Excitable sperm hit the silver screen

Munching popcorn and chatting with one another through a spate of commercials, a cinema audience suddenly shuts up as a spot they will later describe as 'way different' flickers across the screen.

Munching popcorn and chatting with one another through a spate of commercials, a cinema audience suddenly shuts up as a spot they will later describe as ‘way different’ flickers across the screen.

There’s this nice young guy headed somewhere on foot. Following him is a vast herd of unidentifiable critters. Turns out he’s meeting a date in the town square. The critters spot the woman and go into a frenzy, trampling the man in a frantic attempt to get to her. And then whomp!, they crash into an invisible barrier.

The camera pulls back, the transparent outline of a condom appears and we finally get it. The excitable critters are sperm and they’ve just been stopped in their predatory tracks. Headline: ‘For a hundred million reasons. Durex Sheiks.’

The hilarious and highly original spot for a rather problematic product is currently showing in Famous Players and Alliance Atlantis movie theatres in Ontario. The first condom ad the chains have ever aired, it began an indefinite run on June 28 and was given a PG rating by an internal review panel.

Originally created by McCann Erickson in Manchester, U.K., and broadcast on MTV throughout Europe last summer, it was adapted for cinema use by Toronto’s MacLaren McCann.

The spot – dubbed ‘Square’ because of its setting – continues Durex’s use of humour to reach young people and is aimed primarily at the 18-to-24 demographic, says spokesman Ted Conley, VP of consumer marketing/special markets for Norcross, Ga.-based condom manufacturer SSL Americas.

‘Durex doesn’t do advertising that’s preachy because it’s not effective, especially with our target audience, who tend to just tune out. This campaign is all about making people laugh at the same time as making them think about the reasons why they should use condoms, which the sperm characters really spell out.

‘The feedback we’ve had so far is that it’s appealing, that it’s not offensive and it doesn’t promote promiscuity,’ Conley adds. In fact, he says the goofy sperm characters went over so well in their original TV incarnation that they’ve also been incorporated into print ads for use in Canadian restaurants and bars as well as a series of posters for health clinics.

Broadcasting a TV version of ‘Square’ in Canada or the United States has not been ruled out by Durex Canada, of Vaughan, Ont., a subsidiary of the world’s largest prophylactic company, U.K.-based London International Group.

Pundits’ verdict

Youth marketer Tania Koster, CD at Toronto’s Ground Control agency, considers the ‘Square’ cinema spot ‘far above and beyond’ Durex’s previous ads ‘because of its very unusual surprise element. And it’s very effective in movie theatres because it gets people laughing, not snickering.’

Philippe Garneau, a partner at Toronto’s Garneau, Philp & Wurstlin, agrees. ‘Instead of being prurient or juvenile, this spot takes a smarter, higher ground…saying, ‘No matter how good a guy he is, he still comes with the baggage of hundreds of millions of sperm. Protect yourself.’

‘And the casting made that point beautifully by making the two young people look real and unglamorous. The spot doesn’t make you want to have sex, it makes you think about sex. Neat trick.’


Client: London

International Group (Durex)

Agency: McCann Erickson, U.K., adapted by MacLaren McCann, Toronto

McCann Erickson Manchester, U.K.

Art Director: Dave Price

Copywriter: Neil Lancaster

Producer: Sara Clementson

Group Account Director: Simon Buchanan

Account Director: Chris Lees

Director: Danial Kleinman

MacLaren Team in Toronto

Creative Director: Marta Cutler

Creative Adapt Team: Steven Blair – Art Director, Andy Manson – Writer

Producer: Franca Piacente

Account Director: Rachel Fox

Account Executive: Michael Corvese