We once made a commercial for Walkers Poppadums.
They were little crisps with an Indian flavour.
Chris Bardsley wrote the script, Paul Weiland shot it.
We had an Indian Elvis (Las Vegas period) singing in a corner shop.
He had a turban, and a sitar slung guitar-style round his neck.
He had a backing group of 3 girls in saris.
He sung, “Keep your gums off my Poppadums” to the tune of “All Shook Up”.
He was a good looking guy, sort of like a younger George Michael.
Anyway, the commercial was really funny.
It ran, and went down really well.
Then the Daily Mail ran an article about it.
They called up the young guy who starred in it and interviewed him.
They asked him if he wasn’t ashamed to be taking part in a racist commercial: something that would make his people a laughing stock.
I loved his reply.
He said something like, “It’s a particularly white conceit that you think you are the only people confident enough in who you are to be able to laugh at yourselves.
You think every other race secretly wants to be white.
So you don’t mention their ethnicity, you treat it as a disability to be politely ignored.
Well I am a Sikh, and we consider ourselves second to no one.
We don’t want to be white.
We are very proud of who we are.
We have absolutely no insecurity about our race whatsoever.
That is why we can laugh at ourselves.”
It reminded me of a radio commercial for Bergasol sun tan lotion that Ron Collins wrote at WCRS.
The script was just Ronnie Barker’s voice throughout.
He sounded like a posh Englishman who talks as he rubs Bergasol all over his body, while lying in the sun.
As he talks his accent gradually changes to Jamaican.
It uses the medium brilliantly, because the sound creates the visual.
A man going from pasty white to rich brown in 30 seconds.
I asked Ron if he got any complaints about the ad.
He said, “Yeah, about eight. All from white people.”
So when you’re writing an ad, remember.
You may know perfectly well that you didn’t mean to insult anyone.
You may have checked it out, to make sure no one will feel insulted.
But don’t forget, there are some people who see it as their job to get insulted on someone else’s behalf.
And they’re just looking for the opportunity.