Ad Of The Week

Five Get Into An Ad Test

4.8

Great Western Railway have been running their “Famous Five” TV campaign since 2017. Crafted by Adam&EveDDB, the ads turn Enid Blyton’s child adventurers into brand ambassadors, as they race off on GWR trains to adventures across the South-West of England. And GWR gets them home in time for pickled eggs and lashings of ginger beer, of course.

Blyton’s 21 Famous Five books are a fraction of her enormous output, but they became one of her most enduring creations. Published between 1942 and 1962, they are adventure fantasies in which four kids (and one dog) outwit all manner of smugglers, robbers, and ne’er-do-wells while on an apparently endless summer holiday. The Five represent both sheer escapism for a generation of kids who’d grown up on war and rationing, and a way of evoking nostalgia and Englishness without using more overt patriotic symbols.

Those things make them particularly potent devices for the present moment. It’s often said, not without reason, that the ad industry is insular, concerned mainly with speaking the language of its own metropolitan class. The successful Famous Five ads are a good counter example – they are very clearly built to appeal to an older, nostalgic audience but they have a joie de vivre that makes them speak to any viewer. It doesn’t hurt that they look very beautiful too – using a unique animation technique which brings the old-world charms of Blyton’s book covers to vivid life.

The ad we’re looking at this week isn’t a new instalment of the Five’s commercial adventures, but a montage from the previous ads in the campaign with a new framing: now that Britain is starting to unlock from its Covid-19 restrictions, it’s time for adventure once again. It’s no surprise that this message, presented by these characters so associated with holidays, freedom and fun, is a very powerful one right now.

It’s so powerful that this ad – despite being a compilation with a voiceover and no narrative structure – manages to score 4.8-Stars and become the most effective travel ad we’ve yet seen on the UK TestYourAd database. Just as impressively, the ad does exceptionally well on short-term Spike and Brand Fluency – it can be difficult to remember which train operator is which, so this signals that GWR are getting something very right. Their use of the Famous Five as Fluent Devices is perfect for their audience and for the moment: ginger beer all round.

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Creative agency credit: Adam&EveDDB