OPINION: Mills on ... Vindaloo Supernoodles

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

the other.

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

the purpose.

Dead cert for a Pencil? The South American Golden Sphincter Award is a

racing certainty.

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.