In the first of an occasional series Nick Lawson, CEO EMEA of WPP-owned media planning and buying giant MediaCom, picks his Desert Island Ads – ones which have influenced his career and the way he thinks of advertising.
It’s a sad admission but I think of ads in much the same way that I think of music. Different songs remind me of different parts of my life. And so it was when I was asked to write this feature. I decided to use the opportunity to take a stroll through my life, via the ads that have made an impact. All the way from the tasteless 70s and up to the sophisticated person that I have clearly become today.
The first television advert that I remember talking about is the Hovis bread ad with the kid riding to fetch the bread in the morning on a bike. I remember asking my dad if he had to cycle to fetch bread in the morning when he was a kid. That tells you everything about the power of advertising because it took me out of my childhood orbit and prompted me to ask questions about other people’s worlds:
You’d need to be a child of the 70s to understand this ad. The advertising for this bike made me want one SO much that it was all I could think about for two years. My dad refused to buy me one because he thought they were too dangerous. So instead, he built me a bike himself and when I took it to school, everyone asked if it was a girl’s bike because he’d built it with a step through frame. I never rode it again.
This ad is from my teenage years and an era when Pepsi was way cooler than Coke.
I like it because it was the modern day version of a viral ad. It had a huge impact in the playgrounds and kids’ social scenes. You were someone if you could say these words fast enough. This is exactly where Pepsi needs to get back to today.
The eighties were divisive because you had to pick a side and you either picked Thatcher or you didn’t. But it was a fun time and the last time that I remember the general public being political. The Guardian Skinhead ad is simply one of the best cinema ads ever made. This is what made me want to get involved in advertising.
This isn’t really an ad but it’s probably the most memorable political broadcast that endeavoured to do the impossible: get Neil Kinnock elected. It attempted to show a human side of politicians which was anathema at the time. It didn’t work either. Margaret Thatcher got elected for the third time and Kinnock lost his job. Advertising can’t work miracles but this is the best failure I’ve ever seen.
I was about to start working when the Midland Bank ad came out and it summed up the new consumer age to me as I chased my new career. This is the quintessential 80s ad but it’s also ground-breaking because it was one of the first adverts to acknowledge that consumers need to be listened to:
I have a job now and there’s one account that I am heavily involved with. I am working on IKEA alongside St Luke’s, the world’s first co-operative ad agency. This was the era of Cool Britannia, Brit Pop and Tony Blair. The ‘Chuck out your Chintz’ IKEA ad mirrored the move away from tradition and towards a much cooler, sleeker aesthetic for the modern British home. In fact, the term, Chuck out your Chintz became modern parlance. It was a proud moment.
My dad has always claimed that advertising didn’t work on him (he says this but he always has a Screw Fix catalogue in his top pocket). But he also concedes that cross tracks ads do work because you get so bored waiting for trains that you have to read them. This Crimestoppers ad would have an impact on anyone, no matter what the situation.
We worked alongside Saatchi & Saatchi to produce the T-Mobile Flash Mob ad and it’s everything that advertising should be. It is fun, engaging and memorable.
If it features in someone else’s Desert Island ads then my journey will have come full circle.