A Christmas food ad ...with food! // ITV's next hurdle // London buses
Unlike so many other retailers, M&S actually wants to show you delicious food in its festive advertising. It's almost radical, writes Dominic Mills. Plus: a potential can of worms for ITV; media folk and London bus syndrome; and TV Tim Bleakley
So, Edgar the fire-breathing Dragon, this season’s brand mascot from the nascent John Lewis/Waitrose duo is with us.
He’s certainly caught the imagination. He made his first appearance in mainstream popular culture in a political cartoon in the Evening Standard last Thursday, the day of launch. And when I caught up with the Twitter teaser that afternoon, he’d already been viewed over 2.5m times (all before the ad was actually shown).
Hapless Edgar may cause problems everywhere he goes, his hot breath melting snowmen and making life hell for ice-skaters, but he’s loveable nonetheless. And even if he doesn’t talk, you can’t go wrong humanising animals.
But I’ve yet to see the ad in real life — you know, at home, on a big screen, normal household distractions and all that — so I’ll reserve comment till I have.
Meanwhile, M&S has unveiled its food ad (above), this year featuring Paddy McGuinness and Emma Willis. So far so normal (notwithstanding a lack of ethnic faces). They visit a Christmas food market, lots of happy people and so on.
But here’s the surprise. It actually features some Christmas food. Good food. Unctuous, oozing food. Food I want. Unlike Asda and Aldi, for example, which don’t seem to want to show their food.
Radical, isn’t it? Maybe it’ll catch on.
ITV’s next hurdle
Tom Jones may be 79, but he can still cut it on stage...as anyone who saw him blow away Olly Murs on stage at ITV’s Palooza event last week can testify.
It was, as described here, an evening during which ITV put its best foot forward and gave off an air of confidence even if some of the foundations might be a bit wobbly.
Two things struck me. One, the old arrogance which allowed ITV to adopt a ‘take-it-or-leave it’ attitude to its clients is gone, and in its place is some evidence that it is now much more willing to act as a business partner with advertisers.
Two of the interesting Love Island partnerships evidenced its willingness to work with small advertisers, in this case fashion company I saw It First and hat manufacturer Rewired. The former would never have had sufficient cash to get on TV in an earlier era, while with Rewired ITV essentially brokered a joint venture in which it gets a share of Love Island-linked sales. In both cases, it is equal parts flexible and creative.
The second is that, for all the promise its long-awaited addressable TV proposition Planet V offers, including the ability to pull in new-to-TV or small advertisers, there’s an elephant in the room — albeit an industry elephant.
This is the idea of share, the basis on which TV has been traded (happily, for the most part, by all parties) for many years.
Share is the premise that underpins the price advertisers pay and the basis on which pitches are won. The bigger the promised share, the lower the price.
The question then is whether addressable budgets are considered ‘in share’ or out. Historically they have been out, not least in ITV’s view. Can this be sustained, especially as a) addressable is more expensive than spot and b) as broadcasters want addressable to attract new money, not cannibalise spot budgets?
The answer to b) depends in part on how much money addressable can bring in from new-to-TV advertisers, large or small, but if share is up for debate, then the road leads inexorably to CRR.
You may be shocked to realise, as I was, that CRR, which is a mechanic put in place to protect advertisers from ITV’s then quasi-monopolistic position in TV, goes back to 2003.
It’s thus an anachronism, built for another era. But getting rid of it means opening a potential can of worms.
And talking of which, the departure to Publicis Media announced today of Steve Bignell, ITV's director of advanced advertising and thus a key figure behind its move into addressable, strikes me as inconvenient, to say the least. It's a bit like a football manager who spends the off-season getting his new team organised and then announces he's off just as the season begins.
Media folk and London bus syndrome
Last week I wrote about the way the media eco-system had evolved in such a way as to encourage veterans and network veterans to discover second lives with new offerings, evidenced separately by Steve Goodman and Dino Myers-Lamptey.
I did — apologies — forget to include another such venture, that of Simon Davis, late of Blue 449 and Publicis Media.
Now, hence the reference to London buses, there’s a fourth.
This time it’s former BLM and Havas Media big cheese, Steve Booth, who has just gone live with Real World Advertising, essentially a marketplace where advertisers can detail their media needs and media owners can respond. The tech behind the platform matches them up.
Its USP, as far as I can see, is that the focus is on location-based targeting, which advertisers say they want but which is a bore and a pain to plan. Of course there’s mobile but Booth’s aim is to widen out the media options, including OOH.
What’s interesting to me about this quartet is that, while they’ve all come from similar places, they’ve all headed off in different directions. Media is truly fertile ground, with many furrows to plough.
Many years ago, the CEO of a creative agency that was the subject of a fly-on-the-wall documentary told me that he bitterly regretted letting the cameras in. “They made us look like total twats,” he said.
They did indeed. It was excruciating to watch. Ever since then I’ve always counselled anyone who asked against repeating that mistake. They’ll never look good, however much they kid themselves.
Which brings me to last week’s showing of The Apprentice, in which the contestants were asked to make a video commercial for Finland which would then be shown on Ocean Outdoor’s Piccadilly monster.
And who should be on the panel judging their efforts but Ocean’s Tim Bleakley? Who knows why he volunteered himself for this.
Judging by the expression in his face, he was asking himself this.
Here’s a grab of Tim looking, well, grim. His usual smiley demeanour must have been left on the cutting-room floor.
Or perhaps he left it at the door when he realised he’d given over some of Ocean’s prime real-estate to something dire.
By the by, Suralan made me laugh when he explained that the advertising task was the one he really enjoyed. Agencies that worked with him during his Amstrad days wouldn’t recognise this. One creative describe this attitude this way: “He thinks about advertising the way most people think about tax. They hate it and they do their best to avoid it.”