Dew spots look great, taste less filling

Once upon a time, this really happened, kids. A Canadian television commercial director I know was hired by the American ad agency that held the account of a rich and famous car company....

Once upon a time, this really happened, kids. A Canadian television commercial director I know was hired by the American ad agency that held the account of a rich and famous car company.

He was to be paid ten thousand a day American, back when that was rather a lot of money. Oh, and the shoot was to last forty days. And it was to take place in Europe.

Over a second glass of champagne after take-off, the director leaned over to the agency Creative Director and asked Where are the storyboards?

There aren’t any, replied the Creative Director.

Then what’s the strategy? he asked.

There isn’t a strategy, said the Creative Director.

Then where are we going? What do we shoot? asked the director, by now thoroughly flabbergasted.

Where do you want to go? What do you want to shoot? was the reply.

Well goodness me, what a time they had! It was like, get out of bed in the morning and say Hey, let’s pack up the gear, ticket the crew and go to Rome. Rome? Yeah, why not?

My friend later confessed that, after renting The Spanish Steps for a day, and getting the Roman cops to eject the hippies camped upon them and generally deny access to the tourists who’d come thousands of miles to see them, he had flower stalls that had been in place for a hundred years taken away and replaced with flower stalls that were more to his liking.

So. Given oodles of time, lashings of money and unfettered freedom to shoot whatsoever the hell you fancied, what would you do?

Hey, everybody likes the bicycle-riding sequence in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid! Let’s re-shoot it with actors wearing our client’s after-shave!

Remember the slo-mo sequence where they machine-gun the car in Bonnie and Clyde? We’ll put the client’s hottest fall shoe-styles on the corpses!

And isn’t the world’s favourite filmic event the chariot race in Ben Hur? How about a shot-by-shot re-make, only the charioteer is chuggin’ down a can of the client’s beer!

Yeah, but is it advertising? I thought of this the other evening while slaving over a hot stove reducing a sauce for spaghetti carbonara. From the living room, where the kids were watching TV with the sound turned up to 32, came the familiar strains of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

Craning around for a closer look, I realized this was not the famous lit-from-above-faces of Freddie Mercury and the other Queen guys from the video. It wasn’t even the famous parody of that video that Mike Myers shot for Wayne’s World, but rather a Mountain Dew spot emulating both the original and the parody, with four guys in black singing I see a little silhouette-oh of a can MOUNTAIN DEW! MOUNTAIN DEW! And so on.

Then they intercut shots of motorcycles flying through the air, and Mountain Dew cans flying through the air like Coors Silver Bullets if I remember correctly. The cans are caught by the Queen look-alikes who chug it down while the orchestra thrashes away at the big Bohemian Rhapsody orgiastic instrumental part. A crowd cheers and illuminates their cigarette lighters, and lights in distant tenement windows spell out Do the Dew. Fin.

A second spot opens on a long shot of the African veldt. A Cheetah is being pursued by a guy on a mountain bike. Closing in, the guy hurls himself from the bike onto the cat, and wrestles it into submission. Then he pries its jaws open, and puts his hand into the thing’s innards up to his elbow. He removes an empty can of Mountain Dew, and says BAD CHEETAH!! A rather fey friend watching says That’s why I’m not a cat person. The Cheetah goes past the camera with its spots re-arranged to spell out Do the Dew.

There’s a third that’s a Las Vegas Busby-Berkley send-up that reminds me of the one Stan Freeberg did for Campbell’s Soup in a fit of over-funded irrelevance. And another where a black rapper raps whilst driving a monster car over the roofs of other cars in a New York traffic jam.

The strategy? 1. Dream up cool teen visual fantasy. 2. Film it. 3. Insert product. Yeah, but is it advertising? If so, this business just got easier than ever!

Barry Base creates advertising campaigns for a living. He writes this column to promote the cause of what he calls intelligent advertising, and to attract clients who share the notion that many a truth is said in jest. Barry can be reached at (416) 924-5533, or faxed at (416) 960-5255, at the Toronto office of Barry Base & Partners.

Off-air dubs reviewed in this column were supplied courtesy of Ad-Watch, a Toronto-based ad monitoring service.