Two weeks ago Dave Dye set up London’s newest agency Hello People with former Ogilvy UK managers Hugh Baillie and Rachel Hatton.
He previously worked at BMP, AMV/BBDO, Leagas Delaney, Campbell Doyle Dye and DHM winning awards for The Economist, Nike, Volkswagen and Google and Adnams. He is the only person to design two D&AD annual covers.
The problem with the question “Name your ten desert island ads?” is that everyone knows the correct answer, it’s:
B&H ‘Iguana, Guinness ‘Surfer’; Smash ‘Martians’, The Guardian ‘Skinhead’, Sony ‘Balls’, John Smith ‘Dog’, Levi’s ‘Drugstore’, Hamlet ‘Photobooth, Lego ‘Kipper’ and Honda ‘Cog’.
This answer is printed or posted on a weekly basis.
Consequently, I thought I’d pick ten that I remembered making a big impression the first time I saw them, regardless of whether they turned out to be considered ‘good’ or not.
1. UNIGATE ‘ALI’
Idea: A stripey paper straw called Humphrey, steals milk. Who would’ve thought that could be a campaign-able idea loved by children and adults alike?
Muhammad Ali at the time seemed more like a superhero than a sportsman to me, so turning up in this very peculiarly British ad campaign was almost surreal, like seeing Batman outside your local kebab shop.
Ali acknowledging the existence of us ‘English fans’ was huge, who has the gravitas now that Ali had in the seventies?
I’d later find out it’d been created by that Webster guy, who it turned out had created all the ads I loved at school. (Note To Editor: Has anyone ever written one of these without using a John Webster ad?)
2. BRUTUS ‘JEANS ON’
This came out in 1974, so I must’ve been ten when I first saw it.
It’s difficult now to figure out why I loved it.
It’s just lots of cool looking adults jigging around to a jingle.
But the power of a piece of film to connect lies more with the filmmakers than the people who write the ideas.
This is a testament to the power of filmcraft.
The concept isn’t powerful, but the film is, you just want to be part of that vibe.
Its director Adrian Lyne went on to shoot features like ‘Flashdance’ and ‘Fatal Attraction’.
The ‘jingle’ had the word ‘blue’ in place of ‘Brutus’ and became a number one hit record as ‘Jeans On’.
Its composer David Dundas, went on to score films, ‘Withnail And I’ amongst them.
Its editor…actually I know nothing about its editor, but I bet he moved on to great things as well.
3. WRANGLER ‘WHAT’S GOING ON?’
The most mindbending, futuristically cool ad I’d ever seen.
I still can’t find an idea in it, it’s more a pop promo.
Not surprisingly, it was made by ex 10cc-ers Kevin Godley and Lol Creme who went on to be the hottest music video directors in the MTV era.
4. KODAK ‘URCHINS’
The Kodak choice is random really, I could have picked anything from the Jean-Paul Goude reel I was shown back in about 1988.
Because J-PG created his own universe, it was unlike anyone else’s at the time, and that time, while we’re on the subject, was full of sensible, logical pre-tested messages.
On planet Goude anything could happen and often did; it didn’t seem restricted by logic, product details and, well, selling, like the worlds we were all toiling away in back in Britain.
Instead it was filled with chaos, surprise and craziness.
It all seemed totally random, but they were so different you couldn’t get the ads out of your head. And couldn’t help liking the companies who’d commissioned him to produce them.
Which, to be honest, was far more than you can say about the carefully crafted, thoroughly thought-through ads that the rest of us were making at the time.
5. SONY ‘LIFETIME’
The first thing you learn in a creative department is that simplicity is king.
This ad tells the story of someone’s life, set in one room over 30 seconds, and it made me believe that a Sony Trinitron lasted longer than other TVs.
Like any REALLY simple idea, it looks easy, but very few can actually create one. The creator of this ad did it week in week out – John Webster.
(It is bloody hard to do one of these articles without mentioning him, and I tried too, with my fancy ‘different’ angle).
PIRELLI ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY
Right now it’s all the rage to make TV ads that have that a washed-out look, feel cool and feature no evidence the product is actually any good.
Product demos? Well they are viewed in the same way we view Angels Delight, Spam and Cresta – quaint, but not palatable for today’s sophisticated tastes.
Which is a shame, because when done well they can be very persuasive.
The Pirelli ad is a great example. If you’re selling tyres you’re selling grip, so the challenge for the creative team is how to talk about grip in an arresting way.
The ad is not only gripping, it’s one of the coolest looking ads you’ll see, thanks to its director Marek Kanievska.
7. FEDERAL EXPRESS ‘FAST TALKER’
As with Jean-Paul Goude, I first experienced Joe Sedelmaier in one long, hilarious hit, or U-Mat, as reels used to be called.
Like J-PG, Sedelmaier’s world is very distinctive, it’s people are odd-looking; they behave in extreme ways often accompanied by a tuba.
But the ideas are always unarguable.
I could have picked any one of dozens of great ads he’s directed, but chose The Federal Express Fast Talker ad.
Because in 60 seconds FedEx show empathy for the viewers’ work life, explains how it could help and makes them laugh.
At the time it made UPS, DHL and the rest look like a bunch of worthy, sloth-like dullards.
8. APPLE ‘HERE’S TO THE CRAZY ONES’
The Apple philosophy had been brilliantly captured by Ridley Scott in ‘1984’.
It looked huge, bigger than some films.
So the next ad to talk philosophy was eagerly anticipated.
On first viewing it’s small, like a bit of powerpoint,
Where was the amazing rebellious story, the twist, the filmic values?
But then, it gets you.
The ‘been there done it’ feel of the voiceover from Richard Dreyfuss, the spirit in the images chosen, it’s like a joyous memorium.
At the end of it, you just want to cheer.
For me its intelligence and sensitivity is more persuasive than the bombast of ‘1984’.
9. BUD LIGHT ‘THE BUD LIGHT INSTITUTE’
I have a beef with most funny ads – they’re just not funny.
They are a kind of faux funny; we recognise the comedy structure and the punchline at the end, but they don’t make people laugh – not like comedy programmes or films.
The Bud Light campaign was genuinely funny.
It’s built on the funny idea that there’s an institute out there constantly coming up with with new products to help men with distinctly men-type problems.
In the previous ad in the campaign it was coming up with ideas to occupy women, therefore freeing up men to get together with their mates and maybe have a cold refreshing Bud Light. The Tupperware party, the shoe sale, the soap opera, etc.
In this ad the institute’s latest breakthrough is a set of cards for those occasions that men really need them – like the day after Valentine’s Day or appologising for a thoughtless comment.
Funny idea, funny execution.
10. AFTER EIGHT ‘GAMES OF CHANCE’
The reason I’ve picked this last one is not so much the impression the ad made on me, but the impression the story of the birth of the product made on me a few weeks ago.
Growing up, After Eights seemed like a slice of high society, but I recently discovered how they came about.
In the sixties Rowntree’s had a production issue. The process of making one of their products led to a lot of excess dark chocolate, so they went to their ad agency to see whether any of their clever young chaps could think of something to do with it.
The starch-shirted boffins from the planning department at JWT went to work.
Sure enough they spotted a gap in the market for an aspirational product for the emerging post-war dinner party crowd.
Everthing was built around this idea – the name – genius, the logo of a gold carriage clock – what could be more appropriate for an upmarket dinner party? And the product – thin, because this was excess chocolate they were trying to get rid of after all.
If an agency did this today they would be cartwheeling up and down Carnaby Street shouting about how integrated and modern they were.
This was JWT, yes that JWT, in the sixties.