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A military campaign that's well worth embarking on

Ploughing through agency submissions for the Campaign School Reports (out next month), the issue of trust is played out in its own little way.

Jeremy Lee

Jeremy Lee

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A remarkable number of agencies seem to have conveniently forgotten accounts that slipped out of their doors. One of the biggest of these was the Army business that left Publicis for JWT London (but given the length of the pitch, perhaps some charitable absolution for this handy oversight might be appropriate). Equally, it is not alone in experiencing some mild amnesia; full marks, however, are due to Lean Mean Fighting Machine for its remarkably candid and enjoyable romp through its year.

With remarkable prescience, a mere ten years ago I remember writing a piece predicting a great future for live advertising. The hook was London Pride using graphic overlays displaying half-time scores as Jonny Wilkinson hoofed England to a stunning victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

The eagerness of my then callow youth may have got the better of me as subsequent history proved – in fact, aside from Honda and its "skydive" in 2008, there have been hardly any examples of live advertising. This seemed to prove that Wieden & Kennedy’s "difficult is worth doing" line that accompanied the Honda stunt didn’t really seem to apply to live advertising.

In comparison to watching some skydivers jump out of a plane, the risk involved in the campaign is immense

Looking back, the digital overlay of a score on a still in an ad looks almost as quaint as a notion that this would create a television revolution. Equally, four years later, Felix Baumgartner’s live leap from the edge of space makes Honda’s skydivers look rather tame.

A decade on and I feel some sort of lame vindication with the breathtaking ambition of JWT’s first work for the Territorial Army. Historically sniggered at as "the SAS" ("Saturdays And Sundays") by some regular soldiers and "weekend warriors" by the public at large, the frontline role that the TA has taken on as government defence cutbacks bite has become very real.

The importance and need for these volunteers is graphically displayed in the live ads, direct from Afghanistan, that follow real soldiers in theatre and on operation. The logistical efforts involved in the campaign, which will continue this weekend, are impressive. In comparison to watching some skydivers jump out of a plane, the risk involved (both technical risk for JWT and ITV and, more importantly, real risk for the soldiers on the ground) is immense, and the outcome more vital than ever.

JWT deserves real credit for conceiving and executing a campaign whose difficulty in accomplishing is truly more crucial than flogging some Japanese cars.

jeremy.lee@haymarket.com           
@jezzalee

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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