Diary: M&C Saatchi education helps diner save choker

Here's a tale to warm the hearts in adland at the start of a new year. Consumer advertising saves lives.

Yes, it's true. A man in the US has managed to cheat death because somebody nearby had watched an M&C Saatchi commercial for the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The scene: The Apple Pan, a popular eatery in west Los Angeles, where Mark Rothschild was grabbing a bite. Let Rothschild himself take up the story he has just recounted in a letter to RBS chiefs.

"Seated two stools away from me was a very large, gregarious man animatedly talking to his luncheon companion about the wonderful food at this venerable old restaurant. Some moments later, I heard a strange noise which sounded like choking. I turned and saw this same man hunched over the counter, his head and neck a reddish-violet colour, gasping to catch his breath. I asked him if he was choking and he motioned that indeed he was."

As good fortune would have it, though, Rothschild had seen an RBS commercial, created by M&C Saatchi's Simon Dicketts and Jeremy Sinclair. The ad features someone performing the Heimlich manoeuvre on a choking victim. Rothschild knew what to do, and in moments the man had coughed up a clam-shelled piece of lettuce. "I have to honestly give your TV ad credit for my decisiveness and rapid response," Rothschild writes.

Now even Fred Goodwin, the RBS chief executive, is getting to bask in the glory of it all. The Heimlich Institute has presented him with its annual humanitarian award for bringing its work to the attention of a wider public.

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