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

Adland Does More Than Just Sell, It Makes You Feel …

When I hear people say ‘TV ads are dead’, I laugh.

Especially when – in the same breath – they talk about the importance of content.

But what makes me hysterical is when they talk about content in terms of volume rather than emotion.

How many different ways it can be cut. How many different platforms if can be carried on. What it allows you to say and show.

That sounds even worse than a bad TV ad to me.

And as much as I love technology and what it is allowing creativity to do and impact in marketing, a great piece of film still has the power to have more impact on what people think, feel and do than 10,000 eco-systems that have all been designed to remove every possible element of friction rather than ignite it.

What’s also amusing is that while the industry loves to focus on the new, new thing – even though in many cases, the new thing is simply an old thing, albeit with a new name – it’s the same, arguably ‘older’, agencies who use creativity in the most consistently powerful, thought-provoking and emotionally igniting ways.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking them – quite the opposite actually – and I bloody love them all, however while everyone justifiably talks about the Wieden’s, Uncommon’s and Mother’s of the world, I think we should all take a moment to acknowledge the incredible work AMV is doing right now.

Of course they’ve always been one of the best but right now … they’re coming out swinging.

Not only did they make the best Christmas ad ever written for Plenty paper towels – yes, a bloody paper towel brand – and the incredible Wombstories for Bodyform, they’ve just launched this masterpiece for MacMillan Cancer Support.

Amazing isn’t it?

Almost 2 ½ minutes long and yet it never feels it.

In fact, you watch it over and over again.

Even though it makes you cry.

Properly sob.

Maybe it’s because in this repetitive life of isolation, it lets us feel human … connected to someone or something in a way that we’ve not had for a long time. Or maybe it is a reminder of how fragile life is or how lonely it can be.

Whatever it is, this is more than just ‘an ad’, and so, so much more than the contrived content designed to work across multiple platforms that so many people in the industry seem to think is the way forward … because this incredible piece of film allows us to glimpse the fine line that exists between life and death and the amazing souls who do their absolute best to try and keep them as far apart for as long as possible.

It had a huge impact on me.

Because like AMV did with Plenty – albeit from a VERY different perspective – their eye for detail was immense.

You may not notice all of them.

You may only notice them if you’ve lost someone.

But they’re there and they’re real in all their beauty and tragedy.

The exaggerated happiness to try and disguise the worst situations for the sake of those who don’t quite understand.

The need to be strong for those who know their reality but don’t need that being brought into their reality.

The joy of giving someone a second of happy distraction in a life surrounded by bleakness.

The despair of seeing a child come to terms with their parents mortality.

The elation and gratitude of victory.

The intense fear you think this may be the end and you are petrified you may be alone during your final moment.

But it’s the last scene – where the family say their final goodbye to a woman they obviously love so much – that truly ripped me apart.

From the hand reaching out, struggling and desperate to find the hand of the person they love – a final touch before they slip away – to the intense, shocking loneliness that engulfs you when you realise they’ve taken their final breath.

It reminded me so much of my Mum.

As I sat next to her, after she had come out of her operation, only to see everything collapse in front of my eyes.

The attempt to make sense of something that made no sense.

The shattering of life as someone I loved with all I got went away.

A death that was as unfair as it was untimely.

And what’s strange is I keep watching the ad to relive that feeling.

To be reminded of that final moment with Mum. The sadness and the pain.

Because while it makes me cry deeply every single time … taking me to a place I never want to relive … it has this weird effect of letting me feel closer to her.

A moment where we are together again.

Some kind of private moment.

So I look at it again and again and again. Not just that final scene, but the whole thing … watching events unfold in front of me as if it was for the first time seeing it. Being moved, uplifted and devastated at the exact same moments every single time.

Until that final moment.

Where even though the music reaches its crescendo, everything feels silent.

Where I gasp for air while wanting to scream to try and break the reality of what’s happening in front of me.

Where I feel my whole body is tightly wound in a futile bid to hold things together.

It’s a tragic feeling of familiarity that I wish wasn’t.

And yet I am grateful for it. I truly am.

Because despite all this raw emotion, I never feel the ad exploits.

Yes, it challenges and confronts, but it never ventures into shock while also – somehow – never feeling like it is keeping anything back either.

It is an extraordinary piece of film that reminds us the people who try to keep the thin line between life and death as far apart as possible for each and every one of us, are also people.

Doing whatever it takes to help the people suffering and the people watching, move forward to wherever a better place exists.

It didn’t just make me send it to people, put it on social, look up the team behind it and write this post – it made me sign up to make regular donations to MacMillan Cancer Support.

Don’t tell me TV ads don’t work. When they’re like this, they can change the world.

30 Comments so far
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I don’t know what to say. That is amazing.

Comment by Bazza

Yep. That just about sums it up.

Comment by Rob

Every word you have written is as perfect as every second of that film. What an incredible piece of work. It did remind me of your P&G Olympic campaign, the first one, but I think this is better and I loved that work.

Comment by Pete

This one.

Comment by Pete

I get the similarity, especially the use of music, but this is something else.

Comment by Bazza

Maybe there is some, but this – as you say – is miles better. The nuance, the sensitivity. OK, different messages and different goals … but that’s what makes this even more incredible. Plus we had a huge budget and global offices working on it. I’m not taking anything away from what we did, I love that work – but I love this more.

Not sure if that’s the right way to describe it, but hopefully you get what I mean.

Comment by Rob

when did you get so fucking humble campbell? youre right though. this is better and thats against something i thought was pretty fucking great.

Comment by andy@cynic

I love this so much, but I’m crying.

Comment by Jemma King

Yes. I know that feeling. That’s all I did yesterday when I saw it.

Comment by Rob

Extraordinary. I too have donated Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill


Comment by Rob

I don’t have the words to communicate how much I feel for this, just many tears.

Comment by Mary Bryant

Best thing to come out of limeyland in years.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Let’s be honest, that’s not hard at the moment … so I’m glad it is something so brilliant.

Comment by Rob

What an outstanding piece of work. The opening scene is a masterclass in establishing how the medical staff choose to be physically and emotionally exhausted in their bid to help others.
I have also donated.

Comment by George

This and Plenty share one thing. Undeniable truths. The most powerful communication medium there wil ever be..

Comment by John

It’s not just that they’ve identified them, it’s that they’ve understood how to express them with nuance and subtlety that’s additionally good.

Comment by Rob

That’s what makes them undeniable.

Comment by John

campbell, its rare i fucking say this but you fucking nailed this. what a piece of work. specfuckingtacular.

Comment by andy@cynic

What a spot.

Comment by DH

Your words capture everything I felt Robert. I am drained from watching it and yet will watch it again.

Comment by Katerina

So so good. Lost both parents in the last couple of years and it’s just spot on to the moments and level of care, they and we get from these incredible people. Thank you

Comment by Tim

I’m sorry for your loss Tim, I think we just get used to the pain rather than being able to truly move on from it. And in some ways, that can be comforting – as this ad did for me.

Comment by Rob

That blurred second of a nurse hoolahooping is brilliant. It says so much and you feel so much without anything ever being forced or feeling inauthentic. It is a brilliant piece of film making and I agree it never feels over 2 minutes. If anything at all, it feels like it passes too fast. I donated.

Comment by Pete

Yes, that’s a brilliant point. The way you see and feel what the kid is seeing and the infectious joy everyone feels for that brief moment is great. I also love how the woman proudly shows her tattoo. Taking her worst moment and owning it so that the focus is on celebration of life, not loss. It’s all just so good and so well done.

Comment by Rob

This ad made my cry. I’m at work at and my colleague next to me is asking what is wrong with me. Haha.. Brilliant!

Comment by Ramlan Sally

We at Thinkbox thought this was not only an incredibly moving and human piece, but also a brilliant example of the power of TV advertising. We liked it so much we included a link to this post on our newsletter this week. Thanks for sharing!

Comment by Alice at

Wow. Thank you so much. That’s so kind of you.

Comment by Rob

I don’t mean to state the obvious, but the reason we all agree it is brilliant, beyond the brilliance itself, is because the product it sells is a life of service, such a rare currency in today’s world (I’ll take that back: it is very common, but is never showcased in the mainstream media/content the way negativity is pedalled).

We feel connected and we don’t feel conned. We know it is for a worthwhile cause. What is sickening, at least to me, is using the same brio, techniques, emotional leverages to sell Pepsi or anything product or service whose only reason for being is to accumulate as much money as possible for as few people as possible.

I cried my eyes out (the last scene is heart-wrenching) but at the same time I felt the dread of what other advertisers would make of that campaign’s success, trying to apply its lessons where they have no place being applied.

Comment by SheisLaurence (@sheislaurence)

Your last sentence is excellent. I had not thought about that. What a terrifying thought. There will be people writing presentations right now detailing “how business can win from making audiences cry”.

Comment by George

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