Going Underground.

They say that the smartest thing any Londoner can do is take the tube out of his or her life.

There’s something in this.

Scurrying into a dark, dank tunnel first thing in the morning is distinctly rodent-like. And that’s before the journey-long, very British, ‘game’ of passive-aggressive, silent fuming and body blocking that characterises so many millions of daily London commutes.

However, outside of rush hour, as I remembered on my journey to see a client today, the tube ain’t that bad. It’s quick, relatively cost-effective and you normally get a seat.

More to the point, it offers everyone in marketing and advertising something else: an unparalleled mirror of ourselves and our world.

It’s a grown-up equivalent of Tony Hart’s ‘gallery’ – ‘now let’s have a look at some of your work’; a ready-reckoner of the industry’s current heath, and the latest trends and themes.

Of course, as was the case in Tony’s gallery in the 1980s, much of the work on the walls is abject shit.

The example par excellence for me today was the Metropolitan Police’s statement-of-the-bleeding-obvious (but, hey, it’s a digital campaign, so that’s cool, right?) ‘public service’ announcement.

They have kindly taken it upon themselves to let us know that if our smartphones get pinched, all our photos, emails, contacts etc all get pinched too. Yeah, thanks for that. Who’d have thought?

In their defence, at least the Met’s shit was memorable (although only because this utter nonsense WAS MADE WITH OUR MONEY).

The tragedy is that most of the work in ‘the gallery’ that is London Underground is shit and unmemorable. So much so, that even kind, old, avuncular Tony would have struggled to find wall space for it.

TransferWise’s ‘That Moment Your Bank Overcharges You To Send Money Abroad’ campaign is an obvious exception.

To be sure, it’s no essay in art direction. Au contraire. And the copy is functional, as opposed to clever or cool.

But here’s the thing – it works. And so, by definition, it stands out.

Strong, clear, product-focused, benefits-to-consumer, we-understand-you-and-your-world, old-fashioned advertising. In fact it’s so refreshingly bullshit-free, that you can’t help but wonder if an agency was even involved or if they just did everything in-house. In any event, bravo – and equally so to those who did the impressive media planning. Spot on.

There are other exceptions, too. But they are only that – exceptions to the drab, clichéd nonsense that makes up the rule….

Truth be told, I always used to find ‘the gallery’ section of Tony’s programme a bit earnest and try-hard; boring really. It should have been interesting, inspirational to the artistically-minded kids watching it.

But it wasn’t. I can remember willing it to come an end.

I wanted to see Morph.

Morph was everything ‘the gallery’ was not – funny, warm and somehow instinctively transfixing.

Today, by the time I reached my stop, he was all I could think about.

– this piece first published by The Marketing Society

Monticello LLP