Every now and then a TV commercial comes along that works on every level. A series for a very well-known, trusted, and popular product did that recently – the series for Wrigley's PK chewing gum. It works viscerally. It works intellectually. Who among us doesn't feel a frisson of discomfort when we see the two guys in the changing room, scant inches apart, having a regular guy conversation? Just to watch it is to cringe. The punchline, that PK takes out the discomfort, makes it all make sense. Two guys fishing – same thing.
It's brilliant. And it's so simple. So simple, in fact, that I know it was quite probably the first thought on the table when the agency guys started talking about the campaign, and it stayed on the table, surviving the onslaught of a hundred different,more complex ideas were tossed around.
And it backs up what McKee says, in his book “Story”. Get the story right, then write the dialogue. Discover what you want the story to tell, make sure the visual story is there, and the words will come naturally.
These commercials truly are mini-movies. They make the audience think, they involve the audience, they make the audience respond.
These commercials for PK gum deserve all the awards they're going to win.
READING NOW: Still with Connolly. The man makes me gasp.
LISTENING TO: Bobby Darrin, Best of. Damn, he was good.
WORD OF THE MOMENT: Story. Tell it.
On The Ball
Sport plays a large role in the Talbot family. Mary is her age group champion at the Northridge Badminton Club, and loudly supports as many Northridge High School netball games as she can get along to. Henry plays cricket every second weekend in the summer, and runs and works out at the gym three times a week so he doesn’t let his team-mates down. He also plays touch rugby and rugby sevens during the winter. When Adam played his rugby or softball, he could count on his father quietly applauding him whenever he had the ball or bat, and his mother’s excited shrieks right through the game. Henry also coaches for the Northridge Rugby Club.
But oddly enough the one who has had the greatest effect on the great and noble game of rugby is Mary, who has never played. Jerry Ngamoki gives Mary the credit for his All Black status: here’s what happened.
It all has to do with time. Mary is, and always has been, sure of it.
Henry says that if it takes time for light to reflect off something into the eye and for the eye to decode that light, then you could never observe the present as it happened. That’s why Henry was technically a very good rugby and cricket player: he knew what he’d done in the past, and knew that what he was doing now was occurring in the past, and is a reflection of the hundreds of other times you’ve done it. In so many ways he moved in the future, gaining a result in his experienced past.
One winter afternoon, when it was still cold enough to raise billows of vapour from everyone’s breath, Mary was prowling the sidelines of her son’s game. It was all going quite satisfactorily – well, they weren’t losing too badly – so Mary turned to watch the game in the field next to Adam’s.
It was the Northridge High’s 3rd XV, and they were getting hammered. Totally destroyed. Ripped apart, gasping, floundering. Losing more with every second that passed by – and to the boys in the Northridge High 3rd XV, time was passing by with its feet in treacle. In four minutes Mary saw two tries, both converted with contemptuous ease, and it’s fair to say they were not scored by the lads in the Northridge High footy jersey. This game was a bust.
And Mary couldn’t keep her eyes off the carnage. On the far side of the field parents were doing their best to cheer their boys on, but they all knew that it wasn’t going to be happening this weekend. Up behind the goalposts was the team’s coach, a spindrift of a man who had parlayed his BSc into a teaching position, and he was standing shoulders hunched, hands plunged deep into pockets, replaying the conversation he’d had with the Headmaster six months previously: “But I don’t know anything about rugby! The closest I came to playing a contact sport was when I got punched on the nose by a kid from the Chess Club – I’d beaten him three games running!”
“Doesn’t matter,” was the Head‘s reply. “It’s a tradition that the Fourth Form’s science master coaches the 3rd XV, so you’d better bone up on rucks, scrums, and mauls.”
He’d enjoyed it, mainly. He’d applied his chess skills to the game rugby, and had a number of excellent set pieces well drilled into the boys: but they weren’t getting that ball often enough, and in the right places. And worst of all he knew that the kids still had faith in him, and the taste of that was galling on his tongue.
“Hello, Mr Benefield.”
“Mrs, ah, Mrs Talbot. How are you?”
“Better than you, I’m sure. It’s not the best game, is it?”
“No.” Benefield grimaced. “You know, I never wanted this job. I’ve never played the game - I just feel that I’ve let these kids down. I would have been better with the Chess Club.”
Mary smiled in sympathy, not knowing how to respond. They watched on despondently as, at the far end of the field, another try was scored.
“Who’s that boy – your half-back?”
“Jerry Ngamoki. He’s our team captain: a real athlete. Would you believe he’s only 13? When he grows up he’ll be First Fifteen material. As long as he doesn’t get discouraged.”
Mary left Mr Benefield, BSc, chess-player, science teacher, and reluctant rugby coach, and wandered down to the far end of the football field, and watched. The game mercifully played itself out, and the hip-rahs were shouted and the boys went to their parents, except for one lad: Jerry Ngamoki, who stayed on the field, the football clutched to his chest. He walked to the fifty metre line, and stood, silently for moment – and then he ran, He jinked, he jazzed, he danced, he fended off ghostly players, he cut back, he stepped off his left foot, then three paces later off his right, he made three dummy passes. It was a dazzling, virtuoso display. Mary grinned, silently applauded him, and went back to see Mr Benefield.