This task is like trying to name your top five albums, or top five favourite films - it’s almost impossible, and there are so many other bits of work I’d quite happily have put in here. After 20+ years in the business, it takes a little time to dust the cobwebs off. I looked at the work through the lens of “I wish I’d done that” and “do I still enjoy watching these as much as the first time I saw them?”, to which the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. I’ve always felt, at its core, the best work our industry makes tends to be painfully simple in terms of its idea. But as a producer, I know that making simple LOOK simple, is often anything but. There is a stack of blood, sweat and craft in these. Kudos to all involved, I wish I’d done them...
Britvic's Blackcurrant Tango - 'St George'
Director: Colin Gregg
This is my favourite commercial of all time. Released in 1996, this piece is responsible more than any other for my ‘drifting’ into advertising (there was no conscious decision-making, and I’m still not sure what I’m going to do when I grow up). It’s brilliantly written and, at the time, was cutting edge in terms of how it was executed. The making of
is well worth watching. The spot is presented as 'one take', and the viewer has no reason not to believe this. The fact you don’t question this, despite the obvious location changes, shows that the director, Colin Gregg, and the post house, Framestore, got this 100% right. The technical aspect of this spot never gets in the way of the story, which I’ve always thought was the measure by which all great postproduction should be gauged. Some might say the underlying sentiment of the spot highlights deeper issues in terms of UK attitudes to Europe, that would surface 20 years later, but for me it’s always just been a joyous 90-second of excellently crafted script, performance and production craft. I never get bored watching it.
Guinness - 'Guinness Surfer'
Agency: AMV BBDO
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Post: The Computer Film Company
Sound: Soundtree x Wave
I remember being in a pub watching football in Soho when this dropped for the first time. It was during the half time of a big European game I think, and I recall how the noise in the pub stopped as people took this in. Granted, the pub was full of advertising folk and news of this impending visual feast had been circulating for a while, but it certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s an incredibly simple concept,a surfer waiting for his perfect wave, like people wait for their perfect Guinness. But the combination of the voice over delivering text from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, the menacing soundtrack supplied by Leftfield, and the mesmerisingly crafted visuals directed by Jonathan Glazer, all add up to something extraordinary. It’s still as watchable now as it was when it first came out.
Honda - 'Grrrrr'
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy London
Production & Post: Nexus Studios UK
Director: Smith & Foulkes
The mid-noughties was a golden time for Honda advertising: 'Cog', 'Impossible Dream', 'Choir' etc. But 'Grrrrr' always stood out for me. The Honda work at this time really challenged preconceived norms about car advertising. No-one had shown their car broken into its constituent parts before 'Cog', and no-one had made a car commercial without the car in it, as they did with 'Grrrrr'. But they stand out precisely because they are different. Well, that and that the ideas are, at their heart, very simple and brilliantly executed. Amazingly beautiful animation by Smith and Foulkes, and a wonderfully infectious little musical score, take this to work to a level that is hard to beat...
Nike - 'Leave Nothing'
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Production: Alturas Films
Director: Michael Mann
Sound: Lime Studios x MIT Out Sound
If I had to choose one brand to work on, it would be Nike. I’m a sports junkie, the pedigree for Nike work is outstanding, and they have the best strapline ever. For many people, this won’t be the obvious choice. David Fincher’s 'Leave Nothing', Guy Ritchie’s 'Take It to the Next Level', Iñárritu’s 'Write the Future', John Woo’s 'Airport', the list of great Nike work goes on and on, but this piece by Michael Mann always stuck in my mind. Having played a lot of sport, I’m always very critical of work that tries to ‘put you in the action’ and often fails. Guy Ritchie and others would do it with first person camera later on, but this work I think set the tone. The music, the sound design, the transitions - it all came together in a way I hadn’t seen before, and to me, it was unbelievable. It doesn’t hurt that the music is from one of my favourite films, which was also directed by Michael Mann.
Volvo - 'Epic Split'
Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors New York
Production: Folke Film
Director: Andreas Nilsson
Jean Claude Van Damme, trucks, splits, a beautiful sunset and Clannad. What’s not to love!?