Monday, November 15, 2010

When our commercials were film.

When I was in Spain, during the early 70’s we had a tobacco client based in Hamburg, Germany.

They produced a black tobacco cigarette for the Spanish market called Aguila.

They let us create the launch commercial in Spain. Not much of a spot. Lots of flags marching and eagles flying around, the music was basically triumphant, based on the hymn,
“Battle Hymn of the Republic."

You have to remember that this was the early 70’s, still during the time of Franco. This slightly military type commercial appealed to the local Spanish client and the German client as well.

We shot the commercial in England. In those days there was no video and films were 35 millimeter. We presented by projecting the spot, like in a movie house.

We were late; I had to go to Germany to present the spot there, so we could make the launch date.

I go to their offices, a brand new building with the latest facilities for meetings and viewing. A great cinema, windows are darkened with the touch of a button. There are all sorts of automatic things for slides, films, and overhead projection. A state of the art facility, the best I had ever seen. The three senior clients and me, in this slick huge room.

We are all set to see the spot.

The projectionist, in a white coat, takes the film, marches off to set it up, and show it.

Lights are dimmed, and nothing, zip, nada, not an image, we are all dumbfounded.

The projectionist comes running down, very agitated and a little pissed-off. He starts whispering in German to the marketing director, It seems the film does not work. I am told it is because it is a Spanish film, I tell them it is an English film and I saw it the day before in Madrid and it worked perfectly. Back and forth, your fault, no your projector sucks, no, it is the latest projector from Leica, blah, blah, blah.

We all calm down and I decide to present the commercial as best I can. We gather around a desk lamp and I hold up the film and start passing the film through my fingers, so that they can see the images. I pass it a little faster so that they can see the movement and pace; meanwhile I am humming the music.

We are talking 24 frames for each second; a sixty second commercial is about 90 feet of film, almost 30 meters.

I keep this up for the full spot; we are up to our knees in film. I show it to them again and again, trying to get the movement right and humming like a crazy man. This bizarre act goes on for about an hour, film all over the place.

They finally approve it and even congratulate me, I think for my humming.

Of all the presentations I made in my 40+ years in the business, this by far was the wackiest. I think I can pretty much present anything after that.

Fortunately the desk lamp worked.


  1. Bizarre is right.........That story was as wackie then as it is now and what an odd mindset those guy's had. Darling, you are a terrific salesman and that only goes to show that the humming and the commercial and the wild presentation was a winning idea, otherwise all the showmanship in the world wouldn't have pulled it off! Ha!

  2. What a funny story. Nicely written. It's as if I were right there watching all this happening.

  3. Also, the name of the song you were humming is "Battle Hymn of the Republic"

  4. Not really, Greg. I just like to bust your balls.