Archive | November 2013

THE BATTLE OF THE XMAS ADS

Ding Dong! It’s early November and my Facebook feed is alerting me to the fact that seeing though the Coca-Cola advert has now been broadcast, Christmas is officially here! The Holidays are coming, as are a series of marketing campaigns from stores which want to lure you in this Christmas. So how have the big advertisers set about winning our custom this festive season?

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JOHN LEWIS- THE BEAR AND THE HARE (Ooh it rhymes! Clever! High 5s marketing team)

With 2011’s ‘Best Son of the year’ and 2012’s ‘Snowmen in Love’ adverts achieving overwhelming popularity, John Lewis have been leading the way with their Christmas advertising campaigns in recent years. So how have they gone about topping that this year?

An animated story of a bear and a hare ought to do the trick. In order for the bear’s hibernation cycle to not allow him to miss Christmas, his best friend Mr Hare buys him a luxury John Lewis alarm clock so they can spend Christmas Day together, in the company of their other woodland friends whilst listening to Lily Allen’s long awaiting (we could have waited longer, though) comeback.

The fact that the nation has been blubbering in tears over this advert and I haven’t probably says something about me, but to be fair to the marketing team they’ve highlighted the true meaning of Christmas- spending time with loved ones. Now go buy their overpriced middle class items to say thankyou!

Christmas Tree Rating: Glittery bauble that I’d put in the middle but someone would put higher up when my back was turned

MARKS AND SPENCERS- BELIEVE IN MAGIC AND SPARKLE

Gone are the days of Gary Barlow, Myleene Klass and, um… Twiggy, when it comes to M&S ads, as their new advert stars Rosie Huntingdon-Whitely (I’m not complaining).

After falling down a man hole, Rosie finds herself caught up in a series of fairytales (Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin, The Wizard of Oz) combined with a Marks and Spencer’s nightmare. I’ve always wondered what the Mad Hatters Tea Party would look like with a ‘Blue Harbour’ and ‘Per Una’ dress-code.

Christmas Tree Rating: Fairy on top- Even if it’s on par with the others the fairytale idea means it should have top spot

ASDA- SNOWMEN

Fathers for justice, Feminists and Mumsnet rejoice! Mum’s no longer in the kitchen! Well she’s not in it at all. Nor is the kitchen. What I’m saying is Mum may still be in the kitchen, but Dad’s not useless he’s looking after the kids. So calm down because there’s no way this year ASDA can be embroiled in another sexism Christmas advert row!

Dad has a funny way of entertaining the kids though. Building 4 snowmen which represent the 4 biggest supermarkets, and having the snowman with the green scarf bigger and better than the other 3. 10% better in fact! Still, that’s Dads for you.

Christmas Tree Rating: Chocolate treat that fell off and was eaten

ROYAL MAIL- WE LOVE PARCELS (But we don’t like being privatised)

What’s this? Postmen with smiles on their faces? Postmen delivering on time? No sign of an attempted delivery notice in sight? Surely this advert isn’t 100% accurate, but in terms of getting the message across it’s fairly simple but probably the most effective of the lot. The advert shows a series of postmen (dressed in red, a bit like Santa), with smiles on their faces (a bit like Santa), delivering parcels and presents (a bit like Santa, get it yet?).

After the difficult Christmas of 2011 in which Royal Mail received a lot of criticism for not delivering on time, the brand are trying to restore some of our faith. After all they’re just jolly postmen, and all you need is love.

Christmas Tree Rating: One of those decorations you made when you was 3 and your parents bring it out every year

Notes: Part 2 coming soon! Cadburys, Iceland, Morrisons and Debenhams watch out!

Lee Briers: Warrington Legend Retires

“I feel privileged to have played for so long. Unfortunately it has come to an end but it was going to one day and the doctor took that out of my hands.”

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Those were the sad words from Rugby League icon Lee Briers on Friday evening, having been forced to retire due to ongoing difficulties with a neck injury picked up earlier on in the Wolves’ latest Super League campaign. The Warrington Stand-off had recently signed a new one year contract extension, but the injury brings an end to the Welshman’s illustrious career.

Having joined Warrington from St Helens in 1997, Briers enjoyed 17 seasons with the Wolves, becoming their record points scorer with 2,586 points in 425 appearances. He won 3 Challenge Cups (Including Lance Todd trophy winner in 2010), the League Leaders Shield in 2011, made 2 Super League Grand Final appearances as well as making 23 caps for Wales. Perhaps his only disappointment looking back will be a solitary Great Britain appearance to his name after the ‘Briers for Britain’ campaign never really took off.

No matter which team you follow, Briers will be missed by the Rugby League community. His skill, creativity and passion for his club were what made him stand out. When Lee Briers was on top form, he was like a magician. His kicking game, his passing game, always thinking 2 or 3 plays ahead. Throughout his time at Warrington when Lee didn’t play, it was evident. Even in his last season he was sorely missed when absent, with that spark or flair of creativity being lost without him. When the team news was announced he was always the first name I checked for because his importance to the Warrington team was huge. His personality will be missed also, constantly driving the team whilst having a tongue-in-cheek character that would wind the opposition and referees up (Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir).

Whilst looking back on his career there are many highlights. The 18-17 victory of Leeds Rhinos in 2006 to earn Warrington their first ever play-off win comes to mind. Briers ran the show that night, and cancelled out Kevin Sinfield’s drop goal with one of his own on the 70th minute to take the scores to 17-17. Then in the 79th minute, Briers landed another drop goal 40 metres out to secure the victory for the Wolves.

Briers’s drop goal record was the most prolific of any kicker in the modern era, although it was mainly in the early part of his career in which he was kicking them for fun. He holds the record for the most drop goals in a game (5) against Halifax in 2002. Right till the end of his career the drop goal king was rescuing the Wolves, with a last gasp drop goal again Wigan in February 2013 securing a 17-17 score.

Lee also played an instrumental role in guiding Warrington to their first Challenge Cup in 35 years, with a 25-16 victory of Huddersfield Giants at Wembley in 2009. Further Challenge Cup successes followed in 2010 and 2012, with Briers being awarded the Lance Todd trophy in the 30-6 Final win over Leeds Rhinos for an outstanding Man of the Match performance.

A victory in a Grand Final would have topped off a sensational career for Lee, but unfortunately for him the Wolves couldn’t conjure up a victory in the 2012 or 2013 finals. Briers will continue to be around the Warrington Wolves, working in a coaching role alongside Tony Smith. The biggest challenge now for Warrington will be filling the void left by an irreplaceable talent, as their quest for that first Grand Final victory just became a lot more difficult. Will Stefan Ratchford be asked to step up? Or will Smith look to strengthen from elsewhere? Either way… There’s only one Lee Briers.

Notes:

– Lee’s Autobiography ‘Off the Cuff’ is available now.

– It will be interesting to see how the club recognises Lee’s time and contribution at the club. Whatever happens, he will be sorely missed and not forgotten.

Philomena: Heartbreak, Laughs and Evil Nuns

‘You should be nice to people on the way up because you might meet them again on the way down.’

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It’s always a strange feeling taking your seat in the cinema and realising you’re one of the youngest there, but it’s often an indicator that the film that you’re about to see is a good one. This is certainly the case of Philomena, the true story of Journalist and former Government spin doctor, Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) attempting to help Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) track down her long-lost son.

The film begins with a series of flashbacks which show a young Philomena being sent to a nunnery for committing the ‘sin’ of falling pregnant outside of wedlock. Her son is then mysteriously taken away in a car from the nunnery when he was 3 years old. Now on his 50th birthday, an older Philomena wants to find out what sort of a man he became. She then gains the help of Journalist, Martin Sixsmith, who’s interested in doing a ‘human interest story’ after his fall from grace in the Government. The journey sees them travel to America where it is believed her son would have been sold to a rich American family by the ‘evil nuns’. The journey that follows is one of heartbreak, closure and various twists in helping Philomena get her answers, and Martin to get his story, accumulating in an unlikely but heart-warming friendship between the two.

Dench gives an outstanding performance in conveying this heart breaking tale, and deserves the plaudits she’s receiving. When Philomena has hope, you have hope. When Philomena is upset, you feel upset. It may sound obvious, but not many actors can truly evoke this response upon an audience in such a profound way, and on numerous occasions you’ll be holding your head in your hands in sorrow.

Another aspect of Philomena which the film gets spot on is the comedic aspect which it is laced with, mainly down to the brilliant writing from Coogan and Jeff Pope. In the opening scene Coogan is delighted to find out his stool sample has been marked as ‘outstanding’, only to learn this means he hasn’t submitted one yet. ‘I suppose that’s the sort of thing you’d remember submitting’, he quirks.

The line between drama and comedy is drawn perfectly, where so many other films go wrong. The laughs often come as comic relief and to stop the upsetting subtext of the film becoming too heavy. However, when it’s time to be serious at certain points of the film, the laughter ceases, to allow the sadder aspects to be realised. Perfect.

Rating: 4.5/5

Notes: Nuns are scary. They should make a horror film where nuns are the villains.

Fans of the film may want to read ‘The Lost Child of Philomena Lee’ by Martin Sixsmith to find out more about the true story the film is based upon.