Phil Rumbol of 101 picks his Desert Island Ads

Agencies often moan that clients don’t understand creative advertising but one who most certainly did was Phil Rumbol (below), now a partner at leading London independent agency 101. 101 handles clients including the BBC, Byron, Dunelm, Drench and Scottish Widows.

Prior to 101 Rumbol spent more than 20 years at leading advertisers. As marketing director at Cadbury and InBev he won Cannes Lions and Marketing Society Grand Prix awards for campaigns such as Cadbury ‘Gorilla,’ the social media return of Wispa and Stella Artois’ ‘Reassuringly expensive.’ A Fellow of The Marketing Society and Board Trustee of The Marketing Academy, Rumbol was tempted to make the leap to agency side by the prospect of building a company dedicated to creatively-led business transformation.

Desert Island Ads

I read a recent article by a musician who talked about how Jung had “a great word, ‘luminosity’, which has to do with the something that lights up inside you – a sort of impulse for something other.”

More than anything else Desert Island Ads should be personal. They should be like great songs, great scenes from films, or works of art – they’re ads that light you up from the inside out. Something that makes you stop what you’re doing to give a brand 30 seconds or more of your undivided attention. Something that goes straight into the bloodstream, whether you like it or not. And like a great music track, a great desert island ad bears repeated viewing.

So here’s my list, compiled purely on personal ‘luminosity’.

Caffrey’s – New York

A rarity – a beer ad that manages to pull off showing a bar with a great atmosphere, juxtaposing downtown New York with a misty eyed evocation of Commitments-era Ireland. Along with Boddington’s, this ad succeeded in making ale sexy for a new generation of drinker.

And if it’s possible for an ad to have atmosphere, then this has it.

Canal Plus – March of the Emperor

A master class in story telling. An ad that takes an obvious insight (the water cooler moment) but plays it in the most original way imaginable, and to great comic effect. Even though I’ve watched it countless times and know the jokes that are coming, the direction and performances are so good it still makes me smile.

VW Polo – Dreamer

A beautifully shot film. I remember the first time I saw it – it wasn’t immediately obvious where it was heading but it had my attention and as the ad progressed the ‘small is safe’ thought started to emerge. Even now, years later, I can still picture the firemen ducking as the flames pass overhead.

The first ad that made me think ads could be films not just ‘commercials.’

Honda – Impossible Dream

As the voiceover says “I couldn’t have put it better myself.” I remember judging this as part of an awards jury, where some accused it of lacking an idea. For me, it’s probably the best product demo ad ever made, artfully showing the full spectrum of Honda products (except lawnmowers, where are the lawnmowers?), all the while building and sweeping the viewer along.

I must confess I like speed – so I’m there; the quad bike on the beach, the open top sports car, the overhead shot of the motorbike racing along a tree lined road, even that feeling in the pit of my stomach as the speedboat goes off the edge of the waterfall…

Thomson – Time for a holiday

“Time… much to answer for.”

I’ll admit this is possibly the most personal of all my Desert Island ads.

In striking a genuine emotional chord, it was no doubt helped by the fact that the boy looked very similar to my own son at the time. But, even so, it taps into the richest of emotional wells (magical moments with your loved ones) in a simple but powerful way. The moments are beautifully constructed and observed; dusk in the pool, sleeping kids, son and dad bracing themselves in cold sea water – every holidaying parent has been there.

But it’s the boy’s narration that nails it. The juxtaposition of wisdom (time being precious) and innocence (delivered as if from son to father) works a treat.

So there you have it. Five ads with one common thread – luminosity.

All are beautifully executed, but the truth is they all made this list because they felt like they were aimed at me and only me – and that’s the way it should be.

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