As generations of comedians can tell you, when the going gets tough
there isn't much to beat a good toilet gag. Advertising being the
jackdaw trade that it is, it's not surprising that a good few of these
find their way into commercials and I'm not just talking about the two
extremes, which go from Andrex at one end to your average washroom ad at
Anybody going to Cannes the week after next should prepare themselves
for vast numbers of South American toilet jokes, some good and some
Of course, some toilet jokes are just too close to the bone to make it
into ads. I once heard someone suggest Andrews Liver Salts should adopt
a new slogan: "Has the bottom fallen out of your world? Take Andrews and
let the world fall out of your bottom." In 1997, after 18 years of Tory
rule, I heard that some wag had suggested Labour sell its own brand of
toilet paper on which the slogan "Wipe the slate clean with New Labour"
would be printed. That was before ambient advertising became all the
rage, but I think it would have failed the test which should be applied
to all media- and toilet-driven ideas: suitability.
As we all know, most ads don't pass this test since they're most likely
the product of laddish creative departments staffed by juveniles whose
idea of an inspirational read is FHM.
I have absolutely no doubt, however, that Mother's new campaign for
Batchelors Vindaloo Supernoodles, as prime an example of toilet humour
as you can get, would pass the suitability test. To refresh: to Johnny
Cash's Ring of Fire (also used in a Levi's ad about its rivets, as I
recall), we see a long, loving shot of a toilet, followed by a pack
shot. Er, that's it.
In another ad, to the theme from Chariots of Fire, two men race for the
loo. And very funny they are too. After all, who hasn't suffered the
will-I-won't-I-make-it fear of the vindaloo effect?
Better still, the ads are in tune with the brand values as established
by Mother: youthful, irreverent advertising for a product that doesn't
take itself seriously and is aimed at students and others on the
If you look at Mother's work for Supernoodles, it's on the continuum,
although some people might say it's gone off down a branch line which
may or may not turn out to be a dead end. Others will say it is a
celebration of the unique place vindaloo holds in British lavatorial
Not surprisingly, getting an ad like this through Batchelors, a Unilever
subsidiary, prompted Mother's Andy Bellas to boast, er, sorry, heap
praise on his client: "We hold our hats up to clients who are brave
enough not to turn away from the most compelling truth surrounding their
product, even if the truth, at first glance, is something most would shy
away from." I think we know what he really meant ... D&AD gold, Campaign
Pick of the Week, great review in Private View (see page 34). And as for
that bollocks about the "truth that most would shy away from ..." Next,
cigarette ads which show the cancer ward.
Still, we mustn't grumble about something that cheers up any ad
Which is more than I can say for a poster ad for Hula Hoops' new
chilli-flavoured snack, which uses exactly the same idea but somehow
fails to show any wit whatsoever. It's basically a shot of a bathroom,
with a bath, a loo and a fire extinguisher, plus the line (oooh, so
provocative) "Into Chilli Big Time?". Some people might defend the ad as
Viz-type humour, but that's unfair on Viz.
One small observation, however: if the whole point of Supernoodles is to
have a quick snack on the run (no pun intended), rather than to have a
quick snack and then spend hours with the runs, this ad somewhat defeats
Dead cert for a Pencil? The South American Golden Sphincter Award is a
Will it work? Ah, the sweet smell of success.
What would the chairman's wife say? And a free can of Neutradol with
every pack, I hope.