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Black and White or Full Colour?

For Advertising Communication students the question of whether their creative proposal will be best served by an execution in full colour or a black and white rendition, is a worthwhile thought to ponder on. Will a full colour treatment add value to the communication or merely be a distraction?

Emotive Monotone

Some of my favourite commercials, past and recent, are in black and white and I cannot ever imagine them in full colour. The emotive power of their monotone mood, sense of period and style would be greatly diminished by the visual distraction of colour. Deciding on monochromatic imagery for these commercials was not an after thought. From the concept stage the filmic treatment was envisaged to be integral to the creative idea and part of the DNA of each brand’s persona the commercials set out to establish.

Retro and Contemporary Monochromatic Imagery

Black and white commercials can be very effective in providing a nostalgic or historic dimension to a story but can also be stylishly contemporary. Georgio Armani and Calvin Klein for example, achieved highly successful fashion brand stature with monochromatic imagery that have an effective timeless quality about them. Full colour commercials on the other hand, can sometimes date rather quickly.

1. Stella Artois ‘Ice Skating Priests’

Advertising Agency: Lowe, London

The commercial, directed by Jonathan Glazer and shot in Poland, I consider to be a filmic masterpiece.

2. Carling Black Label ‘Dambusters’

Advertising Agency: WCRS (Wight Collins Rutherford Scott), London

Directed by Rodger Woodburn, the commercial is a skillfully crafted, entertaining parody of the Second World War movie epic about the legendary RAF Dambusters that has become an advertising classic of note.

3. Levi’s ‘Drugstore’

Advertising Agency: BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty), London

A Levi’s classic directed by Michel Gondry with “Mule Skinner Blues” as an effectively emotive soundtrack.

4. Allan Gray ‘Legend’

Advertising Agency: King James, Cape Town

Directed by Keith Rose, the commercial involved a cast of 300, a film crew of 150 members and took 14 months to produce. The result was a Grand Prix Loerie Award and I think one of the best commercials ever to come out of South Africa.

5. Nike ‘Equality’

Advertising Agency: Wieden+Kennedy, Portland U.S.A.

This topical commercial directed by Melina Matsoukas, elicited 2 million views on YouTube in 48 hours. I love the tuneful soundtrack of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” sung by Alicia Keys.

6. Amnesty International, Pens

Advertising Agency: TBWA, Paris

Directed by Onur Senturk, this superbly crafted commercial consists of powerful images composed entirely of pens. The monotone 3D animation and a great soundtrack by Paolo Nutini make for compelling viewing.