Mortgages? Yeah we just throw em together
Campaign: O2: “Faun” (Thinking of You) / Barclays: “Squirrel” (Switch & Fix)
Agency: Zenith Optimedia /
By Phil Hoad
By now we accept that most advertising agencies – operating in the spirit of William Goldman’s maxim for the creative domains, “Nobody knows anything” – are just making it up as they go along.
But two recent campaigns have given this woolly modus operandi full voice. This is O2’s Thinking of You, featuring a wry faun as your tour guide through the airy “psyche” of the comms giant:
And here’s The Office’s Stephen Merchant, irreverently warbling over Barclays’ new crowd-puller for their flexible mortgages.
The similarities in tone of the narration in both are striking: flippant, faux-spontaneous, ironically lampooning the flow of random imagery (“I don’t know if the squirrel’s relevant. Is the squirrel relevant?”) that the service industries have to concoct to sell their wares as they become more and more abstract.
Mobiles, mortgages: these dull bits of life-infrastructure have now entered the realm of make-believe, subject only to the laws of play. You’ll probably recognise the voice in both adverts. It’s yours – the mildly sceptical tones of the humble consumer.
Feel free to feel patronised. At least the O2 spot (from its in-house agency) is fairly harmless. I liked its playful midway explosion into mobile-phone-contract envy.
The Barclays job – however much it tries to reduce things to playpen visuals – is more troubling. How sensible is it for a institution at the heart of an industry that nearly collapsed two and a half years ago to implant the idea that it does business on the fly? That making it up as you go along – even couched in affable Merchant-burble – is its essential style?
This seems to display a short memory. There was a bit too much in the way of creative fiction going on in the finance sector in 2008. Barclays wriggled its way out of the credit crunch more cleverly than most British banks, but in the aftermath shouldn’t it be making its facade look more solid, more sound?
Still, to quote the faun, all this levity is because they’re thinking of you. “Apparently.”