The director at Rattling Stick picks out five stand-out projects that tickled his sense of humour and remained treasured for that very reason
I’m mostly a director of advertising, but I do other things as well; metalwork, stained glass, painting, gardening and I have a cactus collection...for your information, I’m rather fond of South African succulents and Mexican miniature cactus. Over the years I’ve directed a few TV programmes, I’m currently working on a BBC special celebrating a hundred years of the BBC with Harry Enfield, then there’s seven or eight (can’t remember) title sequences for James Bond films. I sort of fell into directing via my old mate, Steve Barron - a wonderful director. I could draw so helped him with visuals. I was also in bands so I knew musicians. Someone is playing me in Danny Boyle’s 'Pistol' TV series, I’m told the short scene is nothing like the truth, but what is? Music and art led to me directing some music videos through the 1980s and I just carried on. I’ve created a lot of big spectacle ads and luckily been able to turn my hand to many genres, but my old love is comedy. I wish there were more ads that made you chuckle, or as we used to say, made you want to talk about them in the pub with your mates. Although hardly anyone still goes to the pub with their mates do they? I particularly like UK humour as it’s usually not at the expense of someone else, it’s parody or warm observation, or just plain quirky. My choices reflect my nostalgia for a laugh - many of these ads were created in our sleep before the world woke up...
Mattessons - 'Hank Marvin'
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Production: Rattling Stick
Post: Big Buoy
Andy McLeod directed this piece of genius. It’s simple, it’s funny, it’s got Apache as a soundtrack, I love it. My band used to cover Apache and I twanged the strat, this tribute to Hank Marvin (a hero) is wonderful. Lots of little touches that make you smile; the line of children going over the zebra crossing doing the Shadows walk means it takes them longer and the bus driver gets exasperated, the boy carrying the girl’s strat for her, the little standoff between the different schoolboys. It has such a British vibe of natural understatement despite the absurdity, and of course it’s probably only in the UK that people will understand the joke. There’s just one line in the ad - performed extremely well by the mother - that had to be just right, and she nailed it. Of course, the dog is Hank Marvin as well...they always are!
Worthington's - 'Paula'
John Lloyd at his finest, this is just pure joy. Even the sunny camerawork is hilarious. Beer ads used to be such a great opportunity for humour. Harry Enfield, who I don’t know and have never met, so am totally impartial, is brilliant in this parody. Wish I’d directed it.
Cadbury’s - 'Fruit and Nutcase'
Agency: Young & Rubicam
I loved these ads when I was young, they were just lots of silly visual gags to a lovely theme appropriately from the Nutcracker. Frank Muir, a charming avuncular man, comedy writer and performer, who at that time wasn’t off the telly much, sings in the bath, on the golf course and in one of the ads I remember coming out of a bathing hut with a phallic rubber ring. There is an ease and lack of reverence I like, some of the ads in this long running campaign allude, ironically, even back in the 1970s, to the absurdity of the content, Frank breaks the fourth wall to observe, ‘they don’t make ads like this anymore’. I remember there was also a strand to the advertising that created two political parties, the Fruit and Nut party and the straight traditional Nutters. I joined the Fruit and Nut party; they gave you stickers and pamphlets decrying the opposition Nutters. Insane, but in a way so apposite, today.
Heineken - 'Lobster'
Agency: The Red Brick Road
Production: Rattling Stick
Well, I’m told I’m allowed one ad from my own oeuvre. Of course, the list of classics and iconic work I’ve created over the years is far too numerous and consistently brilliant to pick an obvious stand-out. So, I’m choosing an ad I have a lot of fondness for, but which never really got the attention it deserved in my opinion. Not just attention for me, but Vince Squibb who wrote it, Alwin Kuchler who lit it and the actors who, I thought, gave marvellous performances in it. It still makes me chuckle, I’m not averse to laughing at my own jokes, ask the wife. And it’s not often that Clearcast allow inter-species sex in an ad. I was rather pleased with the performance of the waiter and the husband being angry at his wife at the end. We had a live lobster, something perhaps one wouldn’t do these days, but no lobsters were hurt during filming and the crustacea had it’s own personal vet on set, who did on occasion halt the filming as he thought the lobster was in danger of getting stressed. Although I believe it may have been eaten by the art department after the shoot though.
T-Mobile - 'Life's for Sharing: The Dance'
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Post: The Mill
Even a hardened cynic like me can’t not like this ad, created by my old and much missed colleague, collaborator and friend, Paul Silburn. It’s the scale and the joie de vivre of it. Paul was so brilliant, not only a great writer but also a magpie of comedy, he could tell when a joke was working, as well, or if not better than I. A lovely man. This ad was probably based on an existing phenomenon - the flash mob - but it just lifts it to another level. Brave, and I wish I’d been there to see it. Well done, Paul.