To celebrate the IPA's centenary this year, we are asking adland's finest to pick their top five ads from the past century. This week, Tom Ewart, CCO/Founding Partner of The Corner shares his favourites, including a cultural landmark, the Unexpected and "the greatest use of eight words in advertising, ever".
Ki Ora, I’ll be your dog
An ad from my childhood that I still remember word for word today. We talk a lot these days about ‘content’ and the need for brands to take a share of popular culture, yet here is a TV ad from the 1980’s that would feel as at home today on Nickelodeon as Spongebob. It makes just enough sense to sell - crows pretending to be dogs in order to get a taste of the orangey drink - but it’s also just enough bats to be memorable almost 40 years later. A cultural landmark.
The ad that made we want to work in advertising. This woke me up to the power of a brilliant idea. BMW-driving-yuppie-wanker test drives the new Audi, and decides “Nah, it’s not really my style”. But it wasn't just the confidence of showing the car being rejected by someone that makes this such a standout ad. It’s the craft. The incredible attention to detail. The casting. The dialogue. The flick of the suit jacket over his shoulder as he tosses the keys back at the long-haired Audi salesman. It’s a perfect encapsulation of everything BMW stood for at the time, and that Audi stood against. “Gabby, tell Charles I’m on my way. Taxi! ” is still the greatest use of eight words in advertising, ever.
And the best use of ten words is probably this. I imagine most people would choose ‘I never read The Economist - Management trainee. Aged 42’ but for me this is better. It doesn't read like an ad. It’s not a pun, a catchphrase or a gag. It doesn’t even really try, and that’s its power. It just quietly asks you to consider your own value, and suddenly you’re looking at The Economist magazine through the eye of your own ego. A compelling thing indeed.
In my early years in advertising I was fortunate enough to work on The Economist brief at AMV - my partner and I battling it out with the one of the most talented creative departments in the world - and it still fills me with enormous pride that we got two of our own away, and they are now preserved for all time in the book ‘Well-written and Red. The story of The Economist campaign’ by Marc Antonio.
Levy’s, Jewish Rye
George Lois is a bit of a hero of mine (even though I’ve never met him). The Esquire covers. The Codene ad. The Olivetti girl. The campaign in 1982 when he got rock fans to phone their local cable operators and yell “I want my MTV!” and Warner agreed to keep the channel on air… the list is endless. If you’re not familiar, google the interview ‘George Lois 1974’. It’s worth it. Talking about advertising he says “The important thing is you implant an idea out there and everyone, in a very human way, understands it, grasps it and is excited by it.” And it really is that simple. And that hard. The Levy’s Jewish Rye campaign completely captures this notion for me. Such a simple idea, so beautifully executed. It talks to culture, people, neighbourhoods, religion and race. While still managing to sell bread.
And finally. Unless you are a Generation Z’er, you can’t list your top five ads of the last century without including one from Tom and Walt. ‘Surfer’ is the obvious choice, although there is a complexity and humility in the ‘Swimblack’ story that still stuns me. But I’d have to go with ‘Unexpected’. The ultimate game changer. Nothing like it before, and sadly nothing like it since. A brilliant advertising idea - ‘Tested for the unexpected’ - told in a way that still stops you in your tracks (excuse the pun). It could run today and Twitter would be twittering in seconds. TV isn't dead. But maybe famous TV is in a coma.
I was lucky enough to work in the same creative department as Tom and Walt in my formative years and their influence was huge. Monstrous. All-consuming. Career-defining. I wouldn't be the creative I am today without them, so thank you Tom and Walt.
Tom Ewart is CCO/Founding Partner of The Corner.