There was a time when commercials were better than the programmes.
A time when people looked forward to the commercial break and didn’t use it as an excuse to dash out of the living room to make a cuppa.
There was a saying “If you're going to interrupt someone’s viewing pleasure then at least have the good grace to entertain them” and it was something all creative people adhered to.
But then again, that was at a particular moment when there wasn’t over 480 TV channels to choose from, let alone NetFlix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, etc, etc, so you were more of a captive audience. Therefore as a creative you had to try harder to hold the consumer’s attention.
And the next commercial is one that has held my attention for the last 26 years.
The Big Idea
Made in 1993, it’s called Levi’s ‘Drugstore’ and it’s set in a retro-like, black-and-white movie and features a young man going to the local drug or grocery store to purchase condoms.
He stores the condoms in the watch pocket of his jeans and then later visits the house of a young lady who turns out to be the daughter of the store owner.
In the wrong hands this could quite easily have become a puerile Benny Hill gag played for laughs, but in the hands of brilliance it was anything but.
What They Did
Penned by Nick Worthington and John Gorse and then in collaboration with the genius that is Michel Gondry, it’s become one of the most awarded commercials of all time.
Shot over three days and one night in Richmond, Texas, this is film making at its very best.
The art direction, set building, casting and photography is second to none.
The lighting cameraman Tim Morris-Jones has crafted this to within an inch of its life.
Take a look at the shot where the boy approaches the drug store window. How did they do this without seeing a reflection of the camera?
On top of this visual feast is the soundtrack by Biosphere called ‘Novelty Waves’. The black-and-white images meld with the electro beat. Awesome and inspiring with distorted voices.
In the final frame, the look of reluctant acceptance on the store owner and father's face of what has just happened is priceless.
I was on a jury judging TV that year and I was sat about four feet away from the screen.
I was blown away then and I’m still blown away now.
I wish I’d done it!