The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Sometimes There’s Beauty In A Beast …
May 26, 2009, 6:52 am
Filed under: Comment

I know this might come as a shock, but I want to write about an ad I like. Yes … LIKE!

I know it’s my own fault, but a lot of people think all I ever do/think is negative stuff – and whilst I certainly think adland treats society too dismissively and itself far too importantly, there are many times when I look at something my industry has produced and thought, that’s got something interesting in it.

What kind of bothers me, is the things I find interesting are not the things everyone else does …

For example, the T-Mobile ‘Trafalgar Square Singalong’ spot that Saatchi’s London has just done doesn’t do that much for me.

Actually I should rephrase that …

I love the execution and I really like Richard Huntingdon’s underlying thought of “Life is made for sharing” … but I just don’t think the whole thing does much for T-Mobile because for me, it could be for any number of brands in any number of categories,

OK, so this might be one of the first spots of their longer term strat … something that in time, will help forge a particular and meaningful identity in the hearts and minds of the British public … however as a person immune from UK telco company communication, I first thought it was a spot for either SINGSTAR or Vodafone’s ‘Make The Most Of Now’ campaign.

‘Life Is For Sharing’ is a lovely thought … but this spot doesn’t really do it for me even though from an executional point of view, it’s interesting and watchable.

Yes … yes … I know you’re going to say “BUT THAT’S THE POINT ROB” but I don’t think it is, infact I think that’s the sort of attitude that has got adland into the state it is and it’s only because I know how smart Richard is that I feel pretty comfortable in saying I’m sure the blame for this sort of ‘substance free’ communication lies at the feet of the client … because there’s too many of them out there who view advertising as a cheap alternative to doing/creating something that people would really find infectious, usable, interesting and valuable.

Anyway I digress …

Back to the ad I like …

Well it’s pretty simple actually, it’s this …

An Ugly Duckling With A Swan Of An Idea

I’m not really sure why I like it as much as I do … but it probably has something to do with the fact there’s a real idea in it and an idea that is counter to the trend of NEW and IMPROVED.

Of course it’s not a new strategic direction … there’s been many brands that have used a similar idea, but quite often they cover it up with all sorts of creative trickery [ie: Heineken] whereas the simplicity of the idea is its strength.

I just like the sentiment behind the ‘We put the no in innovation’ and the way they express it through the copy …

“Henry Perky created the Original Shredded Wheat in 1892.

One man (Him). One ingredient (Wheat). One machine (The machine).

We didn’t give it any add-ons or plug-ins. Heck, we didn’t even name it”

And I also like the fact they aren’t frightened to take the piss out of themselves a bit with stuff like …

“All we did was make it Spoon Size in 1961. Did we go too far? Time will tell”


I know it’s not fashionable to have much copy in ads, but I think that has more to do with certain people [adland and clients] not understanding how to make it interesting than the tired excuse people haven’t got the patience to read it.

As I wrote previously, you could throw that argument at nearly anyone and anything … and the reality is part of the reason agencies get paid in the first place is because they’re supposed to know how to make people interested in brand X, Y or Z.

Of course what is happening more and more these days is that rather than use insight, imagination and bravery … we are using insipid shock, sponsored jokes, over-stylisation and/or extreme-CGI … and whilst there is a place for all of that, I can’t help but feel the simplicity of the solution is getting lost in a sea of self indulgence, often done to justify a huge charge-out rate than actually doing something that can make a real difference to the client, society and agency.

If we’re not careful adland will become like the legal industry.

Not just in the way they try and charge outrageous amounts for every little thing, but in how they try to delay fundamentally solving the issue just so they can ‘extract’ as much revenue as they possibly can.

On face value that might sound like good economics … but I disagree … because I think it’s better to be known as someone who can make a difference than someone who simply goes with the flow.

I love ads – always have and always will – and I love that I have been fortunate enough to work on some rather successful and famous campaigns in my time [and hope to still have a few left in me – as long as I keep working with the clever bastards] … but if adland wants to get back to where it belongs, it has to stop trying to only ‘brand a moment in time’ and start developing ideas that make people stop, think, feel and act again.

15 Comments so far
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where did this come from? fuck me its campbell of old.

i hate to say this but i agree with almost everything youre saying. i need booze. lots of it. now.

agree on tmobile as long as you’re putting more shit on the company than saatchi.

you cant polish shit yet saatchis uk have gone a long fucking way to making it more palatable so they deserve some praise and credit. even more so when you see the usual shit they churn out for p&g and toyota.

but it does feel like another of those ads uk adland loves where they try and use as many of the fucking “public” as they can.

been there. done that.

but you shouldnt throw stones campbell because you maybe started it with bct tango and then added to it with your fucking vb symphony.

Comment by andy@cynic

This is a fantastic post Robert.

I share a mix of your and Andy’s views on t-mobile but think Andy’s comment about there being some sort of unspoken internal UK ad agency competition to come up with spots that use as many people as possible is very true in a tongue in cheek way.

I don’t know where you saw the shredded wheat ad. It feels more suited to a guys mag than a Mum friendly title but there’s a real idea in it and it’s nice to see something that doesn’t talk in words that no one really knows the true meaning of like vitality .

I love posts where your passion comes out, we need more of it but it would also be nice to hear it from guys who head up the big networks.

Comment by Pete

what the fuck do you mean you share a “mix” of campbell and my comments? stop sitting on the fucking fence pete and just fall on my side. you know it makes sense. for your career.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m with Team Campbell. Great post Robert.

Comment by George

Has everyone gone gay?

[I say this only so Seb will feel happy the comments will go off topic]

Comment by Rob

i need coffee.

Comment by lauren

Great post and a good ad.

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

The strategy is good – and of course disingenuous – because Nabisco do all sorts of other weird cereals and are not really limiting their production.

But it occurs to me that you’re celebrating a non-ad and that is interesting in and of itself for the future of your industry.

Comment by John

I love this ad. This is the best ad I’ve seen this year. It’s so bloody well written that it makes me envious. They only could have found a better example then the Pharaohs. But the rest, brilliant.

The strategy is great as well. You don’t have to tell everyone that you stop being innovative and go back to what’s been good when you never left there. And, surprisingly, the ad is much more entertaining than the website. It’s more to the point. Though with all that “no to progress” wouldn’t it make sense to have no website at all?

Sorry, the post is so good, that I can’t go off-topic. Bollocks.

Comment by Seb

I take that comment about their website back.
It’s brilliant when he says: Now go off, waste your own time. Write an email or add some friends to your facebook. In the name of underachievment.

Comment by Seb

Just come out of a uber-long meeting and going into another so to save time and answering emails, I’d just like to say …


I’ll explain the difference in the morning, but it is more than just words, which I am sure you’ll be happy to know.


I have no idea why you’re being banned from commenting on my blog. Maybe WordPress have added a ‘pedantic’ widget and you’re just a victim of its technological prowess. On the plus side, given you want the World to know your sarcasm/insight, I can be sure you’ll tell me when you’ve written a self-appointed comment of genius and so I can log in and ask the nice computer to release your words for the World to enjoy.

As regards your comment, I agree with it except I don’t know what you mean when I say I am celebrating a non-ad. Do you mean it in the sense that their ‘truthfulness’ carries none of the characteristics associated with the usual approach to marketing and advertising? If you are, I would point you to my posts about the ‘unplanned’ planning strategy I have banged on about from Mother to Cynic and Balmain estate agents.


I have noted no one has mentioned my T-mobile comment … which indicates to me you disagree and don’t want to hurt my feelings. That’s OK, I can take it … and if you read what I’m saying, you’ll know I’m questioning T-Mobile not Saatchi’s or Richard, who I think have done a sterling advertising job, even if it raises a few questions from me.

On the other side, I am glad people seem to like the Shredded Wheat ad. As I said, I love that is has a real idea in it and one that taps into reality not the marketing sense of it … and proves great commercial creativity starts from the brain, not by logging onto

Comment by Rob

it seems like wordpress is censoring the blog? i don t see any comment of niko. or john saying he s been banned. weird.

so i m late… i like the shreddies ad too, because it seems to be true to the product. i also like how it is playing with the issue of sustainability. and it is a bit cynical…
as for the tmobile spot. i like it. i really like what it says and how it is tugging at the heartstrings. but when i saw it the first time, i did not get what it is for and thought it was for singstar. i guess the spot is for brand purposes, but like i said, i don t get the link to the product.

Comment by peggy

Hi Peggy – thanks for that.

To be honest, I think the link with the product is emotional expression, the issue is ALL telcos do that – which is my problem with it, even though I do think it’s watchable and interesting.

As I said, this is not Saatchi’s fault [though it might be good if they looked at practical product ideas that a telco could adopt] it’s T-Mobile because they seem to use advertising as an excuse to innovate, and whilst you might think there’s no more innovation you can do in this category rather than offer different ringback tones etc etc, there’s always something – it just might be harder to find.

But then as I always say, anything is easy for the person who doesn’t have to do it, hahaha!

Comment by Rob

Oh I love this. I’m stealing it.

There. Took it. T’is mine.

Comment by Angus

You’re supposed to steal and NOT tell everyone about it … but as you credited me so beautifully on your blog, I’ll let you off … but suggest you update your criminal creds, because being Australian isn’t enough! 🙂

Comment by Rob

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