Carl Ratcliff, founder at This Is The Day, rounds up the year with a selection of reruns of some of adland's classics
I’ve always been a fan of a good compilation or anthology. Anything set to a theme or artist or author. Balance is key. A selection should build and hold, then edify by its end. In theory, a High Five should be no different. Yeah, they’re just ads, and I’ve chosen a range that I’m sure reflects my age, given its reliance on old-school TV and video, but it’s Christmas, and we all love a rerun of the classics this time of year. Or I do, at least. There’s no 'Bond', 'Great Escape' or 'It’s a Wonderful Life' (I never liked 'Die Hard'), but there are cigars, beers, a gaming console and one choice cut that makes my eyes sting, every time. Sounds about right. I hope you enjoy this nostalgic feast. I reckon each one is what Faris Yakob dubbed ideas you can advertise, not just advertising ideas, for the scholars among you. (Oh, and I did try to put some Aussie influence in, too, but couldn’t justify over the five gems that made it. And forgive some of the quality of the links, but I used what I could find. Ho hum...)
Hamlet Cigars - 'Photo Booth'
Even when we knew tobacco was killing us, we still advertised it, brilliantly. This is Hamlet at the peak of its stubby powers: darkly-witted, self-deprecating and reality-biting. An early role for Ralph C Nesbitt who in one meagre photo booth, takes us on life’s disillusioned journey. From high expectations to resigned acceptance. A joy then, and still a life lesson, now.
Tobacco Control - 'The Truth'
I feel the need to balance Hamlet with an anti-smoking message. This could have been done in so many different ways, but the last way I would have thought would be as a musical. I hate musicals. Although pantos do say Christmas, so well. And, in this instance, this cracker makes an outstanding mockery of the tobacco barons. The lies, deceit, and dark arts are highlighted through a twisted and ironic showtime filter. It’s quirky, cool and feels as though the team involved fed Andrew Lloyd Webber some very strong acid. Hey, and it stopped loads of kids smoking too. Allegedly. Reckon they might want to look to this to help stop all those Gen Z’ers vaping their lungs to a bubbly death.
PlayStation - 'Double Life'
Ok, I’ll be honest, 'Double Life' changed me forever. It became my evergreen reference point for ‘great’. This was the ad that made me realise just how walloping and powerful a campaign could be. Yeah, take that marketing scientists and your assertion that ads are a weak force (yes, I know they are), but this cut spat the dummy on cliché, nerds and lonesome teenagers, gaming in their room. Instead, Ed Morris and James Sinclair, together with Frank Budgen, created something so beautiful and epic, so true, that a gamer’s life became one we all aspired to. It took gaming to the masses, and then some. And became that film that you always wanted to beat, whether working in gaming or elsewhere. A cult, crossover classic that grew a thousand feet tall, and won more awards than I thought possible as well as helping the console sell out several times over. If this were an album, it would be the first Stone Roses LP or Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. Duty-bound to be in everyone’s collection, everywhere. Transcendent and delicious.
Stella Artois - 'Devil's Island'
The beer brand that other beer brands just couldn’t match. Before death by ‘wife-beater’ - such an awful takedown for what was one of the original premium, continental lagers - Stella created a personality based on those basest of human traits: desire and selfishness. Like PlayStation, the masses took to Stella in their droves, more so, as the brand was discounted within an inch of its life. At the height of its notoriety, post-Jean De Florette-pastiche came this belter. At the time, I think, one of the most expensive brand films ever made. And it was a film, not an ad. A retelling of Papillon with an exceptional cast and production. Everything screamed (or whispered) ‘premium’. A joy to watch from start to finish, a story to be savoured and shared. The penultimate last great Stella ad given 'Priests' was still to come. An awesome example of how to evolve and stretch your tone of voice. Or brand codes, as the scientists would call them these days.
Always - 'Like a Girl'
Agency: Leo Burnett
This is my last of my High Fives, and the most recent choice in terms of history. A wake-up call that preceded '#MeToo' and '#ThisGirlCan'. An empowering campaign that weakened and redirected male and female bias by allowing it to consider an alternate point of view. I always think Behavioural Science struggles to underpin powerful advertising, but it’s played deftly and wisely here. The truth - when told in an unbiased way - wins out in the end. Every time I watch, and I mean every time, I want to weep. I am that cliché. A father of two girls (and a boy) who deserve better. The untainted nature of the young girl who of course doesn’t ‘throw like a girl’ but rather throws as a human, is exceptional and stunning. Values so markedly different from the erstwhile pharma nonsense and eww-ness of traditional period marketing. Female hygiene was a messy embarrassment rather than powerfully ordinary. Always put the 360 into integrated marketing too, from hashtag to community, retail to TV and well beyond. A gem that dented culture for good.