Sarah De Martin of Artefact picks her Desert Island Ads

Sarah De Martin is the UK MD of Artefact, Europe’s largest independent data-driven marketing group. She was previously managing partner at Omnicom’s OMD, and has previously worked at Initiative and Starcom.

Desert Island Ads

At Artefact, we’re in the business of performance. Deliverable results. However, that doesn’t mean we think brand advocacy campaigns are losing their relevance – not in the slightest. The fact is, advertising can be – and often is – amazing. There are ads that really stick with you, and you carry those brands with you for life. I have a tremendous amount of respect for ‘old-fashioned’ branding campaigns that get it right, which is why they comprise the majority of my Desert Island Ads.

Volkswagen – ‘Father/Daughter’

There was a period a few years back when all the advertisers were going for the heart-strings – not content with a tug, they wanted to lasso your wallet with them. While this approach has obviously been popularised by the Christmas ad wars we’re subjected to every winter, it still produces many of the most memorable ads.

VW’s ‘Father/Daughter’ ad does it by far the best – cataloguing eighteen years from childhood to leaving home, the film really hammers home the brand’s safety and reliability values. Dad’s looking after Daughter every step of the way, from birth, playtime, learning, boyfriends – rightly so, he’s terrified – and club nights to the final send-off, Mum and Dad very kindly giving Daughter a Polo as a leaving-home gift.

Dove – ‘Evolution’

Taken on its own, ‘Evolution’ makes a powerful statement: time-lapsing nearly three hours’ worth of makeup/pruning into 23 seconds, the spot highlights the level of digital manipulation images go through before they see the light of day – even dictating factors like how long your neck is!

As part of the wider Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, ‘Evolution’ is unstoppable. It unveils a simple human truth and makes a powerful case for standing up to the pressures of modern-day society. ‘Evolution’ is the starkest exposure of ‘fake’ beauty I can remember. It’s absolutely fine to make yourself feel and look good, but there are limits to what we should feel we have to put ourselves through. The ad says it succinctly: ‘No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted’.

Walmart – ‘Famous cars’

We don’t see a lot of blockbuster ads nowadays, primarily due to the cost of making them. So when I spotted the Mystery Machine, the Batmobile, Bumblebee, Fred Flintstone’s car, the flying DeLorean, a bunch of hungry-looking Compsognathus and more in the new ad for Walmart’s online grocery/pick-up service, I couldn’t help but grin. It’s not the smartest spot in the world, nor does it try to be. It’s a load of beloved, world-famous cars going to pick up food at Walmart, set to the tune of Gary Numan’s Cars. It premiered during the Golden Globes. And sometimes that’s enough.

Y&R – Backbone

Once Young & Rubicam, now merged with VML to create the snappy VMLY&R, I’ll call the agency as it’s still known by most: Y&R. This ad’s a neat way of describing what we do, and worth checking in with every now and then. If you’re ever questioning what you’re doing, doubting, uhm-ing and ah-ing, go back to this. Integrity. The backbone.

EDS – ‘Cat Herders’

‘It’s like herding cats.’ That silly idiom is my life on a daily basis, and EDS’ literal take on that is so brilliant. An IT company had no right making something so consumer-friendly, yet ‘Cat Herders’ won awards and snuggly nestled into a Super Bowl slot. Everything about it is so perfect, every nuance, the lint rollers, the sneezing, the ‘wounds’ the cowboys sustain.

‘Herdin’ cats… don’t let anybody tell you it’s easy.’ It’s not. But as the ad shows, it’s well worth the trouble.

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