be, Trevor. So what unambiguously legal entertainments were there to get excited about?

    First up, Parisian agency BETC won several golds for The Bear, an ad for the French television network Canal+. It’s got humour, flair and craft. Just imagine if ad breaks were full of such greatness, instead of the lame, gender-stereotype crap and “is that supposed to be funny” confusion that really pads them out. Indeed, the festival’s creative speaker, ad / film veteran Tony Kaye, made a half-hearted Kanye West-style intervention at the end of the three-hour ceremony to suggest this ad should have been more richly honoured. I’m sure the Bear himself would agree.

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    Beattie gave the chairman’s prize to Leo Burnett Milan for The Beauty of a Second, a campaign for luxury goods group Montblanc that invited filmmakers (both amateur and professional) to send one-second videos to a very short film contest, the best of which were selected by Wim Wenders. The whole endeavour, an ad for Montblanc’s watch range, was “the most outstanding piece of work this year”, according to Beattie. Personally, I find the concept faux-poignant rather than genuinely moving, but if you’re fan of “oh look how amazing it is to be human” larks, here’s a sample.

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    Now, back to the laughs. AMV BBDO was given the title agency of the year by the Sharks jury and this ad for Doritos alone makes them deserving winners. Called Dip Desperado, it has an “interactive game” pack shot at the end, but don’t let any latent skepticism about social media engagement put you off. About 1m 5s in is my favourite bit.

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    I also like the storytelling in this ad for Martini a lot – much better than I like Martinis, in fact. It’s called Luck is an Attitude, and it won gold for editing for London production house Gorgeous.

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    This next piece of work, titled Mrs Bogg, won a gold for scriptwriting for McCann Birmingham. It’s a classic industry in-joke of an ad, not one you will have seen on TV, but it’s worth watching for its hilarious satire of a particular genre of television advertising that most viewers have now become inured to, but nevertheless continues to be used in campaigns seeking to modify behaviour.

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    And now, a downer. This ad is emotionally wrenching indeed – created by Ogilvy & Mather in Dublin, it’s a powerful demonstration of how children absorb abuse and believe all that they are told, made for the ISPCC. This also won gold for direction for the agency Blinder, presumably in tribute to getting such an amazing performance from so young an actress.

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    Meteor’s Your Social Forecast, stings for its sponsorship of TV3 Weather, counted among the many golds won by Publicis Dublin, which won more awards than any other Irish agency and by some distance. Its Fintan McCloud creation is more LOL than WTF, to be fair.

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    Dublin-based William Armstrong of Antidote Films won the award for most promising new director for his work on the test commercial Poem – a car advert without an actual car. Filmed in Connemara and Dublin, the Irish landscape is the star.

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    Finally, the London agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) won the Kinsale Sharks Grand Prix for Three Little Pigs, a spot for the Guardian that ran on Channel 4 in February and March and had the ambitious aim of redefining journalism by subjecting a fairytale to an idealistic view of the modern news cycle. Like some of the ads above, it had already been honoured at the prestigious Cannes Lions awards in June. Indeed, arguably this ad is more successful as a creative entity than the concept it advertises – the Twitter hashtag #opennews referenced in the ad has been a little infrequent of late, and you hear much less from the Guardian these days about their open journalism experiment.

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    And that’s it. There are too many winners to mention them all, but a full 16-page pdf of winners across television, cinema, radio, print, online and, er, integrated is available on It just falls to note that AMV BBDO also won gold for best use of social media in a campaign for Masterfoods Snickers called You’re Not You When You’re Hungry, in which various celebrities were paid to tweet about unexpected subjects. The campaign hit the headlines when glamour model @MissKatiePrice chimed with the popular mood by tweeting: “OMG!! Eurozone debt problems can only be properly solved by true fiscal union!!! #comeonguys”.

    Seriously. Come on guys.

  • Advertising regulator backs Radio Nova’s “Addicted to Sex on Fire” posters

    August 31, 2012 @ 4:50 pm | by Laura Slattery

    Sex sells is one of the oldest axioms in the book, but should Radio Nova’s “Addicted to Sex on Fire” posters have been placed on billboards located near primary schools? No, says the principal of one Dublin primary school, who along with two other individuals complained to the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland about the ad.

    The poster, which references Kings of Leon’s ubiquitous hit Sex on Fire, was placed on the sides of busses and 48-sheet billboards around Dublin this summer.

    Pinpointing the cheeky comic device of the campaign, one of the complainants observed that the words “on fire” appear in a smaller font than “addicted to sex”, arguing that therefore the content of the ad was unsuitable when placed on a billboard located in “close proximity” to a primary school.

    The ASAI has rejected the complaints. “The Committee did not consider the content of the advertising was likely to result in physical, mental or moral harm to children, nor was the content likely to frighten or disturb them,” it has adjudicated.

    The advertising body also accepted the response of Radio Nova, which said the song, one of the most played tracks on its playlist, was well-known, “mainstream” in fact, having spent a long 42 weeks in the UK chart. (I’ve yet to meet anyone who knows any of the lyrics apart from the “sex on fire” bit.) To the best of their knowledge, the bearded rockers’ crossover hit had never been banned or restricted in any way. “This would suggest that both the authorities and general public felt that the track was acceptable,” it told the ASAI.

    “We pointed out that Sex on Fire had been a very well-known song and that it had been number one in 17 countries,” says Kevin Branigan, Radio Nova’s chief executive. “We hadn’t expected any complaints.”

     Three other ads in the campaign, designed to showcase the classic rock station’s “seriously addictive” slogan, read “Mark, 27. Addicted to Money by Pink Floyd”, “Ciara, 35. Addicted to Whiskey in the Jar”, and Brian, 41. Addicted to Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones”. The ads, which feature “real” Radio Nova listeners, ran in equal rotation and could be seen with equal frequency throughout the city.

    Promising to liaise with its outdoor advertising agency regarding future campaign placements, Radio Nova stressed that it did not choose the particular poster site and were not trying to target schoolchildren. The station, which is celebrating its two-year anniversary, is squarely aimed at 25-44-year-olds – people who are old enough to remember the, gasp, 1990s, or maybe even a time before sex addiction was a thing.

  • They said no good would come of Kraft’s takeover of Cadbury

    March 12, 2012 @ 4:00 pm | by Laura Slattery
    Philadelphia and Cadbury…. they go together like chocolate and cheese

    And they were right. Here it is, the union between Kraft’s Philadelphia cream cheese brand and Cadbury milk chocolate, essentially Kraft’s attempt to take on the reigning king of spreads, Nutella. Good luck with that. Toddlers and Nutella are not to be kept apart, and not even the mighty Kraft and the comic talents of Jennifer Saunders, who is fronting its reverse-psychology marketing campaign, can alter that. Surely.

    Chocolate cheesecake lovers will quibble, but they will be wrong. The combination of hazelnut and chocolate is so obviously superior to a cream cheese / milk chocolate mash-up, that I suspect Pietro Ferrero will be turning in his grave at Kraft’s latest product launch. Ferrero, according to the company’s website, “founded” what later became known as Nutella in a backroom of a pastry shop in Alba, Northern Italy, in 1944. It was, surprisingly, an austerity foodstuff. War had made chocolate, among other luxury items, expensive and difficult to obtain, so Ferrero used locally grown hazelnuts to make alternative spreads.  ”Nutella, spread on bread, has become an essential element to the breakfast ritual,” the company claims, not unreasonably. (I prefer it rolled in the folds of pancakes myself.)

    Ferrero, which also makes Tic Tacs, Kinder products and (naturally) Ferrero Rocher, is a privately held company that does okay for itself, though it lost one of its joint chief executives (Pietro Ferrero, grandson of the founder) when he died cycling while working on a corporate social responsibility initiative last year. The acquisition-shy family firm did ponder making a counter-offer for Cadbury, but stepped back, wary of the debt, leaving it to be devoured by Kraft and its spread-ambitions. The first of the ads is genuinely funny thanks to Saunders, but I can see plenty of shoppers simply agreeing with her ad persona’s ”Choccy Philly / don’t be silly” line and failing, like her, to be converted against the odds. And only a fool would bet against the wartime genius that is Nutella.

  • News of the World flight of the advertisers can be replicated by any pressure group

    July 8, 2011 @ 6:40 pm | by Laura Slattery

    News International’s surprise decision to close the News of the World has meant the natural life of a consumer campaign was stopped in its tracks. We will now never know whether advertisers’ decision to abandon it this weekend would have led to a more permanent distancing, or was merely a temporary response to a public outrage that may have lost its currency over time.

    The early, speedy success of the campaign has been attributed to the Twitter users who consulted lists of the paper’s major advertisers and tweeted versions of “dear @advertiser, will you be reconsidering your advertising spend with #notw given that we now know they hacked Milly Dowler’s phone”. Registering their feelings was as easy as pressing control + C, control + V. And indeed most advertisers who pulled the plug cited the contact they had received from customers, proving that advertisers’ values don’t exist in abstract, but are like a mirror, reflecting the views of the society in which they operate.

    The News of the World’s flight of the advertisers differs from that of celebrity endorsements gone wrong, where sponsors linked to scandal-afflicted individuals such as Kate Moss and Tiger Woods will more likely cite brand image incompatibility than direct customer contact as the reason for their P45s. In 2009, Associated Newspapers’ Mail Online division removed ads accompanying a column by Jan Moir on the death of Stephen Gately, following a public outcry about her comments, which were judged homophobic. However, the closest comparison comes courtesy of the US television networks.

    Here, the loss of advertisers’ support is a fast-track to cancellation. But it’s not just the Twitterati who can form a fast-mobilising ethics police. As MTV’s recent dropping of the Americanised version of teen drama Skins indicates, Christian lobby groups retain plenty of edge when it comes to orchestrated campaigns to impose (their) principles on the creative industries, via the seemingly easy manipulation of advertising dollars. News of the World campaigners took a stance against illegal activities that any right-thinking person would also deem horribly unethical. But it follows their victories in persuading advertisers may be replicated by any well-supported group hostile to political philosophies or lifestyles, legal or otherwise, with which they disagree.

  • That calls for a new advertising slogan…probably

    April 6, 2011 @ 7:30 am | by Laura Slattery

    Carlsberg has ditched its “probably the best lager in the world” slogan after it proved insufficiently definitive to pull in brand-wandering drinkers. It was probably time. The line was originally voiced in 1975 by the actor and alcoholic Orson Welles, whose subsequent death makes it hard to assess his views on this blow to his legacy. In any case, the new slogan – “that calls for a Carlsberg” – sounds to me like tacit acknowledgement of alcohol’s potential misuse as an emotional crutch. Funnily enough, Carlsberg has aimed instead for the subtly different “reward after a hard day’s work” vibe.

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    The purveyors of beer boldly predicted yesterday that as a result of the new branding, the company will double its profits by 2015. If it achieves that, it will call for champagne. Meanwhile, in the interest of commercial nostalgia, here are five more advertising slogans that are no longer with us, but continue to scar our memories like cultural chicken pox:

    1. Someone you love would love some, Mum: Jacob’s “Kimberley, Mikado and Coconut Cream” slogan has not entirely gone away, but it has mutated into “someone you love would love some fun”. The “fun” in question is on display in Jacob’s loathsome new television ad, which dedicates itself to finding the hitherto undiscovered links between biscuits and corsetry. It’s a feast of audiovisual grimness made in the style of a Gwen Stefani music video from hell. Maybe that’s the point.

    2. A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play: This jingle, used between 1959 and 1995, fails the pesky “nutritional claims” section of modern advertising rules on the basis that a Mars a day doesn’t literally help you work, rest and play. Mars did revive it a few years ago, but omitted the awkwardly untrue “a Mars a day helps you” bit. Its more recent slogans include the 2002 effort “pleasure you can’t measure” – which acts as a kind of corporate riposte to those confectionery customers who get upset about the bars’ shrinking size.

    3. The future’s bright, the future’s Orange: UK telecoms company Orange “retired” this irksome (in other words, massively successful) slogan four years ago, presumably on the basis that the future is now. Lately, Orange’s sponsorship of the Baftas has been accompanied by numerous expensive cinema ads featuring all manner of Hollywood talent, plus Jack Black. Its television spots have also curiously tapped into smartphone trends while simultaneously feeding paranoia that people who use social media are socially inept.

    4. Campaign for Real Beauty: Dove is shimmying away from its “Real Beauty” line, according to Marketing Week, which makes me feel warm inside, as I always found its soap-sponsored image politics to be ever so slightly patronising. It was okay to have hips or freckles, Dove informed us - as long as you just so happened to be amazingly photogenic. Anyhow, the “real” women have reportedly been abandoned in favour of a campaign dubbed “Body Language”, which I fear has probably nothing to do with the Kylie Minogue album of the same name.

    5. Only the crumbliest, flakiest chocolate / Tastes like chocolate never tasted before: And indeed never would be tasted, should your Flake live up to this slogan and disintegrate into the bubble bath before it could actually reach your mouth. Cadbury periodically kills off the suggestive “Flake girl” and tries something more pretentioussophisticated, but this is one of those lines that’s liable to come and go for the sake of the easy publicity. This time, they’ll probably just wait until everyone has forgotten about the whole Joss Stone thing.

  • The boomer bulge and the business of ageing

    March 9, 2011 @ 4:54 pm | by Laura Slattery

    Please tick the box: Are you 35 to 39? 40-44? 45-49? 50-64? Or 65-plus? It’s an oddity of surveys and application forms that the categories often imply your tastes undergo distinguishable shifts with every event birthday, but only up until you hit 50 – or 65, if you’re lucky – and then you’re suddenly lumped into a homogeneous consumer mass.

    Apart from giving rise to cringeworthy stereotypes, for a vast number of product and service providers, this blunt approach to the over 50s is commercially crazy. However, as David Sinclair from the UK’s International Longevity Centre told the Business of Ageing conference in Dublin today, there are a dispiriting number of companies who don’t think the so-called “grey market” has anything to do with them at all.

    Despite the fact that disposable household income in the UK peaks in the 50-64 age bracket, the response from retailers is often “that’s not our demographic”, Sinclair noted. “I think there is a huge amount of denial here on the part of business,” he said, as evidenced by the fact that the dominant advertised image of consumption is often a high-heeled woman in her 30s, beaming as she swings her shopping bags.

    Incidentally, the Business of Ageing conference packs contained flyers for (among others) Flora Pro-Activ, RTÉ Lyric FM and an Emergency Response GPS bracelet – three companies who are clearly not in denial about their core demographic.

    In September, Kilkenny will host Greystock, which the organisers say will be Ireland’s first ever festival for the 50-plus generation. But market segmentation research on the varying interests and needs of the over 50s has yet to be conducted in depth in Ireland. As far as the UK goes, Dick Stroud, author of The 50-Plus Market, places less than 30 per cent of over 50s in what he calls the “charmed generation”. This is a high socio-economic group that tends to be in their late 60s and early 70s and in good health. But that doesn’t mean that people in their 50s now – who are more likely to be part of the “anxious generation” – will become happier in a decade.

    “This charmed group will move through and eventually disappear and the next group that comes through probably won’t have anything like the same wealth,” says Stroud. Similarly, George Magnus, senior economic adviser at UBS International Investment Bank, compared marketers’ attempts to capture the “grey market”  to a snake eating its prey: “It’s a bulge, and now it’s a bulge that’s moving into retirement.”

    The first baby boomers – the generation born in the post-war population spike – reach the traditional retirement age of 65 in 2011. It’s the generation that won’t take too kindly to what’s perceived as ageism at companies such as Interflora, which last year attracted criticism for bringing out a “happy birthday” range of balloon bouquets that stopped at 60. “Someone designed the product and didn’t think,” sighed Sinclair. Soon, they won’t be able to afford not to.

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