Is this a golden age of TV ads?

Bank of Ireland's delightfully playful ad.

A singing lavatory seat. Delightful.

Say what you like about the Carlsberg wrong number ad here, or Guinness’ perennial Christmas ad here, but there are a plethora of TV ads currently doing the rounds that could give anything from the proud history of advertising a run for its money. And most of them have been made for our banks.

Where to begin. Well, for starters there’s that trio of stellar ads from AIB. In the first, we see a cosmopolitan hued mother with her child, as she gets given her new car by her, let’s call him partner – obviously they’re not married, they’re far too modern for that – although it was still up to him to organize the finance. But here’s the genius of the ad; they use actual footage.

Look at that, cosmopolitan or what!

Look at that, cosmopolitan or what.

Normally with an ad like that, you’d have to get a camera crew, a director and hire a couple of actors and the whole thing would look horribly staged. But this actually happened! The camerawork’s all over the place and it’s all horrendously shaky. Clearly, he took the footage himself, managing to capture her reaction almost by accident! It’s priceless. And here’s the amazing thing; it’s not the only footage that AIB got their hands on either.

There’s that second ad, with this mum – a normal one this time, you know, Irish – who gives her three kids the tree-house they’ve always dreamt of. And she manages to capture their reactions as well, on camera! It’s heart-warming, genuinely.

Fair play to you, Mick And Kate.

Fair play to you, Mick And Kate.

But the piece de resistance is their ad with that elderly couple explaining how they’ve finally managed to pay off their mortgage. The whole thing could have come across as unspeakably smug and been literally painful to watch, were it not for the fact that technically, it’s both brilliant and daringly innovative.

First, part of it is shot in glorious slo-mo. Which gives the ad that touch of class – and frankly, I’m very surprised that more ads don’t make use of this. And second, part if it uses actual home videos which were never meant for public viewing, but which the couple obviously gave AIB access to. You simply can’t fake that sort of footage, and it gives the ad an emotional depth that’s genuinely moving.

Look, a hipster! Well spotted KBC!

Look, a hipster! Well spotted KBC.

Not to be outdone, KBC have produced their own little gem. There’s this girl and her hipster boyfriend – you can tell he’s a hipster because he’s got a beard, and by the bye, I predict beards are going to come back in fashion – don’t’ laugh – any day now. And flares, and maybe even disco. Also, anything vintage. Mark my words, you heard it here first.

They’re dancing up and down in their living room, mindlessly celebrating the deal they’ve just been offered by their bank. Which, needless to say, would all be unimaginably tedious and frankly unwatchable, were if not for the brilliant, not to say daring innovation at the heart of the ad; it’s shot in glorious slo-mo.

A still worthy of the ads themselves.

A still worthy of the ads themselves.

And there’s more. What about Bank Of Ireland’s hilarious singing lavatory seat. Which is both brilliantly funny and clever. Because the music that they use is actually a subtle commentary on the ad’s message. “Don’t stop believing” they sing, which actually has a double meaning, when you think about it – and ditto cheesy, retro music loudly placed in a knowing po-mo manner in ads and TV series, that’s another one you can add to my list of predictions above.

The ghost of Christmas past.

The ghost of Christmas past.

Best of all though are those hilarious set of ads with those D4 lads, who sit chatting on that couch in those charming AIG ads. Imagine how proud those All Black players must have been to have had the chance to star in a TV spot with that pair of jokers.

And nor do we have a monopoly on those kinds of heart-warming if technically daring ads here in Ireland. Have you seen that wonderfully emotional set of ads all those renowned poets have done for Nationwide over in Britain? As we all know, financial institutions were probably the people most seriously affected by the downturn in 2008, so it’s really great to see so many established poets in Britain doing their bit to try and help them get back into profit again.

A suitably lofty use of his poetic gifts. Well done sir!

A suitably lofty use of his poetic gifts. Well done sir.

You can read my extensive analysis of each of those, and indeed all of the above, in my 734 page epamphlet which you can download (for free) here.

What an age to be alive.

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How Fantastic are the New Carlsberg Ads?!

horse-manure-002Most ads are mesmerically dull, jaw-droppingly tedious and unsullied by anything that could be mistaken, however remotely, for an idea. So how refreshing (pun intended!) are the new Carlsberg ads?!

If ever there were a beer in need of being rebranded, it was surely Carlsberg! Some of you will probably remember that bizarre ad of theirs from back in the day.

A man walks down a corridor, but stops to answer the phone he hears ringing in a room. Turns out it’s the Carlsberg Customer Complaints Department – you can see it here.

That’s hardly the sort of thing you want people to see in your ad! If anything, you should be telling them that when they drink Carlsberg, they won’t have anything to complain about at all!

But worse is to come. The ad concludes with an endline that says, “Carlsberg; probably the best larger in the world.”

Probably! Any of the more experienced ad men will tell you that you should really steer away from words like “probably”. “Definitely” would have been much stronger.

That same ambiguity was all over one of their more recent campaigns. “Carlsberg don’t do…” it went, and then they showed you all sorts of things that Carlsberg didn’t do. Like holidays, apartments, the list was endless. How negative is that?! Don’t tell us what Carlsberg doesn’t do! Tell us some of the things that it does, like refreshing the parts that other beers cannot reach!

And they finished with that hopelessly defensive endline, again! Probably the best larger in the world!

Calls-for-a-CarlsbergWell as the fella said, if it’s broke, fix it. So it’s wonderfully refreshing (there it is again!) to see the much more positive ads that they’ve now come out with. 

The first one appeared on our screens last summer. It gently references an obscure indie film from the 60s starring Steve McQueen. A man is sentenced to life in a health spa, but he fashions an escape, a great one if you will, and is rewarded with a crate (gedit!!) of Carlsberg.

And the new endline that it now finishes with? “That calls for a Carlsberg!“.

Thank God! That dreadful diffidence has been replaced with firm, manly assertiveness. Would it be hyperbole to suggest that it is to ads what Steve McQueen was to method acting?

spartacus-movie-image-1The second, in what I hope will be a long running campaign, is out at the moment. Once again, an obscure indie film from the 60s is referenced, this one by Stanley Kubrick. “I am Sparticus” they all shout. And they end up drinking over-lit pints of Carlsberg in an anemic Euro bar floating above a teenage graphic artist’s much, much younger brother’s vision of the future.

It’s hip, urban, and edgie. More to the point, it’s absolutely hilarious! And it ends on that glorious endline.

As much as I’d love to be able to claim that they’d devised the campaign here in Dublin, it is alas the work of Fold7 in London. Hats off to you, people. What can I say; that calls for a Carlsberg!

If there are any ads that you’ve seen, that you think are as incredible as those traffic-stopping pair of Carlsberg ads, drop me a line in the comment box below.

I don’t of course believe you. But I would be curious to see them.

Sign up for a subscription right or below, and I shall keep you posted every week on All the Very Best and Worst in Film, Television and Music!

Subscribe here for regular updates. And get your FREE GIFT of the first 2 chapters of my book, A Brief History Of Man.