Gerry Moira of Havas picks his Desert Island Ads

Unknown-2Gerry Moira is UK director of creativity and creative chairman at Havas Worldwide (formerly Euro RSCG) in London (a very long title, as he admits). He began his career as a copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather in 1977 before becoming ECD of Publicis and then starting his own London agency WMGO. He later rejoined Publicis, helping to take the agency from 13th place in the UK to third. He is one of the UK’s most acute commentators on ads and all who sail in them.


Question. What do Gary Glitter, Rolf Harris and Gerry Moira have in common? Come on. It’s staring you in the face. We’ve all selected our own work to take on this mythical desert island. Rolf modestly included just four of his own compositions and I make no apologies for copying the Queen’s portraitist here. We all learn more from our own work, especially the bits that don’t quite work, than we do sitting dutifully through reels of Cannes and One Show winners.

Like all creatives of my generation (there are a few still practising) I grew up in the Golden Age of TV advertising. A time when British agencies threw off the shackles of imported American formulae like ‘side by side’ and ‘vox pop. brand swaps’ and found a unique voice of their own. I say ‘their’ but really it was just one agency. A lot of sentimental guff is spoken about the good old days but it really is extraordinary how CDP came to dominate the 1970s and set the template for a British world-beating business. Classy, non-patronising, product-focused, memorable story telling of the stickiest order, I wonder if it would catch on today?

CDP and later BMP ruined every evening I spent in the stygian gloom of the Grosvenor House in the early part of my career. But then envy, bitterness and resentment are great motivators. My first effort to join their ranks was in 1978, for a trade body called British Chicken called We’re Having Chicken. Thanks largely to Roger Woodburn’s direction this spot won a Silver Lion at Cannes and attracted the attention of the late John Webster of BMP (unfortunately we can’t find the damn thing – any help gratefully received and acknowledged). He eventually declined to hire me on the diplomatic but sadly illusory grounds that “I was too expensive.”

In the eighties I learnt that good work came from good client relationships and I was lucky to coincide with top marketing directors at Pirelli and Renault. Pirelli Double Indemnity was a simple product demo given the LA Noir treatment by Marek Kanievska. It started with a brilliant story board from my then art director John Aldred and ended with a bizarre audience with Ridley Scott in a trailer at a secret location in the Californian desert. Happy Days. Gold at the Grosvenor luvs. Zip-diddly-fuck-nada everywhere else.

Renault 5’s What’s Yours Called was a successful campaign brought to a shuddering climax with this Nick Lewin-helmed spot featuring Nicholas Parsons. This was maybe the third time I’d worked with Nick. Sometimes it worked sometimes it didn’t but it was always fun. Mr Parsons contributed to the merriment by constantly referring to himself in the third person. “What exactly do you want Nicholas Parsons to do in this shot?” The campaign worked by wrapping yuppie psychodramas around the simple truth that people, especially women, liked to anthropomorphise their cars. ‘Arrers’ all round luvs.

Cars and beer used to be the big creative opportunities in the ‘80’s. This is palpably no longer the case. What have you seen lately to compare with this beautiful 1988 VW spot from DDB and Tony Kaye? There are some ideas you process logically and there are some you just feel. This is in the latter camp which is still rare in our business. I have always been a strong believer in the power of music in ads. This Billie Holiday track is one of the best examples ever. Add mono, Manhattan, kids and Kaye…irresistible.

Music is also a strong contributor to the enduring appeal of Lynx Getting Dressed, (2007. BBH/Ringan Ledwidge). This tale of spontaneous consumation is the road that Lynx might have taken. Compared to the teenage wank-fantasies that followed, this film is True Romance, Casablanca and A Bout de Souffle rolled into one. The two brilliantly cast and directed protagonists are equals, neither objectified nor clichéd. Their pairing more passionate and sexy for the insouciance with which it is surrendered. I wouldn’t change a frame of this spot. It should be a movie, fuck it, it is a movie.

The late 90’s saw something of a resurgence in American advertising, especially for ‘guy’ products like beer and sports. This spot for Fox, Feet, illustrates for me the difference between English smiley and American laugh out loud SNL funnee. (OK, a little tasteless but funny). In fact, considering the loneliness and depression I will have to endure on this island I might also cheer myself up with Fox Sports’ Nail Gun from the Beware of Things made in October series for their MLB coverage. Beautifully choreographed chaos.

That’s nearly it. No room for Webster, Levi’s, Sony, Nike, Tango, Ikea, Lego and about a hundred other commercials I would have killed to have claimed as my own. No print. No digital.

Lastly another happy personal memory from last year; a short film I made for client Credit Suisse’s sponsorship of the National Gallery’s Titian exhibition. The film re-imagines the grisly tale of the goddess Diana’s curse on the hapless Actaeon in a sort of Downton hunting lodge scenario. Thanks to the talent and imagination of Remi and Luke of Tell No One this spot won gold at Cannes last year making it a mere 35 years between Lions for me. Mostly, it’s been fun but maybe I’m ready for that beach.

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