An Adlantic divide

One of the many marvels of Google is Google Alerts. It allows me to appear as though I am very widely read indeed.

So I thought I’d mention an interesting article I spotted in the New York Times. It was about the fact that the winners of the BTAAs, which took place last week (the ‘beef’ has nearly been digested), are about to tour the US.

The BTAAs were, as ever, a great window into the best British TV advertising. Personal highlights from the winners include T-Mobile’s ‘Dance’, which I will never tire of no matter how many times I see it; The Department of Transport’s hugely powerful ‘Live with it’; and Weetabix’s return to glory days with ‘Steeplechase’. It was also great to hand over some more glittering prizes to Alexandr Orlov, and to scoop an award ourselves for our TV ad (had to mention it). But I was surprised and sad to see Hula Hoops leave with a lowly diploma. Still, we can’t all agree.

So, to the piece in the New York Times. It began with the headline ‘British TV ads flaunt their arty side’. At the heart of the piece was this thought:

“British commercials have long been known for their creativity and innovation. But from an artistic standpoint, most American advertising, perhaps except for those made for the Super Bowl or the Web, pale in comparison with their British counterparts. And unsurprisingly, British ads have long attracted a huge following in America.”

And it included this comment from Richard Silverstein, co-chairman and creative director of the San Francisco-based advertising firm Goodby, Silverstein & Partners:

“In general, TV advertising has always been a high form of public art in the U.K…People over there watch commercials as if they are entertainment.”

This is not true of all TV ads – nor will everyone agree on what is entertaining – but in general it certainly is true of many of the most successful ads. They entertain and elicit an emotional response. YouTube gives us a nice window into this world of ads-as-entertainment.

Whether or not you agree with the idea that the UK does creativity better (and I’d be interested to know what people over here think), the piece lead me to thinking about how, in the UK, likeable and ‘creative’ ads have been proved to be more effective in business terms by the IPA, in its seminal ‘Marketing in the era of accountability’, and by Thinkbox, in our own Engagement Study.

As an industry, we depend on those brave advertisers who both buy into and buy the work, and who don’t obsess about easier to measure but less significant metrics such as recall. The facts are there that show the business power of creativity.


    Funnily enough, I don’t think there’s that much of a difference between the best British commercials and the best American commercials… it’s really our ‘run of the mill’ commercials that are better than theirs. As for our shit ads… well, they are way better than their shit ads.

    One other thing… Lindsey, did you cut and paste that quote from the New York Times? Never mind the differences between their advertising and ours, what about the difference between our precise grammar and their garbled syntax? Hideous.

  • Lindsey Clay

    Hi Jason. I agree but I also think we tend to have a greater frequency of “bests”. (How’s that for garbled syntax?). Yes, I did cut and paste. Otherwise I would be quivering in fear of a reprimand from the Thinkbox grammar police (ie The Alps).

  • Neil Hopkins

    Speaking of American ads, something I worked on ( apparently gave a fresh breath of air from Superbowl ads (according to various blogs and the New York Daily Times – But, interestingly, it’s the Canadians leading the field in terms of views, rather than the Americans. I still haven’t quite worked out why!