The year that everything changed. Blackcurrant Tango "St George" launched and for a breif moment, I sat very near the top of the advertising world.
Tango: Trade ads
"Trade ads" was the term for ads that appeared in mags that shopkeepers read, like The Grocer. We wanted retailers to know that the brand was advertising and that this advertising would mean retailers would be selling lots more Tango. The ads needed to keep in the spirit of Tango which is why we did these.
Still Tango: 'Lofty'
Finally, when all the Still Tango nonsense was over, it was time to create an actual ad for the brand. Tom Watt was a legend in the 80s having played Eastenders weed, Lofty. To launch Still Tango officially, we resurrected the Lofty character in this bizarre public health message. We shot it at Brent Cross shopping centre which was hugely satisfying as I'd spent 1990-91 working in the meat department at Waitrose here.
In February 1996, Campaign did a feature on Jim Bolton and me. Integration was the new buzzword and they believed that we embodied the '360 degree thinking' that true integration involved. Basically it was digital before digital was invented.
Pot Noodle: 'Keith'
Keith was 16 and a typical teenager. His girlfriend was a 28 year old model. Regardless of how out of his league she was, his Pot Noodle always came first for Keith. The ads feature my friend James Johnson (Tango's 'Housewives Survival Tips' idents were filmed in James' mum and dad's garden in Bracknell)
Tango: 'Millionaire' trade ad
If you want to tell the trade to stock your product, why not slap a pack shot in the mag they all read? Because it's too easy, that's why. Instead, take a shopkeeper, bling him up, put him on the cover of his own magazine, then shoot him in his shop holding the magazine with some of your product in the background. On hindsight, we should have had the wealthy guy holding a mag with his "before" pic on the cover. Duh. We were probably drunk. Created for HHCL with Jim Bolton
RED CARD: Chelmsford Sponsorship
Britvic came to us with a blank sheet of paper - or to be exact a blank can of energy drink. We named it RED CARD, gave it a football theme and sponsored Britvic's local club, Chelmsford FC. The idea was that they were so bad that they needed all the help they could get. The attitude in the posters is because of the product name and how the players feel invincible thanks to the drink. It also gave us a chance to bash Man UTD. Created with Jim Bolton.
Tango: 'Cash Card'
Back in 1996 there was no ambient, experiential or digital to speak of. Giving away bank cards with six packs of Tango was revolutionary. The user had 3 attempts to guess the PIN and access £100,000. A medical student guessed it correctly, stayed awake for four days and cleared out £80k in £250 instalments.
Alpha Course: endline
OK, so the poster isn't mine but the line is. This was an early project for Christians in Media, the rebel band of advertising God-botherers of which I was a member. Created with Trevor Webb, Martin Casson and Nick Drummond.
Church ad: 'X-Files'
'The truth isn't out there, it's in here' seemed as good a line as any for the UK's churches, especially as the X of the X-files logo looks a bit like a cross. All was well until the megacorp that owned X-files pulled the plug and told us to cease and desist....
Blackcurrant Tango: 'St George'
It's 90 seconds long and is apparently one of the greatest commercials ever made. You can watch the making of it here to see exactly how much of an effort it was and you can read about it in detail here. We called the ad St George because Ray Gardner seemed like a modern day English knight charging into battle.
The music we chose was Don't You Want Me by Felix. The idea of using music that people danced to while off their faces in clubs meant that they were more likely to have a deep affection for the track and therefore for the product. Or so we were told. The single charted at Nº14.
The ad was ludicrously long and was the kind of scale that might be for an airline, not a sub brand of a fizzy drink manufacturer. This was part of the idea and was a veiled attack on Coca Cola. The ad only ever aired six times during Channel 4's TFI Friday and received a warm welcome from adland- it was voted Campaign's Pick of the Week
It wasn't long before the national press caught on and began touting Ray Gardner as a hero for our time. Both the tabloids and the broadsheets loved Ray and his passionate diatribe. The anti-French sentiment was picked up on and either loved or loathed, but at the time the ad was written, the French had just blown up the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour, and I was a paid up member of Greenpeace. See how I looked at the time the ad was written!
By November, Ray was a regular on TFI Friday and was now a drinking buddy of Chris Evans and Danny Baker. St George had also been Campaign's Pick of the Week and Creative Review's Pick of the Month, then in December Campaign chose it as their Pick of the Year.
By the end of the year, the ad was regularly appearing in round ups and best-of lists and was picked out as an example of stand-out advertising by both the trade press and the national papers.
The ad eventually took on a life of its own. It was even featured in an exhibition in the ICA. As far as accolades, it won D&AD silver, Cannes Gold, Eurobest Gold, BTA gold and was voted the best long form TV ad (1950-2000) by FilmFour. It has also been voted one of the 100 best commercials of all time.
Ray's own local community were quick to hail him as a hero and a couple of local papers where I grew up back in Cornwall also picked up on the Tango story.
Churches' Advertising Network: 'Bad Hair Day'
I responded to a letter in Campaign by the chairman of a poster company, Francis Goodwin. He wanted Christians in the industry to take advantage of government deregulation on religious advertising, and to form a group to provide creative ideas. Mainly posters. Our first Christmas poster made the front page of the Times.