RKCR/Y&R, London for Virgin Atlantic – Flying in the Face of Ordinary

“The people at Virgin Atlantic are what make it special. I’m proud of every single one of them. See how we are flying in the face of ordinary in our new ad above.” Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

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Virgin Atlantic is “Flying in the Face of Ordinary”  with its new global brand proposition. THe campaign brings to life Virgin Atlantic’s innovative and pioneering spirit, capturing the airline’s passion for flight and demonstrating how Virgin Atlantic goes beyond the norm to deliver unforgettable experiences for its passengers.

As a child, could you catch fish with your bare hands while standing knee deep in the local river? Did you have uncanny, almost otherworldly powers of clairvoyance that let you glimpse the future—and even change it for the better? Could you make paper airplanes before you could crawl?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should stop what you’re doing and go work at Virgin Atlantic.

All sorts of outlandishly precocious children grow up to become Virgin Atlantic workers in RKCR/Y&R’s stylish, fantastical, tongue-in-cheek launch spot for the carrier’s new global campaign. Styled as a kind of faux movie trailer—cut into 30-, 60- and 90-second TV edits, as well as a cinema version and a two-minute online spot—the spot celebrates the airline’s staff as literal superheroes. Their special gifts include rapid reflexes, preternatural intuition, creative problem solving and heightened empathy. Naturally, as adults, they rendezvous in Virgin’s ranks as cabin crew, ground staff, designers and pilots.

The tagline: “Virgin Atlantic. Flying in the face of ordinary.”

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Launched with the new year, the campaign is unapologetically nostalgic and retro, but knowingly so. Air travel hasn’t been glamorous in decades, yet Virgin brings back some of that attitude—along with the attendant fashion and sex appeal—but in a way that’s exaggerated and borders on self-parody. Promising superhuman staff, in the end, is no promise at all. But in typical Virgin style, the carrier builds the whole campaign around such false claims, and expects you to quit worrying and just enjoy it. And it works—largely due to the skillful direction by Partizan’s Antoine Bardou-Jacquet.

The airline explicitly wants to “bring the glamour and fun back into long-haul travel,” says Simon Lloyd, its director of marketing. Mark Roalfe, chairman and executive creative director at RKCR/Y&R, adds: “We wanted to bring to life that special spark that makes the people at Virgin different. I think the film really captures that, but with the tongue-in-cheek tone of voice that we’ve built with Virgin over the last 18 years.”

Sir Richard Branson, President of Virgin Atlantic said: “We’re always on the lookout for gifted young people to grow our business. Our staff hold the keys to the future of Virgin Atlantic, they work so hard and we are delighted to dedicate this new advert to them.

“At a time of soaring youth unemployment, our advertisement is a powerful New Year message encouraging everyone to look again at young people and the talents they have to offer to businesses and industries all over the country. People are at the heart of Virgin Atlantic and we believe this advert celebrates this”.

True glamour may be gone from air travel for good. But in the ads, if nothing else, you can still count on Virgin to make it fun.

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VFX Supervisor Rob Walker said, “It was great working with Antoine and Rainey Kelly. The guys came to us with some really cool ideas for us to realize, such as a little boy catching live fish with his bare hands. We had an intensive shoot in South Africa and a challenging deadline to meet, but this was the perfect job for MPC as it combined all of our disciplines.”

We’ve had an excellent team working on this project, everyone’s dedication and passion has helped to craft a wonderful piece of work. Our CG department has created holograms, paper planes, an aircraft and a DNA sequence. We’ve also completed extensive rig removal, multiple pass compositing and DMP work to embellish and create environments”

Advertising Agency: RKCR/Y&R, London
Executive Creative Director: Mark Roalfe
Creative Partners: Pip Bishop, Chris Hodgkiss
Production Company: Partizan
Service Company: Stillking
Director: Antoine Bardou-Jacquet
Year: 2012


Levi’s 501 – The story behind Launderette

The opening bars of Marvin Gaye’s hit I Heard It Through The Grapevine are among the most evocative in television advertising history. For a whole generation, at least, those first few moody seconds only bring one image to mind – that of model Nick Kamen walking into a launderette. The ad might not have been set in the eighties (more likely a mythical fifties), but for many those first few seconds can evoke memories of an entire decade. But Nick Kamen (who only got the part on condition he lost weight) wasn’t the first to get his kit off in a launderette. An early Hamlet ad showed a bowler-hatted, be-suited gent undressing in front of a group of women and sticking his clothes, and even his hat, in a washing machine. Sadly, no one remembers the actor’s name. And, as far as we know, he never had a hit single written for him by Madonna…

Kamen’s “Lauderette” was shown for the first time on Boxing Day 1985. Thought up by John Hegarty and Barbara Noakes of BBH, the ad campaign was designed to try and save Levi’s flagging fortunes; the company was under attack from all sorts of other fashionable brands. In short, Levi’s (which had been going since the 1850s) were becoming the sort of jeans worn by people’s dads. And not even trendy dads – it was middle-aged “fuddy duddies” wearing “polyester Levi’s Action Slacks”. Research showed that the intended target audience for Levi’s 501 (15 to 19 year olds) saw the United States of the fifties and sixties as cool time and place in history: James Dean, Elvis Presley and Sam Cooke all belonged to this mythical, wondrous world. Unless the ad agencies came up with something new, the alternative was going with the American campaign for 501, which was all about how well the jeans fitted in the United States of Ronald Reagan. The image seemed the opposite of MTV and European chic.

So, director Roger Lyons was given the go-ahead to film an ad that showed drop dead gorgeous model Nick Kamen stripping down to his boxer shorts, while flustered women and bemused elders looked on, and then sitting and waiting while his jeans were in the wash. All this and Marvin Gaye thrown in too. (Except it wasn’t actually Marvin Gaye but a newly recorded “session” version of the song, though the original was later re-released off the back of the ad and entered the charts all over again…). “Grapevine” was the first of four Levi’s-related songs to all make the Top Ten, a feat that made advertisers realise that choosing the right music was of paramount importance because it really could help push a product on TV. They call it “Integrated Marketing”, and it meant a single in the chart and an ad on the box simultaneously, as well as the 501 logo alongside the artist’s name on the record sleeve in every record shop in Britain and USA.

Kate Thornton, a famous English journalist, was a schoolgirl at the time and remembers the effect that Kamen’s striptease had on her: “I remember that the ad was running at a cinema before a movie, and I hadn’t seen it on the tely at that point. So I went to the cinema just to see the ad…” she says. “The commercial made those jeans sexy at a time when Levi’s were struggling to make their product appealing to women of my age, and really that’s where the big spenders come from. Suddenly those jeans became a must-heve item! I only wanted them because Nick Kamen wore them and took them off…”

Thornton wasn’t the only teenager to feel that away. Consumers wrote in to Levi’s in their thousands asking for picture of Kamen. Meanwhile, sales of 501 shot up by an incredible 800% in the wake of the ad, which eventually had to be taken off the air because the Company couldn’t produce enough jeans to meet the new demand… By 1987 sales of Levi’s jeans were reported to be 20 times what they had been just three years earlier. The commercial also boosted sales of boxer shorts to a record high, though the ad agency only put Kamen in a pair of boxers because they weren’t allowed to show their hero in a pair of jockeys. And it wasn’t just teenage girl buying the jeans: boys were impressed by what Kamen could do. “The ad said: wear Levi’s jeans and you’ll be a rebel without a cause!” says psychologist Dr David Lewis. “You’ll be able to alienate older people (who young people despite anyway) and you can be cool…”

Inevitably, Nick Kamen was suddenly flavour of the month. Madonna wrote a song for him called “Each Time You Break My Heart” which made it into Top Ten. Kamen was soon a fully-fledged pop star, but his new career was short lived. Subsequent singles failed and Kamen moved to Los Angeles where he was to live for a time with British television presenter  Amanda de Cadenet. “There wasn’t life for Nick Kamen after Levi’s because he broke the rule…he talked!” says Thornton. “We just liked looking at him. It was as simple as that. He was a model and he just had these smouldering beautiful looks… but fundamentally he was to be looked at and lusted over, and never to be taken seriously…”. Nick Kamen turned a new Levi’s ad into a much-hyped media event and ended up eventually being replaced in 1999 by a fluffy yellow pupped called Flat Eric…

(Mark Robinson, The Sunday Times)

Advertising Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty 
Creative: John Hegarty, Greg Mills, Barbara Nokes
Director: Roger Lyons
Production: Mike Dufficy & Partners
Director of Photography: Richard Greatrex
Editor: Ian Weil
Music: Karl Jenkins, Mike Ratledge
Year: 1985


BBC – Attenborough’s Wonderful World

One year ago, following the final episode of the Attenborough-narrated cold-climes series Frozen Planet, the BBC aired a two-minute trailer subtly celebrating the 60-odd years that the iconic TV personality has spent working on non-fiction programming for the network. Visually, the spot, from ad agency RKCR/Y&R, doesn’t deviate far from the staple shots of most natural science shows. Brightly colored birds, time lapses of blooming flowers, panoramas of majestic terrain, and pensive baboons all make their obligatory appearances. How can you not love this? It’s surprising and clever, yet also dignified. The only words in it are from the song ” What a Wonderful World” written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss, and of course made famous by Louie Armstrong. This works so well because Attenborough speaks the lyrics—pleasant platitudes that we’ve almost stopped noticing, as the song has become audio wallpaper—in his signature cadence of wonder and delight. This renews our appreciation both of the song, and the power of Attenborough’s delivery. And of course, it’s all done to support stunning footage of nature, nicely edited with subtle sound effects to match the pictures. More than the sum of its parts. “It’s a wonderful world, watch it with us,” reads the BBC trailer’s tagline. Fantastic.

Advertising Agency: RKCR/Y&R, UK
Executive Creative Director: Mark Roalfe
Creatives: Ted Heath, Paul Angus


118-118 The Number (2003/2009) – A Real Spoof Case History

118 118’s advertising features two men with droopy mustaches, wearing items of clothing with 118 and two parallel red stripes on it. They have appeared in various forms. The campaign was originally launched using the two men dressed as athletic runners. Used with the catchphrase “Got Your Number!”, the runners’ characters featured in a high-profile advertising (created by British advertising agency WCRS).

This slogan has fallen into disuse by the marketing department of 118 118 because of the expansion of service beyond directory enquiries alone, but the slogan has lived on in the minds of the public. The use of the runners’ characters is particularly noted for the legal action threatened by 1970s record-breaking runner David Bedford. 118 118 responded to this by stating that their inspiration was partly the late American runner Steve Prefontaine.


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Steve Prefontaine

Subsequently they have appeared in a range of guises, including spoof detectives, as the company expanded on its range of services. During this period, although generally forgotten by the public, the slogan used was “We’re here to help!”, a different focus driven by the expansion of products offered.

2003 – Rocky Campaign
In November 2003 the commercial, called “Rocky”, features the moustachioed runners jogging through London. As the pair run, the ad turns into a training scene reminiscent of the film. More than 30 moustachioed children, dressed as 118 118 runners, join the training run which culminates with the duo recreating the end of Stallone’s run with hands thrust victoriously in the air at the top of a long flight of steps. “That’s what happens when you help millions of people each week!” one of the runners comment… In keeping with the retro theme, the commercial also features a cameo appearance by the 80s ventriloquist, Keith Harris, and his bird puppet Orville.

Keith Martin, the account manager at WCRS, said: “The campaign has two points of focus. The first is memorability. With the old 192 service being switched off on 24 August, there will be a lot of activity and so it is all about getting 118 118 as the most memorable number for customers to use. The second aim is stature. By running these campaigns, we want to show that 118 118 is here to stay – that the company is taking millions of calls a month already. More weighting is being put on running the 60-second spot, as it adds scale.”

2004 – Honda Spoof Campaign
In this addition to the series featuring the skinny athletes, they created the award-winning Honda commercial “Cog” and “Choir” created by Wieden & Kennedy London, using old bit of carpet, gym mats, a stop sign and a couple of old treadmills. It’s not as high tech as the original, but it gets the message across – and probably provided a nice giggle for the advertising community. It was created for television, but Honda failed to see the humorous side and stopped the ad from being broadcast. It is now, however, available for view online and is being promoted through a viral campaign.

2006. A-Team Campaign
In February 2006 a new advertising campaign was launched in which the runners appeared in advertisements in the style of the television show The A-Team, using the A-Team theme tune with the number 118 sung over the music.

2007. Flashdance Campaign
In May 2007 a new advertising campaign was launched in which the runners trade in their 70s look for leotards and leg warmers to spoof the 1983 film starring Jennifer Beals. The two and a half minute clip features a comedy reworking of Michael Sembello’s song Maniac, which featured on the Flashdance soundtrack.

2009, the Ghostbuster Campaign
Shot like a camp pop video, the 2-minute film also stars Ray Parker Jr, who appears in a number of guises, including a postman, a bus conductor and a mechanic. 60 and 40-second versions will also be broadcast. The legendary singer stars alongside the moustachioed 118 118 brothers who are back in tight shorts running round a London street helping people out. The ad ends with the trio standing on top of a mini van singing to a crowd of dancing onlookers.


Typhoo Tea – The Better Way to Wake Up

Each ad, in documentary style, featured a family comparing the power of Typhoo with a bizarre way to start the way: a drill sergeant, buckets of water, and a cockerel.

In the first, a drill sergeant bursts into the couple’s bedroom yelling at the top of his voice. The camera cuts to the woman talking to the camera. We see a box of Typhoo being exchanged for the sergeant at the front door. “Wake up soldier!” is yelled into the face of the sleeping woman. “Molies Molies” is yelled at the husband brushing his teeth. Children are harangued into eating up their breakfast. Those who don’t cooperate are forced to do press ups and star jumps. The ad finishes with the sergeant leaving and the woman claiming back her box of Typhoo.

“This week Typhoo have asked us to see if a drill sergeant can make a better wake up call than my Typhoo. He’s a bit intense. Yeah really loud. We began to miss our Typhoo. Very early on Michael my husband found it tough. He’s not used to the exercise. I mean it was an experience. But Typhoo is so much nicer.”

During the second week, buckets of cold water are the method of choice: the couple are woken up with water poured over their faces in their bed. The camera moves to them speaking in their dining room . We see them at their front door exchanging a packet of Typhoo tea for a white-jacketed man with a bucket. Time and time again they are taken unawares – drenched with the bucket of cold water. Finally the man leaves and the couple happily retrieve their Typhoo tea.

“This week Typhoo asked us to compare cold water to the wake up power of Typhoo. I didn’t realise that a bucket could hold so much water. That was a nightmare wasn’t it – breakfast time. We began to miss our typhoo very early on. We were sick of the water by day two, well day one really. But I mean it did wake you up. You know, who’d want to stay in a wet bed? We were very happy to get the Typhoo back.”

Finally, the family gets to live with a cockerel for a week. A rooster flaps his wings, crows and jumps on to the couple’s bed. They’re awake. Once again we see the woman talking, this time on her couch. We see scenes of bedlam as the rooster oversees cooking in the kitchen, roosts above the bathroom sink, sits on the windscreen of the car as Michael leaves for work and harrasses the woman as she dresses. Finally the cockerel is exchanged for the box of tea.

“Well this week Typhoo asked us to test the wake up power of a cockerel to see it it’s better than my usual cup of Typhoo. Well breakfast time was a bit… a bit tricky. Everywhere he looked he’d suddenly appear. It sounded like fun at first. But it’s a lot of effort having a cockerel all the time. He took a real shine to Michael. He said he woke you up. I just really am glad to have Typhoo back.”

Advertising agency was given the brief of helping with a product USP. They aimed at motivating drinkers to purchase Typhoo for their first cup of the day. All ads and sponsorship idents were shown between 6.30 and 9.30am.

Advertising Agency: Clemmow Hornby Inge
Creative Director: Charles Inge
Copywriter: Greg Mutton
Art Director: Stuart Button
Production Company: Bikini Films
Director: Martin Granger
Year: 2004/2005
Silver Lion for the campaign
Bronze at Clio Awards


15 Best Olympics Advertising for London 2012

1 – Procter & Gamble – Best Job

Arguably the most memorable Olympics 2012 ad, Procter & Gamble champions mums in this commercial titled ‘Best job’. The tear jerker, created by Wieden + Kennedy Portland, follows four child athletes on their path to the London Olympic Games, supported, cared for and encouraged by their mothers every step of the way.

2 – Nike – Find Your Greatness

Nike does it again. Now famous for its ambush marketing tactics around major global sporting events, the sports apparel giant launched ‘Find your greatness’ in 25 countries yesterday to coincide with the opening ceremony. Cleverly avoiding any mention of London 2012 and the Olympic rings, the ad features places across the world with ‘London’ in their names, along with local everyday athletes enjoying their sports. The ad was created by Nike’s longterm agency partner Wieden + Kennedy.

3 – Coca-Cola – Move to the Beat

Mother London, Mark Ronson and Coca-Cola traveled the world to create a new dance track using the sounds of sport from 5 Olympic hopefuls.

4 – Omega – Star Me Up

A remix of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Start me up’ sets the pace for this commercial with the same title for Omega, the official timekeeper of the Olympics 2012. The ad lingers on the moments right before the start of a race or event, the tension felt by the athletes as they hone their focus for the task ahead.

5 – McDonald’s – Rivals

The Olympic spirit lives within us all. And when gold medals don’t provide enough motivation for greatness, McDonald’s is proud to serve the Happy Meals, Big Macs, and Fries that put everyone in the mood for a little competition.

6 – British Airways – London Calling

British Airways has launched its Olympic advert as anticipation builds ahead of the Games. It features one of BA’s jets strolling through London and showcasing landmarks such as Trafalgar Square and the Palace of Westminster, before taking in the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. Best of all though, it is set to the soundtrack of The Clash’s London Calling

7 – Adidas – What will you take?

Among others, Olympic Games sponsor Adidas created ‘What will you take?’ in support of Team Great Britian in partnership with agency Sid Lee. The colourful advert touches on all aspects of being an Olympian, both good and bad, as it challenges the athletes to take the stage and embrace this fleeting, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

8 – Icy Dew – Sixty Percent

Taking a break from the blood, sweat and tears approach, Coca-Cola bottled water brand Icy Dew created this amusing ’60 per cent water’ TVC in partnership with BBH Shanghai ahead of the Games. While this one might not stir the Olympian in you, it will certainly make you chuckle.

9 – Powerade – Power Through

Another Wieden + Kennedy addition, Powerade‘s ‘Power through’ Olympics advert focuses on “the line between breaking point and breaking through”, the extra effort that makes the difference between those athletes that go home with a medal and those that return disappointed. More muscles, more tension and another emotionally charged voice-over, the real stuff of Olympics advertising.

10 – Samsung – Are You Ready?

Cheil Worldwide launched this ‘Are you ready?’ ad for Olympic sponsor Samsung in support of its Galaxy S3 model across 20 countries this week. Olympics ambassador David Beckham signals the start of the event by kicking a ball against a gong in an impressive long-range shot.

11 – Visa- The Difference

Worldwide sponsor Visa has been putting its name to the Olympic Games for 25 years. This ad, titled ‘The difference’, was created by TBWA Chiat Day Los Angeles and narrated by Hollywood legend Morgan Freeman. This is just one in a series of Sepia-coloured ads marking Visa’s quarter century partnership with the Games this year.

12 – National Lottery Funded Athletes – Jenny Meadow Mother’s Story

Inspired by the story of 800 metres runner Jenny Meadows’ mother, our newest TV advert looks at how National Lottery funding helps British athletes achieve their dreams. Extended version. Thanks to TNL players we’re helping over 1,200 British athletes fulfil their dreams at London 2012 and beyond. No-one has contributed more to our athletes than our players.

13 – EDF – Powering The Games

EDF is an official partner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, supplying the Olympic Park with low carbon electricity for a sustainable Olympics to remember.

14 – GlaxoSmithKline – Marlon Devonish

Touching on the ugly side of sport, GlaxoSmithKline features English sprinter Marlon Devonish to promote its provision of anti-doping laboratory services at the Games. Created by TBWA London, the advert takes the viewer inside the athlete’s body to experience the tension and exhilaration as he prepares to run the race of a lifetime.

15 – BP – Fuelling The Future

BP is proud to be the Official Oil and Gas Partner for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as a Premier Partner of the Cultural Olympiad.


Heineken – Buy a pint of Heineken or we’ll keep running this commercial

Four film, one campaign.

Sales of Heineken are not high enough, so the makers of the ad have an excruciating punishment in store magician Paul Daniels and his wife Debbie singing a syrupy duet, off-key, on a kitsch set. As the pair tunelessly croon “Close to You” a strapline appears: “Buy a pint of Heineken, or we’ll keep running this commercial”. The second ad opens with the line, “It seems some people didn’t takes the last Heineken commercial seriously. Perhaps this might persuade them”, and, as if by magic, Vanessa Feltz and Peter Stringfellow drop from the sky dressed as angels and join in the song. The words “Remember, buy Heineken or we’ll keep running these commercials” close the second ad. But it is the third execution that causes the most belly laughs. With the strapline “Good news. Sales of Heineken have risen dramatically, but not dramatically enough”, Emmerdale’s Lisa Riley and “It” girl Tamara Beckwith sing along while cuddling up to Jimmy Saville with Jimmy Hill marching past playing, very badly, the trumpet.. Finally, in the fourth execution (literally), sales of Heineken have risen… so two lion are sent on stage to devour the performers.

How refresh. How Heineken.

“Heineken advertising typically shows the brand providing a refreshing twist by “blackmailing” people into drinking more beer,” said Iain Newell, the marketing manager at Heineken. “Of course the ads are pretending to be irritating but in fact they are very funny.”

Advertising Agency: Lowe Lintas, London
Creative Director: Charles Inge
Copywriter: Terry Barry
Art Director: Damon Collins
Production Company: Gorgeous Enterprises
Director: Chris Palmer
Year: 2001


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