Guardian ad re-tells story of Three Little Pigs

If the story of the Three Little Pigs broke today, how would a modern newspaper cover it? That’s the concept behind a new TV ad for The Guardian, the newspaper’s first major TV spot for 25 years

If the story of the Three Little Pigs broke today, how would a modern newspaper cover it? That’s the concept behind a new TV ad for The Guardian, the newspaper’s first major TV spot for 25 years

The spot launches a campaign to promote the paper’s ‘open journalism‘ approach – its name for the way in which it is attempting to involve its readership in not just commenting on stories, but contributing to and even determining its news agenda. “Open is our operating system, a way of doing things that is based on a belief in the open exchange of information, ideas and opinions and its power to bring about change,” said Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of Guardian and MediaGuardian publisher Guardian News & Media. “The campaign is designed to bring that philosophy to life for new and existing readers.”

The launch ad examines the way in which the tale of the Three Little Pigs might be covered by The Guardian today, with all the different forms of content and different channels that implies. It also seeks to get over the way in which stories develop over time as new facts come to light and the effect of social media on switching the focus of coverage and debate.

An epic two-minute version (shown above) debuted on Channel 4 last night.

Comparisons will inevitably be made with 1986’s classic Points of View by BMP (indeed the Guardian itself has said that the new ad is a “nod’ to the old one. They share an endline: The Whole Picture).

But while Points of View got over its message succintly and elegantly, Three Little Pigs is less focussed, less pithy. This can be seen as a reflection of the changing nature of media – newspapers are now less about relating THE story and more about acting as a platform for multiple strands around a topic to be explored by multiple participants, including the readers themselves, in real time. But it makes for a less memorable piece of advertising storytelling.

“The aim is to reach progressive audiences and show them why they should spend time with us,” according to Andrew Miller, chief executive of the Guardian’s parent company Guardian Media Group. But you have to wonder whether such progressive types would not be aware of what the Guardian is doing anyway? The ad will probably make existing Guardian readers feel better about themselves, but will its slightly daunting complexity attract many new ones?

Agency: BBH
Director: Ringan Ledwidge



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  • Nice ad. Both effective and piggy-nightmare-inducing.

  • richard

    i totally agree. preaching to the converted. i suppose the idea was to create an ‘event’ and assume that the video has some viral impact, but who is going to share this apart from other readers of the guardian? (who – lets face it – don’t want for a lack of self embracing insularity in popular perception)

    Mainly though, i found the 3 little pigs concept totally under cut what seriousness their was in the message, to the point of it being profoundly grating. A nursery rhyme? Really? That’s the best vehicle for articulating this momentous moment in Guardian history?

  • Wowser

    The Tube posters on the escalators are really quite beautiful, too.

  • Reality Check

    @ Patrick Burgoyne,

    I’m not sure that the ad is complex, even slightly.

    It’s based on a well-known tale, which then allows the creative to convey its widespread media message in an appropriately frenetic and entertaining way.

    But is it on par with Points of View? Absolutely not. But Points of View is based on a timeless and great insight, memorably told, whereas, to your point, this Guardian open journalism: Three Little Pigs advert is a generic message at its core.

  • MarkM

    @richard – I agree.. it grated with me immediately.

    I’m not sure if it’s because it takes a simple fairytale and overly works it to a point where the message feels laboured and not exactly complex – but certainly noisy & cluttered. Maybe it’s the treatment.. slick, big budget, realistic etc .. when maybe a simple vector cartoon would have been more impactful. There’s a slight smugness about it.

    @PB – I think the words ‘at it’s core’ sums it up.. the core of this is buried too deeply. imho.

  • MarkM

    ps – and I’m in the building.. I think I’ve been over exposed today.
    Opinions are pretty negative in my department :)

  • m0g

    In the context of Guardian’s behind-the-scenes features on their website, it seems to be addressing possible fallout from the Leveson Inquiry: Media is corrupt. Let’s not forget Guardian sister publication is copping stick in South Africa at the moment.

    It’s all reinforcing a very close, direct relationship with you, the reader (participant?), and that implies accountability and responsiveness.

  • graham wood

    25 years? nope.

  • True, it’s not as minimal as Points of View, but it’s just as sleek and insightful – only here about the state of media and newspaper consumption. It might not be a unique stance in the general landscape of how people interact with information nowadays, but it is entirely new for a newspaper to make such a bold, dynamic and accurate comment on modern journalism. Which means that for a newspaper, it’s actually not generic – it’s pretty brave actually – and it’s now a voice and a manifesto that’s distinctly The Guardian.

    As for attracting new readers – maybe not those who have never considered picking up or logging on to The Guardian in the past, but that’s not who they’re after anyways – it’s a love it or hate it kind of thing. The ad might though bring in people who are on the fringe, who are a part of online debates but might never have thought that The Guardian was really for them. Now, they might think twice. For those who have dabbled, the energy of the ad, its call to arms, the movement that it invites you to be a part of, might just be enough to turn them into loyal Guardian advocates – and sure, feel really good about themselves for it. But from the standpoint of The Guardian as a brand, is that such a bad thing?

  • Tess Almazora

    Here’s one take: That any faiyrtale can be turned into news and exploded… and as demonstrated in the ad can get out of hand, degenerating into vlolence. It would have been more inspiring if they showed a clear positive outcome. The prevoius ad showed that the whole perspective is a good thing. Another take: the new ad portrays the truth as ambiguous. Maybe true…? Maybe. Who’s to know if not The Guardian?

  • graham wood

    Cultural Insight-‘the state of media and newspaper consumption’; that was the theme of the Guardian ad in ’93 from Leagas Delaney that Steve Dunn, Tim Delaney and i made (hence my earlier ’25 yeras? nope.’ comment). There was an interesting little piece in the first BBC Design Awards which had prisoners who were undertaking literacy classes analyse the ad. Wish i could find it . . .

  • Reminded me of episode one of Black Mirror…

  • kgj

    I loved this as an ad. Because it is so clearly signals itself as an ad that immediately it becomes a fascinating study in the use of propaganda.

    As a previous commentator noted, I am American, don’t know the skinhead ad, would generally read the Guardian over any other UK media (except for FT), so I am the ‘intended target’ for this campaign.

    But this ad does exactly as it intends, it suggests that we (management at Guardian) will spend a lot of money to convince you that we cover completely fictitious, trivial, fairy tale style stories but will overwhelm and confuse the issue with technology, allow lots of ‘man-on-the-street’ and socially-connected (but irrelevant) commentary and will provide a completely fixed ideological context in which to view the story (i.e. banking, fraud, mortgage, social injustice – no matter what the underlying story).

    This ad has absolutely sold me on the idea that the Guardian has nothing useful to offer as journalism. Effective. Thanks, I won’t waste my time.

    (the people who like the ads precisely already appreciate these points about the paper, ‘true-believers’ if you will).

  • Ha, yes @adstyles it’s very Black Mirror. But seriously, I think you may all be over thinking it a bit. If the target market is Channel 4 viewers (which their premier debut suggests), they just want something funny that they can relate to. This ticks those boxes. It’s not a brilliant paper but it does provide an online forum for debate… much of it over opinionated. Either way, I liked it. Not that it will make me buy the Guardian!