2015 Adverts I Liked

trainline i am train

OK. I won’t make a habit of this. But these are some adverts I liked in 2015. I’m not going to pretend they’re the best adverts of 2015 but they’re some of the best. Fair play, one of them is barely an advert at all. And you probably didn’t see two of them. And you’ll definitely disagree with one of them. But this is my blog after all. Feel free to leave your suggestions at the bottom or just, yknow, go away.

Blue Cross Advert

A lovely bait-and-switch that reveals another sad side of Christmas, namely pets being abandoned. Animal cruelty and neglect might be small beer in the grand scheme of things but it’s something I can’t bear. Sometimes we need to see the unmediated truth – something the television is loathe to provide us with, lest we switch over. And, frankly, it’s rare that an advert like doesn’t end up with a dog singing, finding a mate or being otherwise cute in an attempt to make us buy something.

Bang – right in the feels.

I Am Train advert

I just think the execution and concept of this ad are perfect- and it’s pleasingly off-kilter considering it’s advertising something fairly dull. The triumphant BAAAA-BAAAAAAAAAAAAA! is honestly joyous and very funny to behold. If only we could rentionalise our railways and have them run properly.

Dave’s Xmas advert

This caught my eye for its unashamed weirdness. In all honestly I found I was never sure whether I was more amused or disturbed by it. Anything that invokes The Nightmare Before Christmas is OK un my book but it’s done so very well with its mock operatic vocals and OTT animation.

Ribena advert

I could wax lyrical about the parallax scrolling and unhinged soundtrack – kinda like early 90s gaming crossed with Vic+Bob and Mighty Boosh – but it’s just a gloriously surreal Fuck You to everyone in the world really. And voiced by Norman Lovett. I Lovett.

Audi advert

Audi has got form – it’s been putting out amazing adverts for a decade now. I’m nonplussed by most Audi cars and my feeling is that they’ve done an amazing job of branding over the last ten years. People want them – but they couldn’t explain why if their life depended on it.

Put 90 people out of 100 in an A3, a top-spec Golf and a blinged-up Leon and I seriously doubt they could tell the difference. Yet they prefer to spend another 50% on an A3 anyway. Advert like this are the reason.

Here an R8 gives birth to an RS3 in a fairly disturbing Cronenberg-esque punch of body horror. Startling. And now you probably want to buy one of the sodding things too.

That’s it. There might be more but frankly I don’t make a habit of watching adverts if I can avoid it. What do you expect from a blog about how horrible advertising is?

Adverts I Love: Trainline – I Am Train

trainline i am train

I’ve recently recovered from a hacking, so to celebrate I thought I’d flag up an advert that has genuinely made me laugh out loud on two separate occasions this week – it’s this #iamtrain spot for the outfit formerly known as thetrainline.com – now rebranded as Trainline in an attempt to push people towards the app, rather than simple the website.

Before that, a caveat. I’m not especially fond of Trainline – the best of a bad bunch of websites that are clunky, confusing and rarely deliver on the kind of savings they shout about.

An example – if you want to travel one-way from Liverpool to Sunderland, as I have to regularly for work, you can’t get it for cheaper than about £70. Ever. If you go today, if you go next week, if you go next year you pay £70. Return? £85. Always. What’s that you say? Two singles might be cheaper? No, two singles are close to £150. Slower trains? No cheaper. Different routes? No cheaper. Oh, you can buy a single to York, the another from York. Then another back to York and another back to Liverpool and, yes, you might save a fiver. But then you’re committed to being on four different trains at specific times and and that point you might as well give up on life completely.

The last leg of this journey (usually taking 4-5 hours, despite its meagre distance of circa 170 miles) frequently leaves me standing on the godforsaken Thornaby platform. During one such windswept stopover here, deep in winter, I struck up a friendship with the only other fellow traveller. A mouse. Like a solitary-confinement prisoner driven mad by boredom and loneliness, I took some tiny solace that there was another living creature nearby and threw crumbs at it. Then the mouse left.

I was waiting for a benighted Pacer train – a train so depressing it’s what Thom Yorke would be, were the Radiohead singer a character in the Thomas The Tank Engine books. If Kylie Minogue had ever been on one of these trains she would never have sung The Locomotion, she would have written a concept album about entropy. During these journeys I am not train – I am expensive, cramped, uncomfortable, tardy cattle-truck. And whenever I travel by train this journey from Hell will cost me £70, regardless of whether I use Trainline or not.

So that’s the Trainline’s USP – that it’s cheaper, particularly if you book in advance – gone in a second. And that is, frankly, the only meaningful appeal of buying train tickets on the internet. If I want to collect them (rather than pay to have them delivered) there is one station in Liverpool that currently dispenses tickets bought online. And it’s not the station I use. And there’s a booking fee to buy tickets online. Fundamentally, using The Trainline is more expensive and less convenient to me than rocking up at the station on the day and slapping a load of cash down.

I could go on about the insanity of our privately-owned, publicly-subsidised, fragmented, cramped, slow, unjoined-up, shagged-out rail service but what would be the point? Even Tories agree the trains should be renationalised – sadly a tiny elite of evil warlocks have decided that such a thing is Beyond The Pale so everyone has to abide by the same lunatic failed system. No, I’ll restrict myself to a brief discussion of the joys of this advert instead.

It’s a nice idea – but sending up overblown spots isn’t exactly novel. What’s so good here is the execution. The narration is barely more ludicrous than the sort of slack-jawed eulogising frequently heard in spots for travel and leisure but it’s got a keen eye behind it. It doesn’t feature that deliberately overblown impression of Patrick Allen that infects virtually any It’s-Ironic voiceover in the last two decades (such as the Skeletor adverts).

The notion of a man whose superpower is essentially to use public services efficiently may be innately funny, but the turns of phrase are lovely: “I have a little banana in my bag” (and the little rise in intonation that accompanies it) perfectly catches the everyday, little-victory drudgery of a British commute.

And the idea this man is so incredibly excited at the prospect of his journey that he might belt out a rough approximation of the warning blast of an approaching train – to the general diffidence of his fellow commuters – similarly delightful.

That this passes off with barely a flicker of interest and with a slow zoom onto his face – raised in triumphant expectation, open-mouthed and quivering slightly with the unalloyed joy of it all; thrilled at the mere arrival of a train – has genuinely made my day.

If only all adverts could be this good. And if only British rail travel in the 20th Century – and the UX of Trainline’s website – matched it.