GIG at DST’s Mike Cavers picks his Desert Island Ads

unnamed-2Mike Cavers is ECD of The GIG at DST, the customer engagement agency in the DST Applied Analytics Group data business. He began his career as a designer and moved into sales promotion as creative director of Cato Johnston before becoming a founding partner of Limbo, BBH’s below-the-line arm. He then worked at Payne Stracey followed by TBWAH Amsterdam as European creative director – integration, working on the Nissan Account. Creative director roles followed at Publicis Dialog, Chemistry Communications and The Marketing Store.


Desert Island Ads


VW: Lemon


A classic ad for a classic car. The Beetle was deemed ugly, Americans weren’t buying it. So using intelligent wit to draw the reader into the ad by admitting that it was a ‘Lemon’, but telling everyone of its quirky charms and great engineering , this ad was instrumental in driving the tone of voice of VW advertising to this day.


Sunday Times: Rich List Cats

Fat cats Times Rich List

Beautiful art direction with a cheeky, wry smile behind it. I enjoy a visual pun and while the ad pokes fun at some of the UK’s wealthiest people, it’s done in a clever and classy way without overstepping the line. Who knew you could make Simon Cowell look cute?


Saatchi’s Pregnant Man and Labour Isn’t Working



Both these ads challenged the norms of what you could show or say in advertising at the time. Saatchi’s pregnant man feels like a bold statement of gender equality in an age that was dominated by sexism. The ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ creative is just as bold. By focusing on such a loaded issue like mass unemployment, the ad quietly subverts Labour’s competition. Both of these examples are a lesson in effective controversy.



Cadbury’s Smash: Martians

Who doesn’t remember ‘Smash’? It seems oddly quaint now, but at the time it was quite a star product. It helped to unshackle women (and it was always women) from the day-to-day grind of the family meal. Furthermore, it was a bit of a proto-challenger brand as Cadbury’s wasn’t and still isn’t known for its non-confectionery products. It manages to make me laugh like a drain to this day, much as it did the first time I saw it.


Cadbury: Gorilla

Phil Collins? Check. Drum solo? Check. Cuddly animal? Check. Simply the best ad I have seen for years, it summed up the whole chocolate eating experience. Epic and witty. Cadbury’s at its best. Demonstrating that a great film, with a great sound track, will always make a more visceral and memorable connection than any other medium.


Fiat Strada: Figaro 1979

This is the ad that made me want to work in advertising. It was just so epic at the time, and I even bought one. It had kind of an industrial glamour feel and injected a shot of Italian ‘Bella Vita’ into the grey landscape of 1970s Britain. Also, it had robots doing amazing things, something that was quite revolutionary at the time.



Old Spice: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

Old Spice was basically a byword for staid masculinity and retrograde style choices. This comic and cheeky ad was part of a 360 degree digital campaign that helped to turn this perception around. A true brand-changing campaign that made the outdated cologne cool again.


Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club positions itself as a disruptive alternative to other men’s grooming brands. It is fitting then that this subversive approach filters down into its advertising. I love this parody of advertising and the ambition of the owner starring in his own ad without apology.


Blendtec: Will it Blend?

Non-advertising advertising at its best. This series of viral infomercials really demonstrates what non-traditional advertising can offer. It shows off Blendtec’s product benefits without a food item in sight, in a fun and engaging way without resorting to a ‘hard sell’. These cheeky product demonstrations have IT companies queueing up to get their product blended.


  1. Excellent choices sir. But you missed “I Never Read The Economist.” Best copy-only ad ever.

  2. The VW “Lemon” ad was not about the car being perceived as ugly. It was about the rigorous quality control all VW’s go through to make it on to the boat for the US. This one didn’t make it ‘cos it had a blemish on a glove compartment chrome strip.
    Cheers/George “AdScam” Parker

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