While settling down to watch Revolutionary Road at my local cinema last week, the customary roll of ads flicked by until one particular thirty second spot nearly made me drop my popcorn – and lose my lunch.
The ad, by pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, uses a dead rat being pulled out of man’s mouth to allude to the dangers of counterfeit drugs – informing us that rat poison is just one of the many dangerous substances found in drugs bought online.
Reminiscent of the banned X.Cite chewing gum ad of a few years back in which another furry fellow emerges from a man’s cakehole (this time a scruffy looking dog) – and which was pulled due to a flood of viewer complaints – the Pfizer spot uses the same innocuous opening few seconds to lull us into a false sense of security before hurling its stomach-churning ‘money shot’ straight into the audiences snack laden laps.
Now, to be fair shock advertising of this sort isn’t new and does occasionally have its merits.
Perhaps, like me, you were brought up on all those horrific public information films of the 70s and 80s in which cute kids would come to a sticky end in all manner of nasty ways such as electrocution, railway disasters and cycle crashes and so became somewhat inured to shock tactics in advertising. More recent campaigns by the likes of Barnardos, Think! Road Safety and Benetton have also come mighty close to bad taste in their use of shock to inform, but once in a while an ad comes along that makes you think as well as simply remember.
But jeez c’mon, a stinky rat… out of a man’s mouth… while I’m eating my jelly beans!!?
What happened to those nice, cuddly adverts for the local curry house or carpet showroom I so fondly remember from my youth? Those blink-and-you’ll-miss-them idents all shaky and out of focus as if directed by an inebriated, one-eyed, second hand car salesman. Pearl & Dean, Kiaora and Muzak.
The pre-feature ad in cinemas should gently ease the audience towards the main event, not club you over the head, strip you naked and pour hot coals down your trousers (difficult I know if you’ve been stripped naked, but you get the point). Whether it be gobby rats, 13 year old junkies or suicidal transvestites, I have paid my six quid to be entertained thankyou (albeit in a rather sombre way considering Revolutionary Road’s subject matter) and do not take kindly to having my conscience prodded (and stomach churned) while knowing full well that you Mr. Adman know I have no choice other than to sit and watch.
Please. A light beverage suggestion here, some confectionary advice there – a gentle neon strobe effect with a polite notice to discard my waste on the way out. This is the extent of the mental exercise that should be exerted on me while I sit in my ridiculously overpriced velour contoured seat. The cinema-going experience has been likened to that of being in the womb and I’ll be damned if some ad exec is going to soil my cocooned existence with his (well it has to be a he doesn’t it?) filthy product, no matter how nobly and justly dressed up.
So please, let’s keep the rodents out of my local picture house.
Unless it’s a re-run of Ratatouille.
Check out the ‘offending’ advert:
How they used to do it in the good old days: