At the time, I was too mesmerized by the spectacle of Helena Bonham Carter playing a working-class tart on another channel to notice the result of ITV’s annual self-congratulatory jamboree, Ad of the Year. Fortunately, my old chum Stephen Foster was a lot more vigilant.
I gather the winner was Thinkbox’s ‘Harvey the dog’ commercial, which is an interesting result from several points of view. First of all, it’s a very good ad (one of my favourites this year, in fact), so plaudits all round – to Tess Alps and her team, and ad agency Red Brick Road, not to mention to Harvey himself for his winsome performance. It’s an engaging piece of communication, and does exactly what it says on the tin – it makes television advertising more appealing.
Which brings me to my second point. Harvey was a worthy winner in any competition but this one: a showcase for ITV’s commercial department in which the principal gong goes to … ITV’s principal commercial cheerleader. By way of justification, it might be pointed out that the winning ad was the genuine choice of an 8,000-strong panel of viewers, not the result of a studio fix, like the notorious naming of the BBC’s Blue Peter cat. To which I would counter that a) the programme organisers clearly need the benefit of X Factor Simon Cowell’s consultancy skills and b) as Stephen suggests, what were they thinking of in allowing the ad to be entered in the first place?
That said, Harvey has set a benchmark which few other ads have been able to equal or surpass in the past year. There’s John Lewis’s ‘Always a Woman’ commercial, the continuing adventures of the Meerkat (VCCP), Gio Compario (as irritating as it is memorable, developed by the former Smash Martians creative team at BMP) and Yeo Valley (BBH), of course:
While we’re on song and dance routines, I’d also enter a plea for IKEA’s somewhat under-rated ‘Kitchen Party’ (Mother). It took me a while to fully appreciate this one, entertaining though it is. What were they all doing dancing in the kitchen – of all place’s? Doh! said my wife: you’re clearly not the target market. These days, fitted kitchens have nothing to do with cooking skills – if they ever did; in fact those skills are probably inversely proportional to the amount of money spent on showing off. The kitchen is the place where culinarily-challenged 18-34 year-olds do all their entertaining. Silly old me.