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St Luke’s CCO Rich Denney picks his Desert Island Ads

So, you’re stuck on a desert Island. The goal first and foremost is survival. Once that is sorted, the second is working out a plan to get off that bloody island. Easier said than done but hopefully with a bit of genius thinking it’s possible. And genius thinking forms the basis for this selection of seriously incredible creative pieces below.

First up is VW Protection, written by Jeremy Craigen and shot by Jonathan Glazer back in 2008. This stunning ad for VW’s Polo is an absolute classic from the VW stable of killer insights executed to perfection. ‘Ever notice how protected you feel when you make yourself small?’ A killer line and a beautifully compelling ad that I could watch time and time again.

Next, I’m going to pick something that isn’t an ad but quite possibly one of the most incredible demonstrations of creativity in a moment of crisis which happened right at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic. Hospital ICU wards in Italy had a serious problem. Oxygen tanks were a plenty, but masks were in serious short supply. In a moment of genius thinking the clever design engineers at Issinova worked out that by creating bespoke 3D printed respirator adapters they could fit them to Decathlon diving masks and attach them to the oxygen tanks. Incredible use of creative thinking that ultimately saved many lives.

I’m going to pick a poster next. It’s tricky to choose a favourite but I’m going to pick Mercedes ‘Skid marks’. This came out the first year I started in advertising, it was incredibly simple yet beautifully powerful too. It demonstrated desire for a luxury car in such a clever way. And like the ad itself it literally stopped me in my tracks when I first saw it. The art direction was a masterclass in ‘less is more’. It didn’t even have the words Mercedes Benz on it. The badge was so iconic you knew who it was for, which made it even more rewarding. Even more premium when signed off below with just ‘The new SLK’. Just perfect in every way, which is why it collected the Cannes Lions Grand Prix. If you have time, it’s worth listening to the story behind it from Mark Tutssel who created it on ‘Behind the Billboard.’

I’m going to bring something more recent to this selection next. Calm’s ‘The Last Photo’ is one of the most powerful pieces of work I have seen for a charity for some time. There has been some incredible work out there of late, with a lot of them coming from Calm itself. ‘Suicide doesn’t always look suicidal’ is an incredible insight with every media execution working perfectly on its own – which makes this campaign even more brilliant. The posters, press and film are all excellent, and when joined together make this campaign even more powerful. Huge congrats to everyone involved in making this important work. Creativity for good is a powerful gift we can use to really make a difference in the world, and this is the very best example of that right now.

Let’s jump to something lighter. HATE. Yep, in 2004 Honda made the entire car competition go GRRReen with envy with their absolute classic. It showed innovation in green technology way before anyone else and did it with a genius piece of thinking by turning HATE on its head in the most original way. The music, the words, the animation again a masterclass in creativity and execution creating one of the most memorable and much lauded ads in car advertising of all time.

Honda Grrr

Whilst were on theme of memorable animation and music I have to include Dumb Ways to Die too. I remember coming home from work in 2012 and hearing my then 5-year-old son singing the tune. I knew what it was but asked him where he’d heard it. He then went on to show me what it was all about. And remember this was created out of Melbourne for the Metro trains network encouraging children to make a pledge to be safe and responsible around train tracks. An idea so original and fresh in its thinking it travelled the world. Just incredible.

Dumb ways to die

I could go on forever picking out favourites. I find it ever so inspiring just thinking about what to add to this list and what this work means to me as a creative, but it’s time to skip to the final piece of work I want to share, and this piece of work was literally unskippable.

Geico collected the Cannes Grand Prix in film in 2015 for its skippable ad. A voice over started the ad by saying “You can’t skip this ad because it’s already over” as a family gathered around the dinner table only to pretend to pause. This followed quickly with a giant Geico logo appearing right in the middle of the screen for the remainder of the ad which was a minute long. A clients dream right? But here’s the genius touch. You see, most people would have switched off at this point, but the daftness which followed by the family dog jumping up onto the table to demolish all the food in sight whilst trashing the dinner table made it ever so entertaining and sharable. All the family remained perfectly still in their paused state but seeing their eyes watching the dog as it moved around its free feast was hilarious.

Geico Unskippable

So, I’ve finally come to the end. I’ve gone over this several times and have more to add or potentially swap out, but we must stop somewhere and this selection I’ve shared today are all benchmarks of excellence in what we do and, more importantly, I need to work out how to get off this island.

Rich Denney is joint CCO, St Luke’s.

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