A global message

Lest there be anyone still wondering whether great advertising ideas can transcend cultural and political boundaries, an initiative by the Toronto offfice of Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising should help convert whatever doubters remain.Canadians across the country will soon see a television...

Lest there be anyone still wondering whether great advertising ideas can transcend cultural and political boundaries, an initiative by the Toronto offfice of Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising should help convert whatever doubters remain.

Canadians across the country will soon see a television commercial created by Saatchi’s Singapore office, airing in Canada on behalf of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (madd.)

It is hard to imagine how any television viewer, anywhere, could miss the commercial’s blunt, cleverly conveyed message.

The spot opens from the point of view of a driver in an automobile travelling along an urban expressway at night. We see office towers, street lights, guard rails and the red of other motorists’ tail lights directly ahead.

There is no audio track.

Suddenly, as the car enters a curve in the road, we hear the hollow sound of a drinking glass being plunked onto a tabletop as an empty beer glass appears directly in the centre of the driver’s view. The road, seen through the glass, becomes slightly blurred.

A second empty glass is set down in front of the other, distorting the view even further. And another, and another. The view gets progessively fuzzier with each glass.

An on-coming vehicle emerges from the haze and the silence is shattered by the sound of car horns and the smashing of metal and glass.

The final scene, appearing as reverse type on a blood-red background, drives the message home: ‘Each drink you have before driving impairs your judgement.’ It is followed by a logo and message from madd: ‘Drink safe, drive sober.’

The commercial was developed just over a year ago for Singapore’s traffic police commission. It also went on to win three of the world’s most prestigious advertising awards, a Gold Lion at Cannes, a Gold Pencil from the Designers and Art Directors Association of London, Eng., and a Gold clio in the u.s.

But, even before it began getting international acclaim, the commercial caught the attention of Joe McDonagh, Saatchi’s creative director in Toronto. It arrived here as part of a regular update of Saatchi work from around the world that gets shared throughout the agency network.

McDonagh says the commercial took hold of him as soon as he saw it. ‘I said to myself, that’s the kind of idea you get into the business for. That’s the kind of idea you wish you could do every time.’

McDonagh also recognized the universality of its appeal and approached madd with the idea of adapting the spot – which meant changing the closing billboard – to the Canadian market.

madd Canada President Tony Carvalho says he had no idea the commercial had come from Singapore when he first saw it. In fact, he remembers thinking it could have been shot on Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway.

‘It is certainly to the point, and not in a hard, or graphic way,’ Carvalho says. ‘I think it will have an impact. The end [getting madd's message across] is the important thing.’

Another important message comes out of this experience – that opportunities are opening up for ad agency people everywhere in direct proportion to the shinking of the global village.

Unfortunately, it is being missed by many in the Canadian agency community, as commercial director Boris Damast reminds us in a report, beginning on page 1, that he filed upon his return from the recent international advertising festival in Cannes.

Canadian agency people continue to stubbornly resist participating in any meaningful way in the global advertising community.

The loss is entirely theirs.