Category Archives: Automotive

Dear Audi

Audi LogoDear Audi,

Thank you for “piggy-backing with pride” and for using comparative advertising to both compliment and trump your competitors…

…So, so, so, so much more powerful than simply knocking them.

And thank you for putting the brand logo so beautifully at the heart of the execution. When the creative team came up with this device, they literally must have been doing back-flips of joy. For a week.

Thanks again



Dear BP / M&S Simply Food

BP M&S Simply Food

Dear BP / M&S Simply Food,

Thank you for spotting an opportunity in the gap left by the tobacco display ban – and for filling it both elegantly and with a pleasing dose of karma.

BP - Tobacco ban replacementCiggies replaced by pharmacy – karma in action…and all pleasingly displayed in a back-lit pill shaped lozenge. Nice.

And so much nicer than the roller-blind of death that appears elsewhere.

Tobacco BanAnd thank you to your member of staff at the Family Farm services on the A34 just south of Junction 9 of the M40 who, albeit somewhat bemused and not only because of the ungodly hour in the morning, allowed me to take a picture whilst she was processing my Nectar Card.

Thanks again


Dear Aviva

Aviva_logoDear Aviva,

Thank you for The Aviva Drive App Challenge…you’ve given us game changing innovation that’s a killer manifestation of a global brand vision and strategy. For a proponent of vision-led innovation like me, this is the stuff of dreams.

10/10 Aviva.

  • An innovation with that much sought after but rarely delivered Triple-Win of benefits: The Consumer Benefit (lower insurance premiums); The Brand Benefit (consumers now have a genuine reason to choose Aviva over the other 1000 brands that the comparison websites spit out); The Societal Benefit (safer roads)
  • An innovation that not only is a wonderful demonstration of your new global Good Thinking brand strategy / vision, but also has the potential to radically disrupt the car insurance category – for the better
  • An innovation that harnesses technology for a genuine consumer benefit – for real people in the real world as opposed to the 1% / early adopters who usually get this stuff

And what an execution – I love it. I really love it.

Malki’s line “I know I’ve got to prove myself now to win this competition” is beautifully reminiscent of what we hear on the Saturday night TV talent shows. Memory structures = tapped. Nice.

Cannot wait for the next installment, in which I anticipate and hope that you’ll communicate some more of the functional features of the proposition – i.e. “Aviva Drive is a free app that monitors your driving skills. Once you’ve driven 200 miles, you’ll get an individual driving score out of 10. Safer drivers scoring 7.1 or more could save an average of £150 on Aviva comprehensive car insurance – a saving which could be achieved by 44% of them”

Thank you again Aviva.


PS – And thank you for your Press Release – everything spelt, with perfect clarity, in less than a page. Lovely.

Dear Aviva

Aviva Logo

Dear Aviva,

Thank you for recognising that car insurance is boring and rather than trying to make it interesting, for opting for the branded entertainment route with comedy genius Paul Whitehouse.

Your – or rather his – latest Country House Rescue inspired effort featuring Lord and Lady Brasswick had me in stitches.

“Still, these modern motors are really jolly good. Brum, Brum…and so forth” has to be one of my favourite ever lines in advertising.

There has always been a strong link between comedy and advertising. It’s not that surprising when you think that (observational) comedians and marketeers are in effect both chasing the same pot of gold – that hook, that connection, that piece of understanding the connects a comedian to his audience or a brand to its target consumer in a way that genuinely stirs their emotions.

Or put another way: Insight.

It’s just that for marketeers, it doesn’t have to be funny.

People do degrees in Comedy these days (I’m not joking) so no doubt they would have far more insightful observations than me on this topic – a spot of google research in a spare moment methinks.

Degree in Comedy

The typical image of artist and corporation trying to collaborate is – in my mind at least – one of conflict. Artist (comedian in this case) wants to express himself in the way he sees fit, corporation (you) has key objectives, ROI measures to consider and the rest of the constraining cultural facets of the business world.

So I am left wondering how the relationship with the advertising agency works. Does Paul create the character and the ad agency the script? Not sure that would work. Does everybody sit down and work together? Cannot really see that working either – and if I were the agency I would be particularly nervous that my every move was being monitored by Paul making observations for his next not so flattering “ad-man” character. 

But I guess there is a common thread – the quest for insight…and great work. As a comedian, Paul wants to connect with people and make them laugh – it’s in his blood. You want to connect with people and make them remember you. And the ad agency wants to product great looking work. Which in the case of Lord and Lady Brasswick they certainly have – the styling and executing is spot on!


Thanks again





Dear VW

VW Logo

Dear VW,

Thank you for embracing a perfect slice of 80s kitsch with your recent ad from the States, inspired by A-ha. As a child of the 80s, the visual reminder (I’ve heard the song countless times on the radio since the 80s, but not seen the video) makes me smile:

In general, “commentators” seem to be be a bit down on retro stuff, with the latest wave of 80s nostalgia getting it in the neck from many quarters…

But I never understand why…

People – i.e. real people out there in the real world, not those that sit at laptops dreaming up articles and news “features” – love a bit of nostalgia.

It makes us feel good to reflect on the past and reignite those positive feelings and memories.

So why knock it?

I suppose that it could be argued that nostalgia and all things retro lack dynamism, modernity and a sense of progression.

But there’s loads of that going on. All around us. All the time.

Why not just enjoy both?


Anyway, thanks to you VW, and thanks also to The Why Factor, my current favourite podcast from BBC World Service – the edition on Nostalgia is well worth a listen…

Thanks again


Dear Audi


Dear Audi,

Thank you for showing us, through two recent adverts, how the same fundamental brand property – power – can be executed in drastically different ways.

First up you gave us the new R8 V10:

I love this ad for many reasons:

  • Product as the unashamed, unapologetic hero
  • Clear Audi branding, from the outset
  • Beautiful cinematography
  • Focus on the engine reflected by the neat Evolution on the outside, Revolution on the inside strap line
  • Unmistakeable out-take out from the ad: the R8 V10 is an uber-powerful car, capable of a menacing roar and, literally, spitting fire

But now you’ve given us the new RS6:

I’m not so sure about this:

  • There’s a lack of product and Audi branding until the very end – more of an issue on first time viewing and next time I see the ad, I will know it’s for Audi and the emotional relevance will begin to build, but what if there isn’t a next time?
  • Although I’m a big fan of metaphors, I don’t think you’ve picked the right one here, for a UK audience at least…perhaps boxing is more aspirational in the US than in the UK, but here I suspect that the RS6’s price tag will make it more relevant to senior City-types who are looking to get the family and labrador down to the weekend house in illegally good time – and those types tend to be more into the Six Nations, shooting and fishing than boxing
  • Whilst the Power from a less obvious place strapline works with the metaphor of the boxing referee, I’m not so sure it works with the product – even “de-badged” an RS6 is a pretty bling car and is noticeably different from a standard Audi A6…back in the day, an RS6 could justifiably be described as “the thinking/family man’s Porsche” and back then Power from a less obvious place would have worked but nowadays with all those highly distinctive RS styling features?


  • And even though I don’t think we are supposed to envisage that the ref is leaving the boxing ring to step into his RS6 and drive home – it’s what he represents that’s more important than who he is – he’s still the hero of the ad and therefore it’s impossible to disassociate him as a driver of the car…which somehow doesn’t feel likely
  • Also I’ve got doubts that an emotionally led expression of power (as opposed to the functional expression of power of the R8 ad) is right for the target audience. If a person is considering spending in the region of £80k on a car, in all likelihood they’re an actual or closet male motor-head. And that means they want to know about engines, horsepower and the like…does that person really worry too much about being “less obvious”? (They’re already being less obvious than the Range Rover / Porsche Cayenne brigade after all)

Thanks again Audi. Even though my real world head says VW, but my financially liberated heart would say Audi every time. R8 for me. RS6 for the family. A3 for the imaginary au pair / nanny.


Dear Kia

KIA logo

Dear KIA,

Thank you for inadvertently bringing my attention to Modern Man by George Carlin – it’s 4 and half minutes of total and utter genius.

And no doubt the inspiration for irony-bypassed KIA’s new campaign for the Australian marketplace, launched on Channel 7 during the Wimbledon Men’s final.

George Carlin = Genius.

Kia Australia = Criminal.

Rather than go off on one, let me simply say thank you to Arwa Mahdawi over at The Guardian who describes my sentiments far more eloquently than I ever could.

Thank you again KIA for introducing me to George Carlin.