The chief production officer at Dentsu Creative gives us a glimpse into her current top five in an ever-changing list of favourite ads
I unashamedly love a traditional, populist advert. It is so tempting to go for work from a time when “ooh, the ads are better than the programmes” - and I have of course included a couple of these - but hopefully with a more personal, resonant twist. I have gone for what I believe are memorable, fun, optimistic and engaging themes, with great use of music that (in their time at least) were culturally in tune. This is an ever-changing, constantly morphing industry, and that's why we love it and why we stay, no? So this list could easily change in a heartbeat. There is always something new, exciting, exhilarating, and of course the "Damn, I completely forgot this unforgettable absolute favourite” moment. But for now, in no particular order, enjoy...
NSPCC's Childline - 'Nobody Is Normal'
Agency: The Gate London
Production: Rowdy Films
Director: Catherine Prowse
Post: Rowdy x Clapham Road
Sound: Major Tom
Full disclosure, I worked on this. Remarkable not just because of the single-minded idea and the glorious execution, and not just down to the spot-on soundtrack (thank you Radiohead), but because it was briefed just before lockdown with little funds and a lot of ambition. Suddenly, materials and model makers were scarce, which meant that much of the puppet and prop making was handmade by the upcoming young director. She herself, and her producer, both were struck with the bad early Covid-19 during pre-production. The eery isolation and the ever-moving live date gave space for craft and minute detail that otherwise may have not been allowed for. Schools and carers picked it up and shared it even before it was properly rolled out. So much talent and care and a delightful client led to a shedload of awards in a year when no-one saw anyone or anything, and it resonates with us all.
Coca-Cola - 'Hilltop: I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke'
Agency: McCann Erickson
Director: Harvey Gabor
Actually, I didn’t much like this at the time, it was too twee, too American, too wholesome. It didn’t feel sharp. There was much more going then that was much more my bag. But everything changed when it was used in the finale of 'Mad Men'. I was obsessed with that programme, I had favourite seasons (three and four the most 'advertising' of them all with scenes that seem to still ring true three decades later) and by the end it had drifted. But the significance of that last shot with Don Draper on a hill? Incredible. Open to many interpretations, but to me it symbolised moving away from product sell based advertising) to the glorious creative years of high production values and considered narratives. This felt like a turning point.
Belvedere Vodka - 'Belvedere Vodka Presents: Daniel Craig'
Production: Hungry Man
Director: Taika Waititi
Post: Bandits x Company 3
How lovely to include something brand spanking new. The thrill of clicking on a link that someone sends you and really really liking what you see. Completely immersive from the get go, pulling you in, making you smile, striking, tongue in cheek, fabulous to look at. And you know what? Enough product to not feel like a ridiculous piece of self indulgence or a promo for Daniel Craig’s hidden cheekiness. A feast for the eyes and ears, even if he was never your favourite Bond...
IKEA - 'Silence the Critics'
Agency: Mother London
Director: Tom Kuntz
Post: Electric Theatre Collective
Sound: Wake the Town
The joy in this ad! Original, and yet completely familiar. Clever charming and funny animation, the witty kitch moving objects having a go, the ordinary family, the juxtaposition of Grime and domesticity. A track that sounds published but was bespoke for the client. Utterly engaging, and something I am of course fond of: a nice commercial piece of communication. This is very very...very very…very very very acceptable.
Yellow Pages - 'French Polisher'
Agency: AMV BBDO
This was the space where I wanted to champion engaging stories, well developed characters, campaign longevity, totally memorable and much loved advertising of the late 20th / early 21st century - and there are too many. So I closed my eyes and went for Yellow Pages, rejected JR Hartley in favour the teenage boy who has a party and needs to sort out the damage before his mum and dad get home. So of its time, beautifully cast and executed, and probably at a period of my life where I might have needed to find just such an emergency service. Smooth jazz and a proper punchline. What is not to love!? Just sad we don’t even need Yellow Pages any more, let alone make little gems like this one. And if I can, I would like to sneak in the ones that got away - Levi’s Laundrette (felt too obvious a selection, but man did that change everything), Hamlet, PG Tips, BT with Maureen Lipman (tragic there are generations who don’t giggle at an ology) and from my personal stable, the Staff as Stars campaign with Howard Brown. I once referred to these as Marmite, but was corrected to: "more like Take That, everyone loved them but no-one thought it was cool to admit it”, which as I said, may be my most favourite genre of advertising...