Ogilvy’s Graham Fink picks his Desert Island Ads

grahamGraham Fink began his career at Collett Dickenson Pearce as the youngest member of, arguably, the most talented creative department ever in the UK. He went on to produce award-winning work at GGT, Saatchi & Saatchi and WCRS before becoming a commercials and music video director. In 2001 he joined M&C Saatchi as ECD and in 2011 he moved to Shanghai to become chief creative officer Ogilvy & Mather China. O&M’s poster ‘Hands’ for Coca-Cola won a Cannes Grand Prix in 2012.


I was walking down the beach the other day when I came across a footprint.

After we swapped pleasantries, we each carried on our way. Funny, I’ve always imagined a desert island as a peaceful kind of place, but having a good look around, this one seems to be getting a little crowded. Jeremy Garner has just moved in to join the likes of Elspeth Lynn, John Hegarty and Matt Keon and the rest of the crew.

Over there, between two palm trees, I notice Robin Wight has rigged up a washing line and is pegging out his stripy underwear and natty bow ties to dry in the sun. What’s worse is my new neighbours have nicked half of my ‘Desert Island Ads’ too: Cadbury’s ‘Gorilla’, Guinness ‘Surfing horses’. Levis ‘Creek, Dumb ways to die…..

Oh well, there’s plenty more fish in the sea. Exotic fish, too.

So first up, is a Thai film for tyres (or should that be ‘thaiers’). Now the odds of escaping my island seem slim, but I could watch this spot to watch from time to time to give me hope. Made for half the price of a Robin Wight bow tie and twice as funny (although, let’s face it, a bow tie isn’t very funny).

Thai Insurance: Car Tyre


I’d also have to include the ad that made me want to get into advertising in the first place – CDP’s cinema masterpiece for Benson & Hedges. It opens on a blinking iguana in a dry swimming pool built into the desert. The B&H pack is actually a giant sardine can. Rene Magritte would have loved this. Thank God for the Surrealists eh? They’ve saved the day for many a creative team. Especially when you’re not allowed to say anything.

This one was directed by the then golden boy of British Advertising, Hugh Hudson. Stories were rife around CDP at the time (1978) that this was the most expensive ad ever made, costing a whopping £100k. Apparently as the film crew arrived in Death Valley it started to rain – the first time in aeons. So they sat around for 10 days before the cameras rolled. In my book it was well worth it (and I wish it was in my book!).

As I left the cinema all those years ago I vowed to get a job at CDP. I even dressed up as an old man to get one….but that’s another story.

Benson & Hedges: Swimming Pool

Fiat Strada ‘Handbuilt by robots’ was another famous CDP spot around that time. Again, Hugh was the man behind the lens and I am in awe every time I watch it. But it’s Vangelis’s highly original ‘collaboration’ with Gioacchino Rossini that takes my heart into the stratosphere.

The endline is also inspired. ‘Handbuilt by robots’ was written around the time that Ford workers were perpetually out on strike, giving the ad a further edge.
Legend has it the spot only ran once and was the most recalled ad on TV of all time.

Fiat Strada: Handbuilt by robots


Now I’m sure I’m gonna be stuck on this bloody island for more than two weeks, which gives me enough time to get used to the mild taste of Silk Cut. This was the brilliant strategy behind yet another of CDP’s virtuoso performances. These days this is seen as very un-PC, so I must stress that it’s not my intention to offend anyone. But in 1979 I remember sitting in a cinema watching this ‘Zulu’ spoof and it got more laughs than the comedy feature film that followed. Directed by the great Alan Parker and written by two of the funniest guys in adland, Paul Weiland and Dave Horry.

Silk Cut: Zulu


It seems very few of my neighbours have picked any print ads to decorate the island. So I’ve decided to take one of my favourite press ads of all time and blow it up to a 48-sheet poster. Not only does it give me some welcome shade from the hot sun but I can look up at it and wish I had done an ad as good as this. It’s the Adidas one… ‘Just to the signpost’…. The story goes that they had no money to go and shoot anything, so the art director Dave Dye found a stock shot and to make it look more interesting tinted it red. And who needs money when you can write a line as inspirational as this. My version is ‘Just to the palm tree…..

Adidas: Just to the signpost

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The other poster I would put up won China’s first ever Cannes Grand Prix. ‘Heaven and Hell’ for Samsonite (another ad I wish I had done).
It breaks all the rules ‘they’ tell you about posters – Can’t be too detailed. Less than seven words. Must be read when driving past at 60mph…blah blah blah.
Well in China the traffic hardly moves at all, so I’m fine with it. What I also like is the fact that it tells a story: a poster in ‘three acts’ – beginning, middle and end.

David Ogilvy would have hated it. Thank God he’s not on the island.

Samsonite: Heaven and hell


One of my all time favourite digital/360 campaigns is for Halo 3. It’s such a lateral idea. Instead of showing lots of clips from the game, they created a Museum of Humanity that commemorated the battle between Mankind and its Alien enemy. A great piece of storytelling. The attention to the detail here is a lesson to even the most anally retentive Mark Reddy prodigy.

They even had interviews with the survivors of the war who painfully retold their stories of being in the front line. Stunning.


Halo 3: Case study for Museum of Humanity.


The maverick director Tony Kaye changed the way commercials looked. In a purple patch lasting many years he directed dozens of groundbreaking ads. A true original, who broke just about every rule known to filmmakers around the world. His tour de force was Twister: a film about a very boring car being driven into the centre of a hurricane that ended up the as the most exciting piece of celluloid I’d seen for years. Most car ads feature the product as porn, but here it was covered in mud and debris as it took a whiplashing of wind, trees and even a flying boat. London was agog with stories of wildly overrunning budgets, TV producers turning grey overnight and an incredible million miles of film being shot.

A storm in a teacup it wasn’t.

 Volvo: Twister


Is a music video an ad? I think so. To my mind a band is a brand and a music video is an ad that promotes them. Anyway I’ve picked one of the cleverest videos ever made and when no-one’s around I often pretend I can dance like Funk/Acid Jazz singer Jay Kay in this extraordinary performance, as he dodges moving walls and sofas. The insane thing is that everyone thought it was the floor that was moving.

Jamiroquai: Virtual insanity


A truly breakthrough moment came in 2002 with these online BMW films.

I distinctly remember my telly looking over its shoulder. I’d never seen that before. Suddenly you could run a 10-minute commercial instead of a 30-second one. Everyone was talking about them and sending the link to their friends And with Clive Owen in the driving seat, advertising would never be the same again.

BMW: The Hire



The question ‘Why am I here?’ is never far from my mind and nighttime on a desert island brings a heavy dose of numinousity.

I’ve always had a fascination for quantum physics, even though I struggle with some of the concepts. But the fact we are made of atoms with more space inside them than actual matter, yet appear to be more solid rather than transparent, has puzzled people far more educated than me.

So my final selection is ‘A Boy and his Atom’ for IBM. For me, this is one of the greatest pieces of creative work I have ever seen. Animation done with atoms for Christ sake!

Playing around with God’s toys to create something new.

It is a totally pioneering piece of work .

A world first.

IBM: A boy and his atom



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