Tag Archives: creativity

What Katie Did: our American intern’s view of adland UK-style

Katie-ImageFor the two months that I have been in London, I have tried to soak up all that the city has to offer. I’ve discovered the Underground, the East End, the Southbank, numerous different boroughs. I have been exposed to the Royal family especially their newest addition. I have endured the typical rainy weather, as well as the unexpected hot weather. I’ve heard the history of the city and of its newer developments. Out of all these experiences, I was most impressed by one thing: the advertising. It took me a while to notice it. At least it took a while for me, someone who wants to work in the world of communications, to notice it. When I say notice I mean really notice its presence in London. I’m used to advertising that demands to be noticed, constantly. Advertising that screams for your attention so much that it annoys more than it informs you.

I actively choose to read the adverts in London. On the Tube, they entertain me while I try to avoid eye contact with my neighbor. On the street, movie stars move past on iconic red buses, like friends I can to wave to (don’t worry, I don’t actually). I could name a dozen ads right now that I saw this week and thought were clever or well done. One of my favorites has been the First Direct ads. ‘The unexpected bank’ is definitely an unexpected ad campaign for my eyes. It is nothing more than a black background with clear white lettering. The words don’t need a picture to get there meaning across. I remember one that read “We were going to give you two rare porcelain dolls when you opened up an account with us, but we decided on £200 instead.” I walked away chucking to myself and also with the knowledge I could get £200 by opening an account with First Direct. I can assure you, Americans are not usually as clever. I could maybe name a few campaigns from memory back in the States, and they will most likely be a song that is so irritating you can’t help but sing it all day. It seems London and advertising have a better agreement than the U.S. has with its cities. They work together and peacefully coexist in the most hectic environment. They even seem to support one another. I know all the shows playing on the West End this summer not because of Google, but because of escalators.

The ad content is an integral part of the city’s atmosphere. I shouldn’t be surprised by this peaceful relationship. “If you must exist,” I imagine the City of London saying in its proper English accent, “then do so tastefully.” Then he tips his hat and adjusts his pipe. It’s a compromise after all; something we American’s don’t strive towards. I recently took a ‘Culture tests’ in class and one the questions went like this: Is it true that in the UK, a compromise is seen as a positive solution to a problem. I put true because, well, that makes sense and Britons are usually logical, and if there is anything I have learned about America on this trip abroad, it’s that we are usually not so logical. I’m not ashamed of America’s more competitive outlook; it is certainly something to have pride in that we always strive to be the best, to win it all. However, when trying to find a balance between quantity and quality of advertising, it does well to strive toward compromise.

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My Five A Day

A nutritious selection of five things that caught my eye in our wonderful (often weird) world of communications.

The Match.Com TV ad. A king amongst dating ads. This isn’t new but it’s so lovely I’m pleased it’s back on our screens. Beautifully shot, artful and clever, it really elevates the Match.com brand from a functional lonely hearts site to somewhere you may just meet someone nice and just like you. These actors should form a nu folk duo.

Banners by John Lewis – plain old behavioural targeting but actually done pretty well. There’s no dodgy second-rate imagery which I tend to associate with these kind of online ads, just simple, white backgrounds showcasing products I’ve had a look at and thought about buying. It’s perfectly in-keeping with the JL site and branding and rather than feeling like they’re stalking me, the unobtrusive approach means it’s quite a handy reminder of a present I need to buy. I’m going to click through.

The latest French Connection catalogue. I know that as I lift it from the mat and burst through the plastic wrap a lovely, expensive paper smell will waft out and the thick, uncoated stock will be full of sumptuous images featuring items I’d actually buy. But that’s the only reason I’d open it, because the ‘You are woman’ campaign irritates me. The FCUK work was very clever, and they quite rightly exploited it for all it was worth. But that doesn’t mean each successive campaign should be more and more obscure. I know they’re trying to be different but, honestly, which brand isn’t?

Barclays bouncy castle TV ad. These Justin Lee Collins ads teeter on that fine line between pretty clever and pretty annoying. For a bank, Barclays has actually got a rich ad history – the Samuel L Jackson ones immediately spring to mind. And I like the fact they’ve avoided irritating jingles or weird animated characters in recent years. The new campaign idea – a voiceover sending up those dodgy metaphors you see so often in ‘serious’ financial ads – is a good one, and JLC is funny. But the idea of a brand setting up and filming a ‘bad ad’ itself, just so it can then take the p*ss seems a little excessive.

‘Found cat’ poster – this has been up on a tree near my place for a few weeks now, but I saw it again today. A thank you to all the people who helped find this white tabby, now home safe and sound. So nice and genuine – and a lovely end to the tail (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

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What Are You Worth?

A musing on how we are moving away from nurturing the existing creative talent in the UK and a call for change in this attitude for 2011. Continue reading

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