Ri Fiver March: dark arts at play, but judges see the light

Freelancers Lisa Mendes and Phil Woodford (pictured) were plunged into darkness this month when judging the March Fivers, but valiantly fought their way towards the light.  Here's the story of their great escape...

"There was no mistaking the sense of foreboding as we examined the first of the entries for this month's Fivers. We'd blagged our way into an empty pub in the Barbican just before opening time and immediately sensed the presence of an art director - or perhaps more than one art director - with a predisposition towards dark and Gothic Photoshop.  Without the help of the Most Haunted team from Living TV + 1, we had no choice but to confront our deepest fears alone.

Lisa was worried that if she spoke her mind, she'd never get any work again. Phil said that he didn't get much work anyway and that copywriters are always allowed to have a dig at art directors.

Both the judges agreed that there's a solid idea behind the NHS Blood and Transplant ad, which is trying to attract a specialist doctor prepared to ‘transfer' their skills to the transfusion service.  But blood flowing through a stethoscope? On a solid black background? There's a sense of drama alright, but perhaps a lack of bedside manner. And when we click through to the associated website, the lady currently doing the job tells us that it's mostly a question of emailing and updating databases. With a sprinkling of rare syndromes to keep you on your toes.

Maybe the kind of medic who'd consider a career in blood transfusion is currently pacing the corridors of Homerton University Hospital?  The place is working wonders with children and young people, but also seems to be shrouded in ominous thunder clouds.  The excuse here is an allusion to a certain well-known literary character, who must not be mentioned by name on the advice of legal wizards.  Of course, we're not saying that every ad for Children's Nurses needs to be full of happy-clappy imagery. But we're worried that the fun and caring environment of Starlight Ward isn't exactly evoked through the visuals here.

A burst of yellow sunlight came in the form of a double-page spread from Aviva. For unexplained reasons, the insurance giant had decided to advertise in At Home with Anthony Worrall Thompson and needed to give its ad a culinary twist. The www of the web address is turned upside down to spell out MMM. In this 180-degree flip, it also manages to move from lower case to upper case, which we feel actually makes it more difficult to read. The net result is that people are unlikely to understand the concept without ploughing through some very small, puntastic text in the bottom left corner.  Phil loves a food gag as much as the next man, but this copy has been overcooked by about 20 minutes on Gas Mark 8.

Wiltshire Fire and Rescue answered our 999 call promptly and sent two vehicles to the scene of the judging. Both were designed to attract under-represented groups - particularly women - to become ‘retained' firefighters.  These are people who have a day job, but live within five minutes of a station and are on call in the event of emergency.


The first ad, which was a picture of a brain created out of a fire hose, didn't really say much to us about women or under-represented groups. The headline is too subtle and the body copy doesn't really take the reader any further.

The second ad, which we're happy to name as this month's winner, undoubtedly spoke directly to women.  While Lisa and Phil both have misgivings about stereotyping the female audience as being obsessed with clothes, there's no denying that the stylish boot stands out well on the page. In conjunction with the headline, we're able to conclude that it's a lady's boot and the message about pride in the job comes across strongly.

So, like Barry Manilow, we made it through the rain. But whether we'll find ourselves respected, we just don't know."

Our thanks go to judges Lisa Mendes and Phil Woodford. Congratulations to Tribal Resourcing and Wiltshire Fire & Rescue, who win the March Ri Fiver.  Commiserations to all who came close, and thanks to everyone who entered.  Judges for the April competition will be Jonathan Richards of Penna Barkers and Hugh McQueen of the McQueen Consultancy. The closing date is Friday, 30th April, 2010, at midnight.  Entries please (free-of-charge) to awards@ri5.co.uk.

Be an Ri Fiver partner: we are looking for new partners to help support and promote the Ri Fivers, the only monthly awards for creative excellence in recruitment communication. Please contact Kevin Turner (kevin@ri5.co.uk) to discuss the possibilities.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

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