David Brown, in his role as a group head and later as creative director of Collett, Dickenson, Pearce, often used a phrase to turn down work that he considered to be crass: ‘you wouldn’t like it if you made it’. Thus, many potentially embarrassing pieces of work were rightfully consigned to the wastepaper basket of history. If only David Brown was the creative director at the agency that handles the advertising for Lemsip Cough Max. They are currently running a commercial that would certainly have fallen foul of his veto.
We are on a film set when a woman holding a sound boom coughs, disrupting the take. She then addresses the camera in the manner of Russell Crowe in Gladiator. ‘My name is Lillian Maxine Barlow, commander of the sound boom, keeper of a mucus cough that I will take no longer’. I can’t watch it without squirming with embarrassment, and I didn’t write it. Imagine how the creative team who did write it must feel every time it’s on telly. And I guarantee Ridley Scott didn’t film it.
We are then treated to a pack shot as Lemsip Cough Max zooms towards the woman across the studio on a camera boom. For some reason the pack has arms and legs, probably because it goes on to pass a steaming cup of Lemsip Cough Max to the woman. The film crew goes for another take and guess what? The woman doesn’t cough. Cue end line: ‘Help conquer your mucus cough’. It’s appalling.
Those of you with long memories will remember a commercial for Alka-Seltzer that Doyle Dane Bernbach made in the sixties. This was also set on a film shoot but, unlike the Lemsip spot, is funny, clever and not in least embarrassing. In fact, Momma Mia, it’s one hell of a commercial, filmed, I believe, by Howard Zieff. Take a look at the two films by clicking on these links. The first will connect you to Lemsip, the second to Alka-Seltzer. On second thoughts, just look at the Alka-Seltzer one, unless you feel like having a good squirm, in which case, be my guest.
Happy Christmas again.