ITV Presents: Creative Carousel with Thinkbox

How do you create an award-winning, nation-grabbing, emotion-rousing TV ad? An all-star cast of creative directors joined Thinkbox’s Lindsey Clay on the Creative Carousel to reveal their secrets at ITV’s flagship session at Ad Week on Wednesday.

Danny Brooke-Taylor, of Lucky Generals, Craig Inglis, of John Lewis, Caroline Pay, of BBH and Kate Stanners of Saatchi & Saatchi discussed the good, the bad and the ugly of making creative TV ads.

Lindsey congratulated the audience for coming along to the ITV and Thinkbox session rather than ‘listening to Sir Martin Sorrell banging on’.

Each of the creative gurus was asked to choose one of their own adverts and explain why it had worked so well.

Danny picked a Hovis ad from 2008 – only one of two ads that ever won the British Arrows and the IPA Effectiveness Award.

With the slogan ‘as good today as it’s ever been’ the ad traversed British history of the previous 122 years, following a young boy with his loaf of bread as he ran home through World War I soldiers, bombed streets, World Cup 1966 celebrations, miners’ strikes and Millennium celebrations.

“It was one of those moments which was a perfect storm,” explained Danny. Premier Foods had been getting some negative press and this was an opportunity to change people’s understanding of the brand.

The ad was 122 seconds long, reflecting the fact that the brand was 122 years old, and they leveraged more PR opportunities by including staff and journalists in the extras.

They also had to go to great lengths to ensure the ad was as historically accurate as possible. “If we were going to ally bread with Britain, we had to do it authentically,” said Danny.

Kate chose an ad for T-Mobile – ‘Life’s for Sharing’, featuring 350 dancers throwing their moves at Liverpool Street Station while commuters passed through the concourse.

The ad was filmed using hidden TV cameras in the station, capturing the spontaneous reactions of commuters.

They were given just six weeks to produce the ad, over the Christmas period. “Pulling that off in six weeks was quite extraordinary,” said Kate. “The whole thing was phenomenal. What was exciting for us was that it created a community; it transformed a supplier into a loved brand.”

Craig chose the John Lewis ad of 2010 – Always a Woman, following a woman through the different stages of her life, notorious for making distinguished CEOs, high-flying marketers and pretty much everyone else sob into their hankies, including Lindsey Clay.

“This was such a poignant moment for John Lewis,” said Craig. “It was a bloody nightmare to make – again, we only had six weeks.”

But when he first showed the ad, to the company’s biggest suppliers, the reaction was amazing. “I can only describe it as a wave of emotion,” he said. “Social was just starting to take off at that point and it just went mad on social. It was the moment we really started to get some traction. It had great resonance for people.”

Caroline chose the Levi ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ ad from 2007 – which featured a couple undressing through the ages, from the 1870s to 2007. “It was my first creative directing gig, to direct Levi’s – no pressure,” she said.

“But I was very lucky, we had a very lovely, simple idea on the table and Ringan directing; we realised it could be a bit of a passion project for everyone involved.”

However, the shoot was a ‘f-ing nightmare’ trying to keep everyone happy, she said.

The creatives also described some of their failures – including Craig’s first shoot, which took place in a rotting fish shed in Devon and ended abruptly when he was ordered off set by the director.

And as for advice for budding creative directors? “Be brave – scare yourself,” said Caroline. “It’s never, never easy,” said Kate. “But it’s worth it, and it’s bloody good fun.”


You can re-watch this fascinating session here.