Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday Tip No.65 - What Would Howell Henry Do?

It's impossible to reduce the output of HHCL - Britain's 'Agency of the 90s' to a single technique.

Certainly some of their work, like Fuji and First Direct, was avant-garde... but they also employed many time-honoured advertising methods such as adapting a pop promo (the commercials for Maxell cassettes using misheard lyrics were based on the video for Subterranean Homesick Blues by Bob Dylan).

And straightforward (but brilliant) metaphor ads like the fat slapping orange Tango man.

But there's one particular technique that they executed with great panache, which I think is an arrow definitely worth having in your quiver.

First example is one of their earliest ads, for Danepak Lean & Low bacon. This 30 second ad features fully 21 seconds of voiceover that is little more than a list of product benefits:

"We love... good food, like this Lean & Low bacon. And what's great about Lean & Low, this new product from Danepak, is that it's lower in fat, and salt. So it's better for our figures. Plus it doesn't spit so much fat everywhere. Danepak Lean & Low - the natural choice."



Of course, the fact that the Andersen family are naturists, their modesty preserved only by conveniently placed tablewear, makes the whole thing very amusing.

Next up, their famous ad for AA insurance. At the time, it was notorious for being the first ad to feature an Asian couple in a role that wasn't predicated on their ethnicity, and possibly the first ad to own up to the fact that couples argue.

The interest generated by these two factors enabled HHCL to smuggle in scads of product points about the AA's car insurance 'internet site.'

Finally, one of my favourite ads - Blackcurrant Tango.



Ray Gardner, with his flabby belly and disdain for French exchange students, must be one of the most memorable brand spokespeople of all time. In fact, he was so entertaining, we didn't mind that he fed us quite a few sales points about Britvic's new carbonate - that it's "a charge for the tastebuds" and even that Tango have been "working on it for three years."

Perhaps unfairly, I summarise this technique as 'wacky person reads brief.' But used well, it's highly effective all-round. Awards juries are happy - it's a clever conceit. The client is happy - they get to hear all the reasons why their product is so great. And the consumer is happy - they get to watch naturists or whatever.

As a further bonus, the heavy product content makes this type of ad more-than-usually easy to sell.

Previous Tips

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hell, it worked for Victor Kiam.

Adam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam said...

I fuckin love that Tango ad, it reminds me of my love for the brand along with a healthy contempt of the french.

Does having the brief read out by a 'wacky' person mean we should all be in love Barry Scott now?

Anonymous said...

that tango ad pisses all over anything done in the last five years.

all over it.

Anonymous said...

I love that too, when the music kicks in it gives you goosebumps.

But does he say it is a 'challenge to the tastebuds', rather than 'charge'?

That might be the proposition being read back by wacky man exactly as you said. And so it shows exactly from where the leap was made.

Jump jets is the most awesome touch.

Anonymous said...

I remember watching that Tango ad in the middle of my cartoons on a Sunday morning.

It made me laugh then, and makes me laugh now. You're right, nothing touches it all these years on.

Paul said...

At last a proper ad. So can the people bigging up the previous post about the boring, seen it al before Nike ad please take a look at this one and see what a really great ad looks like. one of my all time top 3 ads. Oh and Anca Radu looks hot doesn't she?

jpandtem@googlemail.com said...

jesus, i don't even remember that tango advert. it was fucking classic!

Guy and Sarah, creatives said...

Tango is definitely a triumph, although Ray Gardener does sound rather like Swiss Toni at the start, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Oh, and early 90's dance music is best.

nerdissimus mcnerdington said...

Have you noticed that Griff often read out boring product points in the classic Holsten Pils campaign?

Steve and Axel honed their skills early.

If anyone's got a 1983 D&AD handy they might like to check if the same technique is applied to their Bert Kwauk ads for some cooking implement that also won a pencil.

Integral said...

Whilst we're on the subject of great ads, does anyone know where I can find a copy of one of the 'Beware of the voices' print ads that were done for Monster a few years back?

A friend of mine keeps banging on about how good they are as examples of great copywriting.

I want to find one of them so I can print it off, be inspired by it, and then screw it up and ram it down his throat so he can't mention them ever again.

(I think they were done by Saatchi, but can't find them on their websites.)

Thanking you.

Anonymous said...

HHCL were brilliant. ahead of their time. what's steve henry up to post TBWA?

nerdissimus mcnerdington said...

Anon 2.28

D&AD 2001.

Anonymous said...

That Tango ad is the reason I wanted to work in Advertising.

rhayter said...

OK, so that Tango ad is better than the new Nike one – no doubt (I still reckon the Nike one is good though). One of the best things I ever saw from HHCL was a campaign for Texaco that got pulled because of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. It featured Harvey Keitel, blowing up poor-quality service stations as he drove away in a muscle car. It was better than I've made it sound here, thankfully...

rhayter said...

Oooh! Found it...

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=xWT-nJspFPc

Anonymous said...

Texaco reminds of the ad where they blew up an old Butlins(?) to announce the all new Butlins. Which should be another Tuesday tip: if all else fails, blow shit up.

Ben said...

Is this what HHCL would do, or what GGT would do? (admittedly the two cross over a bit), but what about Tosh wittering on about 'flatter, squarer screens'? And the aforementioned Holsten Pils stuff.

brake dollinge said...

god, they were good.

I'll always be sorry that I didn't work there until a brief, late stint a few years ago helping to steer it down the tubes, by which stage it had gone completely mad. it was like watching bette davis with make-up smeared all over her face trying to flog the same ads to sky, over and over again.

you can write yourself out of a formula, make everyone look the other way. it's the lyrics, man. they're listening to the lyrics.

Integral said...

Cheers Nerdissimus.
The annual will be ideal. I can give him a reet good twat with that.
You'd have thunk that some bugger would've put it online by now, though.

Anonymous said...

Come on Anca Radu!

What do you think?

Anca Radu said...

Indeed flawless piece of work this Tango ad. Impressive direction – everything in the right place. (And yes, Scamp, nice choice, this is by far a better example in terms of addressing all viewer categories).

(off the record: http://www.zwir.ru/ -- I think I’d like to work with this man on some print ads.)

Anonymous said...

Good Lord!

I was only joking!

Anca Radu said...

sorry to disappoint you, 5:29, it has no connection with your "invitation". But anyway, thank you for making me so popular -- I guess there's no need to start a band anymore.

Anonymous said...

i now only visit this blog in the hope of encountering an anca radu-ism. surely there's a facebook fan group...(goes off to check)

didn't HHCL also come up with the genius "Fourth emergency service" positioning for AA? and i don't mean alcoholics anonymous. god they were good.

Creative whose planner is a shitcake said...

I love the way everyone mentions The Fourth Emergency Service as a genius piece of strategy.

It is fantastic (whoever thought of it) but it stands out like a sore thumb in amongst the usual standard of strategic thinking that the planners have offered over the years.

Look at the new Skoda print work from Fallon. It must have had a planner attached who earned his/her money by saying the car's called Superb, suggest this is because it's actually superb.

Fuck me, planners are a fucking waste of cunting space. Sneering, patronising, useless buckets of plop who try to justify their salaries by writing the effectiveness papers and crunching the research numbers.

If this industry lost the whole lot of them, it'd be a better place. (hint: Scamp, do a post about this. Anyone think their career would be any different if those twats didn't exist?)

Anonymous said...

It's a technique the yanks do all the time and really well. Basically us Brits are in love with the 'beautiful/ weird/what the hell is this for? visual followed by a line that makes everyone go 'Oh I got it!' formula. (cf: Sony Bravia ads, Guinness, etc). It's because we're wedded to strategy and brand-building.

The yanks understand that advertising's job is primarily to flog stuff. So they have a formula that goes 'What's that Bob?' 'This Chuck is the new thing from company X. It has these features and here's a really funny joke about them.' Otherwise called reading the brief out loud with the product up front. It's genius when done well. Awful when the joke's no good. So you can argue over these...

http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=YIk_semxNzw&feature=related

http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=rKkZ3hkDF4w&feature=related

http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=wYX_zhlTDr8

But trust me, the clients fucking love it. Why? Because you actually say what they want you to say.
The genius of HHCL was to do this in the UK. Where no-one else bothers.

Anonymous said...

agree with previous anon.

drum roll...arguably HHCL's finest thirty seconds. Diet Tango. You need it because you're weak. utter genius.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bl-esOcmPC0

Anonymous said...

the reason there are fewer british ads that use dialogue is because there are fewer briefs for work that's only going to run in Britain. Everything's pan european now. Try and get the yanks to produce some work that has to be understood and liked by the brits, the french, germans and the italians. Fucking nightmare

Anonymous said...

very good point, 9:28. I was just about to ask 8:15 in what way the two markets look similar to him/her. Globalization, not surprisingly, doesn't mean erasing the differences between various cultures.

Anonymous said...

intrgral, one of the monster press ads can be seen here www.jimandian.co.uk

Anonymous said...

good god, people actually taste such rejective works?

Anonymous said...

anon. 928. good point. and that has clearly sucked the life of out what used to be UK advertising. you've lost your flavo(u)r. let's face it, the best UK ads were very English ads.

Anonymous said...

Indeed so. But on the other hand, this is another stage, it's simply 2008 and it has arrived with its series of changes that we have to face. It happens in all the European countries, no only in the UK, even if only because we all meet at the same festivals. And it is not necessarily a negative aspect. It's just different from what we see in the US. We might as well meet US creatives complaining that they can't afford being too subtle, considering their audience. It's just a matter of choosing the right market to work on, the same way you choose the place you want to live in. If you want to get rid of clothing items, you really can't do it in the middle of London, you've got to find some wilder underdeveloped sunny place.

Anonymous said...

That Tango ad sits comfortably in the top 5 ads of all time. Maybe even top 3. It's fucking unbelievable. Fucking awesome. I wish i'd done that.

Anonymous said...

yeah but is it as good as bring on the trumpets

Integral said...

Thank you, 9.56pm. Appreciated.

A nice website they have there.

tonimoroni said...

It’s ancient history, but being something of an advertising archaeologist, it might be worth digging up again.

The bacon commercial originally appeared in a student book (not mine!) and there was something of a hoo-hah when the ad was screened. At the time, Axel mounted a defence along the lines of ‘everyday I see a lot of student books and can’t be blamed if something sticks’ but it did sound lame.

A team I knew were once called into HHCL after dropping their book off. The agency was pitching for AA at the time and told the hopefuls that something in their portfolio was very close to the strategy the agency was working on.

Of course, the team might have said ‘hire us then, because we did the same strategy as your whole agency on our own and that proves how good we are.’ But they didn’t, meekly accepted the agency’s comments and the moment passed forever.

And yes Tango is utterly, utterly brilliant.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see a re-make of the Blackcurrent Tango ad. Ray is played by Dave Trott and Sebastian (who we actually get to see in this version) is played by Simon Veksner. Needless to say, Ray kicks Sebastians arse big time.

Anonymous said...

The reason why HHCL were so great is because great creatives and great planners worked together to fulfill the philosophy of the agency without getting all fucking precious over who did what.

And for the record, a planner came up with the 4th Emergency Service line (as well as the strat) as well as Ronseal's "does what it say's on the tin" so they're not all useless.

tonimoroni said...

Is that you Richard Huntingdon?