WORLD: My Portfolio - Tom Routson

"I think comedy is a noble cause," Tom Routson says. "If you can make someone laugh in a commercial, you have given them something back other than just sell someone's product."

And Routson sweats for his comic cause. The Cadbury's Fingers ad was particularly hard work. It featured a thumb wanting to be a chocolate finger, so it sunbathes on holiday to go brown. It's a lot of acting for one thumb, concedes Routson. "By the third day, the poor guy's thumb was so exhausted it was shaking. I was under the table holding his hand steady."

With the two-minute cinema ad "rock star" for the Finnish insurance company Pohjola, Routson wrote his own gags. The ad explodes every rock 'n' roll cliche in the book, so the rock star hurts his back when he chucks a TVset out the window and rinses his mouth with vodka when brushing his teeth.

The soundtrack is Uriah Heep's Easy Livin'. Routson describes the filming as "the most fun I've ever had in a day".

His "Got Milk?" spot takes a softer approach. It features a mother telling her two children to drink their milk. They moan and point out old Mr Miller across the road who's gardening, arguing that he never drinks milk. On cue, Mr Miller waves to the kids, picks up a wheelbarrow and his arms rip out of their sockets with the strain. The children scream and gulp down their milk. Routson says the ad is frequently re-released in the US because, "they've just done a study to show that soda has replaced milk as a normal drink for children and so their bones are suffering".

Routson started directing in 1997 when he worked for Goodby Silverstein & Partners. The San Francisco radio station KGO couldn't afford a director, so Jeff Goodby asked Routson. His next big break came with the Budweiser "lizards" Super Bowl ad. "It took four guys to run each lizard," Routson reveals. "The only CGI was to take away the rods on their heads."

As it was set near water, Routson had to wear a pair of waders throughout the shoot. But the discomfort was worth it as viewers guffawed when they saw the lizards. As Routson says: "Laughter is the best drug."

Tom Routson was talking to Lucy Aitken.

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