What lies behind the iconic TV ads ... and our top five

The best TV ads not only sell, but remain in our memories for decades, says Kieran O’Mahony.

IN AN era of on-demand TV and fast-forwarding to your favourite programmes, we could be missing out on some of the most creative work undertaken by Irish ad agencies. Of course, for every good television ad, there is an awful one, like Bertie Ahern in a cupboard to publicise his column for the now defunct News of the World. And don’t mention those insanely annoying TV licence ads. So what makes an ad so good? We asked four Irish creatives to tell us about their own personal favourites.

Rainbow — National Lottery Agency: DDFH&B, Paudge Donaghy, creative director

Magic happened with ‘Rainbow’ in 2010, when it created the first man-made rainbow in Ireland, spanning the length of the River Liffey.

The ad was shot using two tugboats to fire 2,200 gallons of water a minute to a height of 70 metres and a throw of 95 metres, creating a spectacular rainbow effect. A ‘Pocket Full of Rainbows’, by Elvis Presley, captured the lighter feel-good tone of the commercial.

“This ad was unusual, in that it wasn’t selling anything specific, it was more focusing on the overall aspect of the brand, rather than any specific game. The focus was on selling a dream and certain things, like rainbows, reflect that feeling,” said Paudge Donaghy, creative director with DDFH&B.

“Our brief was to bring magic to people’s lives, and so we had to think about how we could do this on television and was there a way we could make magic happen and make it visually-arresting. This was definitely a feel-good ad that was beaming with positivity, especially at a time where there was a lot of negativity about. We were trying to achieve the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and we were very satisfied with what it achieved.”

“This was a big project that we filmed in the centre of Dublin,’’ he recalls, “and a lot of preparation went into the making of it and we had to wait, too, for the weather to be just right for it to be filmed.

“We had to do our homework and capture the sun shining through at the exact time of day. While we had actors on set, other onlookers were naturally drawn to it, such was its beauty. The feedback was very good, both from our client and from the general public, and it did seem to capture people’s imagination,” Donaghy says.

No Nonsense.ie

Agency: Publicis, Ronan Nulty, creative director

‘Mags’, the maligned customer-service agent, has become a regular on our screens, thanks to the creatives behind the ‘No Nonsense.ie’ series of ads. They have struck a chord with audiences and their more recent campaigns include ‘Boy Racer’, ‘Smart Driver’ and the latest one, ‘Domestic’.

Ronan Nulty, creative director with Publicis, says their brief for the campaign was to introduce a different kind of low-cost insurer into the market, one that gives drivers only the cover they really need, without the expensive add-ons.

“In the launch campaign, the Mags character was created to represent the insincere customer-service person who tries to sell what you don’t need or want.

“This phase had a modest budget, so using model people helped make the ads stand out, while also keeping the production costs low,” said Ronan.

“The brand has been phenomenally successful and, for the current campaign, we have moved to live-action commercial to show how ‘No Nonsense’ has grown and now has products for all kinds of customers. The story is still about the ‘No Nonsense’ block smashing the nonsense off other insurers and their policies.”

“Everyone loved Mags and we’re getting a great reaction to the new campaign, and the client is delighted. They took a risk and it paid off and their bravery has been rewarded.”

Sleeveface/Eircom Music Hub Sleeve

Agency: Chemistry, Emmet Wright, creative director

In 2010, the creative talents at Chemistry devised a novel way to promote the launch of the Eircom Music Hub, a music-streaming service that existing customers could get free.

Taking their cue from the Facebook-inspired Sleeveface craze, they successfully created a unique ad.

“At the time, music-streaming was a new concept and Eircom needed to hit high numbers, and our brief was to look at how best to introduce this service. We developed a concept that would work, not just with early-adopters of technology, but would also educate and motivate the late majority,” said Emmet Wright, of Chemistry.

“The ad was shot in Kiev, by Blinder, an Irish production company, and directed by Richie Smyth, and the cast was made up of actors, models, gymnasts and dancers.

“The ad won numerous awards and the client was satisfied, as the annual target signed up within the first five months.”

Carlsberg ‘Dreams’

Agency: OwensDDB Agency, John Gildea, creative director

While the idea of Ireland winning the World Cup might seem far-fetched, this was the basis for a very successful ad directed by Lenny Abrahamson, for Carlsberg, back in 2002 at the height of World Cup fever.

“We had enormous fun creating this ad and the campaign idea of Carlsberg ‘Don’t Do’ had already been established with great ads like ‘Flatmates’ and ‘Nightclub’. With the World Cup, we had an opportunity to do something truly Irish. The thinking of Carlsberg ‘Don’t Do’ is quite simple — the beer is so great, imagine how brilliant life would be if Carlsberg did everything else?” said John Gildea, from OwensDDB.

“Charting Ireland’s progress in the 2002 World Cup, we created a run to the final that reduces the nation to tears of joy. We then cut to Jason McAteer lying in bed and the wonderful line ‘Carlsberg don’t do dreams, but if we did, they’d probably be the best dreams in the world.’

“The campaign took off. After all, it was pretty much every Irish soccer fan’s dream and the feedback was incredible. To this day, we still get asked in research groups why Carlsberg don’t bring back the ‘Don’t Do’ campaign.”

5 we love the best

1. Guinness have several great ads. ‘The Island’, from 1977, captured the eagerness of thirsty drinkers on an island pub, waiting for a keg to be delivered from the mainland. ‘Anticipation’, starring Joe McKinney as ‘The Dancing Man’, in 1994, brilliantly captured the anxiousness while waiting for the pint to settle.

2. The ‘Going Home’ ad from the ESB, in the mid-80s, starred a then-unknown Alan Hughes heading home to ‘Mammy’.

3. Carlsberg’s ‘Nightclub’ and ‘Flatmates’ ads were instantly popular, picking up on the tag line ‘Carlsberg don’t do’.

4. Who can forget Kerrygold Butter ads with the quote: ‘Who’s taking the horse to France?’

5. The Harp Lager ad, from 1980, was famous for the line “and the way Sally O’Brien might look at you.”

The ‘I wish I’d made that’ ones

Emmet Wright, Chemistry

“The FBD Insurance ads produced by Publicis are good, as it shows how to make thoughtful, intelligent and entertaining advertising for a low-interest category. Also, the ISPCC ‘Physical Abuse’ work, produced by Ogilvy & Mather, as it’s brilliant, brave, shocking and like nothing seen before.”

John Gildea-Owens, DDB

“The ‘Rainbow’ ad, generated by DDFH&B, is one that makes me smile and the reason it works is the simple truth behind the National Lottery — it can make magic happen. Watching the rainbow appear through the plumes of spray the tugboats fire up is great, but it’s the wonder captured in the crowds watching it take place that make this ad work. Great idea, great execution, and one where you simply have to doff your cap.”


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