A NatWest turkey, Smirnoff, and some predictions for 09

My most hated ad of the year: the scene is a Liverpool branch of NatWest where customers find themselves being offered “Money Sense”advice on managing their budgets by pleasant down to earth staff. Yep, this is the same NatWest that’s owned by RBS — who as early as August were revealing the then biggest loss in banking history of 1.2 billion. So these utter bankers whose gross irresponsibility has helped create the current financial turmoil are, through NatWest, now offering us helpful advice on how to tighten our belts and be sensible.

NatWest are hiding behind their frontline staff, who are normal folks just like us, and trying to rebrand themselves as a commonsense outfit, and nothing to do with the masters of the universe bankers who lost contact with financial realities a long, long time ago. Worse, if you happen to be a customer, this patronising crap is followed-up by an intrusive SMS campaign, which sends vacuous unrequested advice to your own phone.

See that ad here.

My favourite ad: a seaman drops a little Smirnoff Vodka into the Channel, and ghosts of lost ships, and downed Spitfires surge up to the surface. While the ad may not not send you rushing to the nearest offie, it has a poetic visual symbolism that lingers in the memory.

My prediction for 09: recession will see marketing folks spending smarter, and making fewer TV ads. There will be more activity online – expect to see more viral films on the internet, where people can gain lots of coverage for little spend. There will also be a back-to-basics focus on things like direct mail and door drops. Clients will demand agencies prove their spend on TV ads to be worth it. So we’ll see more prominent phone numbers and website addresses being touted on our TVs more – because responses to these can be measured, allowing the agencies to justify their costs.

Waitrose Autumn TV advert

So, call me a purist… But let me get this right. Some copy donkey saw fit to edit the first stanza of To Autumn by John Keats. And got Roger McGough, who should be ashamed of himself, to do the voice over, and seamlessly blend Keats into “enjoy all the delicious flavours of Autumn now. At Waitrose”.

The first line “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!” is left dangling. In post production someone removed rhythm, meaning and scansion, to let in a bit of music and linger over the visual cliches. But I am forgetting myself. This is to sell Waitrose not a dead poet.

So let’s waft a bit of Golden Brown by the Stranglers into the mix, while the banal film shows us fruit and veg (mellow fruitfulness geddit). It’s like, uh, leaves are golden brown, so the music seemed a good idea.

Yep that’s Golden Brown, which in Hugh Cornwell own words, is “about heroin and also about a girl… the song was about how my girlfriend and heroin both provided me with pleasurable times. The third verse is more about the feelings you have when taking heroin. When you smoke it or snort heroin you can still feel it in your body the next day.” (The Stranglers Song by Song p. 215).

Nice. Great going. Not often does an TV advert manage to trample on two works of art at the same time. Way to go Waitrose.