22 March 2012
I utterly despise the word "feedback".
Tell me what you really think. Bare your soul. Take a risk. But don't give me "feedback".
My theory is that "feedback" (n) and "feeding back" (v) were created by management consultants, or maybe even procurement, to remove all the fun from our business.
"Feedback" takes what should be colourful and makes it grey.
The ludicrous process of "feeding back" depersonalises the potentially contentious act of having an opinion.
"Feedback" is a safe and convenient hiding place for the spineless. You don't get punched on the nose for giving "feedback". It is a coward's concept. No-one is responsible for "feedback". No-one owns it. "Feedback" is a third-party thing.
It just hovers there. In the middle of the meeting room table. Like a stale, miserable, politically correct, HR-approved, killjoy fart.
It is for this reason that I have banned the word "feedback" from Beta. I hope you all will join me in my campaign to fight back against "feedback". And replace it with love, hate, laughter, debate, argument, punch-ups, fear, loathing and fun.
The National Lottery. This "hero's return" commercial is ambitious, dramatic and impactful. But it bothers me. I feel as though the agency is more interested in winning an award than the sensitivities of the subject. And I expect it will win an award.
Santander. I neither like nor dislike this commercial. There are two things I would have done to change it:
1) I'd have made it slower-paced. It cuts too quickly and the voiceover is too swift to have resonance.
2) I'd have written a completely different commercial that makes sense of the big "123" posters for Santander that are currently running all over the country.
Transport for London. Press campaign. Feels like first thoughts to me. "This advert is rubbish." A little tough on itself, maybe.
Kwik Fit. This new price campaign for Kwik Fit is beautifully crafted and strategically inspired. The endline, "They're not mates' rates, they're simply great rates", is obviously borne out of rigorous research into the product and the people who work at Kwik Fit.
But it seems way too posh. I'd keep the idea (which I genuinely think is interesting), but make the execution more popularist. Currently, it feels like it's for dry sherry, not car tyres.
VisitEngland. This commercial, designed to get people to stay at home during Olympic year, reminds me strongly of the classic ad featuring PJ O'Rourke for British Airways.
But this time with a multiple cast of Brits. Stephen Fry, Rupert Grint, Julie Walters and Michelle Dockery.
It is well-written and well-crafted. But rule number one: if you're trying to persuade people to take their holidays in Britain, make sure you shoot the commercial on a sunny day. The illustrious cast look as though they are freezing to death.
And lastly, but not leastly, Paddy Power. Following hot on the heels of the splendidly offensive "ladies' day" comes "chav tranquiliser". Running only on YouTube, you've got to see this ad if you haven't already. My favourite shot is of the tranquiliser dart being shot into the "furjazzler's" chubby orange butt.
Is it the right strategy for Paddy Power? Who knows? Are ads like this driving the Paddy Power brand into a cul de sac it will never escape from? Maybe. Will it make me bet with Paddy Power? Certainly not.
But thank you, thank you, thank you, Paddy Power, for bringing some anarchy into this business and making me laugh.
That's it. I have no more. I have finished feeding back.
"Why on earth would anybody want to go abroad in 2012?" As rhetorical questions go, this is right up there with "What objection could you possibly have to Gary Glitter babysitting the kids?"
And yet, with ill-advised gusto, this is the shaky premise upon which VisitEngland has based its new campaign. Like a Daily Mail editorial on a slow news day, the perils of leaving Blighty are listed by a succession of celebrities: the TV ad picks off "jabs", "passports", "visas" and "euros", while the website no doubt covers "squat toilets", "cheating footballers", "armpit hair" and "spicy muck". To be fair, there's some good stuff in here too: the celebs are well-chosen, the British scenery has been beautifully shot and the line is (literally) "Great". But I'm afraid the negative sentiment is overpowering and, for me, it just doesn't wash (a bit like those filthy foreigners).
Talking of dirt, next up is a print campaign for Transport for London, which aims to educate people about the role of litter in delaying journeys. I like the way it has played to our selfish instincts rather than trying the more obvious appeal to civic duty. The simple copy does its job admirably too, with the minimum of fuss: for an organisation whose lines frequently don't work, at least these ones do.
Continuing on our journey, the next stop is Bank - Santander, to be precise. Despite a logo that looks alarmingly like a steaming dog turd, the Spanish giant (or "donkey-throwing siesta monkey", as VisitEngland would call it) has a key advantage over most of its rivals: a unique product. The 123 Current Account allows you to "save when you spend and save when you don't". The advertising then dramatises this through a montage of everyday scenes, accompanied by a poetic voiceover. It's all done quite nicely, but the lifestyle imagery feels a bit tired and the overall effect is somewhat familiar.
Can I really segue from tyres and overalls to Kwik Fit? Even I wouldn't stoop so low. So it's on to Paddy Power, which has come up with a lovely idea for the run-up to Cheltenham. The conceit is that the bookie has listened to its social media followers' complaints about chav culture - and is now shooting said oiks as a public service to race-goers. Filmed on a shoestring, for a niche audience and with toe-curling performances, it's a bit like The Mad Bad Ad Show.
Except very funny.
This brings us kwikly and fittingly back to our tyre-vending friends, but without the exhausting puns. The agency has a tough brief, in that it is competing in a cut-throat market where trust is low and a macho culture prevails. But enough about adland: from the client's point of view, this campaign has to be really hard-working. In this context, it does a good job of communicating "25 per cent off" by comparing the promotion with "mates' rates". I just wonder whether the branding's strong enough: while the creative idea is nicely lateral and well-executed, it could apply to any sector. In fact, isn't Staples currently running a campaign with a very similar approach?
Finally, the pick of the bunch: a powerful film for The National Lottery. "Changing lives" is one of those brilliant ideas that conveys a great deal in just a few syllables. In this case, it flexes to promote the good causes that are funded by ticket sales, and it does so with a scale and a poignancy that are rare in our industry. The hero (and, for once, the word is justified) is an old soldier who returns to Burma to visit his fallen comrades' graves, thanks to the lottery. No doubt VisitEngland would have advised him to stay at home ("never mind the decades-old debt to your mates - think of the chopsticks ... the ladyboys ... the squits"), but I'm glad he didn't because this corner of a foreign field really is "Great".