The scene is a bakery, somewhere in Europe. Customers are queueing up to make their purchases. But instead of money, they offer a pair of ice skates, a guitar, a wheelbarrow of coal, a teddy bear. A sign above the counter reads, "?-day. Expect Delays." Another says, "Barter here." If you need a further clue as to what's going on, there's a calendar displaying the date: Jan. 1, 2002.
That's the day the euro is scheduled to be introduced for retail purchases. The transition to the new currency will surely go smoothly, though there is the potential for at least minor confusion and delay. Only after you spend some time examining the photograph do you realize that it's a gently absurd, tongue-in-cheek version of what could go wrong. But of course, spending time chuckling over this image is the whole point. At the bottom are the words "On Europe. On Time." Yes, that Time. Welcome to our new advertising campaign. The bakery scene is the first in an eye-catching series of ads that will soon debut on billboards, news kiosks, the sides of taxis and the pages of magazines across Europe. There's another treatment featuring a woman tending ridiculously large, genetically engineered roses. ("On Science. On Time.") Also a man, whose company has just merged with another, cowering at his tiny new desk in the corner of the acquiring executive's private office. ("On Business. On Time.") And, um ... if you're having trouble following all this, perhaps it's because the photographs pretty much defy description.
That's deliberate as well. The campaign is the work of Wink Media, the hot new London ad agency that's an offshoot of our sister publication Wallpaper*. One of the biggest challenges facing Wink was that just about everybody knows Time. The magazine has been around for 78 years and has become journalism's equivalent of a global brand. Wink's solution was to have some fun. "The aim of the campaign is to promote the magazine's expanded coverage of style, technology, science and business in a fresh, witty and unexpected way," says Keith White, Wink's development director. "The images are thought-provoking metaphors for the mystery and joy found in subjects affecting all of our lives." That kind of imagination, combined with an understanding of what Time does best, is why we chose Wink for the assignment. That, and the agency's willingness to take payment in ice skates, guitars and teddy bears.