Page & Page’s Stephen Page picks his Desert Island Ads

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Stephen Page is a co-founder of health and wellness communications agency Page & Page.

Desert Island Ads

What did you say the challenge was again? Three to five advertisements I like.

I wonder if you know? I don’t actually like advertising. Yes, you’re right, people when placing me in the pigeon-hole to which they think I belong will say, ‘advertising man’. Generally, I think that what they mean is I spin stuff. I turn everything into a story to get their attention. They probably say it in a semi derogatory tone – don’t you agree?

What they don’t know is that I’m a very difficult person (perhaps they do). I’m caught between my fascination for science and my imagination. One side rational and the other side instinctive. In fact, I wanted to be a Marine Biologist and it was only after my father, during a work experience spell, dropped me off at the advertising agency he was using that I woke up to the differences between the kind of people you find working on a fish farm and in a swanky London agency. In my defence I was young. Rational people seemed dull, the more flamboyant, instinctive people definitely had more fun.

The point I’m trying to make to you is that this tortuous outlook very much affects my preferences when I see a campaign. I love storytelling. Dislike spin. I prefer campaigns that pull compared to those that push.

First choice

So, my very first choice would be ‘The time we have left’ from Leo Burnett for Pernod Ricard (Ruavieja – one of the most popular drinks in Spain). Love this for lots of reasons. Whoever germinated this idea had a moment of pure clarity and total empathy. Someone removed their rose-tinted spectacles and went on a mission: there is only one commodity in life that matters, and it is time, the time we spend with the people we care about.

For me this is a perfect combination of a rational argument presented imaginatively. The rules of buzz marketing fully understood. If you want people to talk about something it must be taboo, the unusual, the remarkable, the outrageous, hilarious or secret. This is remarkable – do you realise how little time you have left to spend with those you love?

Second choice

Mini! It is a proper brand in that everything from the actual product to any of the communication around the product echoes with a sense of fun and adventure. There have been numerous campaigns since 2001, each irreverent and each pointing to the purpose of the product in its own way, each telling a story that you just want to be part of.

Whether it be the original ‘It’s a Mini adventure’, ‘Choose your accomplice wisely’ or the current message ‘Make sure it’s a MINI adventure’ in which MINI UK’s Marketing Manager, has said: “We felt compelled to take this action when we were made aware of disappointed owners of fake cars who are stuck with vehicles offering poor performance and limited cornering ability.”

I’d argue this is so much more than advertising. This is a concept. It is the idea of fun brought to you through the product and all the communication surrounding it.

Third choice

I really like the recent mental health campaign from BUPA, it ticks so many boxes without being contrived in anyway. It flows as any good story should and I’d dare anyone to say it has no relevance to them. In many ways the film is cliched: a diverse range of people in varying circumstances tackling loneliness, depression and anxiety. Unlike most other mental health campaigns this one is not over-played. It is not difficult to imagine yourself in one of the situations.

It really brings to life the fact that we are all different (“…there are 7 over billion versions of normal on this planet”) so however anyone is feeling, it is ‘normal’ for them and therefore nothing to be ashamed of. The core message is that BUPA offers support for all of their customers’ needs, be they physical or mental, no one is judged if they need support for a physical condition, nor should they for a mental one, whatever it is. Never has there been a better time to question what ‘normal’ is and, indeed, to conclude that there is no such thing.

I like this campaign because it is not spin, it is storytelling at its best and BUPA even go so far as to back the campaign up with resources. In many ways it is not advertising, it is reassurance and information.

Fourth choice

My last choice is from the heart and probably contradicts everything I’ve said so far. My last choice is also historic. I loved the Cinzano television ads of the late 70s and early 80s. These days there are very few true superstars or screen idols, but this campaign had two of the classiest and biggest stars of their day shimmering with star quality and, at the same time, sending themselves up.

Leonard Rossiter and Joan Colins, sex appeal and comic genius, epitomised. The brand comes over as classy, sexy and because they send themselves up, fun!

The script is fantastic. I fear sounding pompous but when I catch myself pontificating on a subject or taking myself too seriously this campaign comes to mind. Leonard Rossiter’s comic genius and timing combined with Joan Collins elegance. I wish they’d gone on to have a TV show to rival Eric and Ernie. Joan playing it cool and keeping Leonard in check.

In conclusion

My tortuous outlook on life, which is preciously balanced between being scientifically rational and instinctively imaginative, has helped equip me for my career, spent designing communication solutions for healthcare brands. Looking back over my choice of favourite campaigns I see that I’ve gravitated towards those that seek capture the intrinsic value of life.

That’s the story they tell, whether it be to appreciate every moment you can with friends and family, to choose your brands because they add some fun to your life or provide the reassurance that we all suffer from time to time.

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