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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 September, 2004, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Sid says salt stinks. Salt says same of Sid
The Magazine's review of advertising

Sid the Slug
Seinfeld-esque delivery in a cheeky, every-slug accent

THE PRODUCT: Salt. Or, to be more accurate, less salt.

THE BRIEF: Get a slug to explain to Britons, on behalf of the Food Standards Agency, why salt is bad. After all, if there's one thing slugs know - besides slime - it's that salt can be deadly.

THE SCRIPT: Sid, a giant slug with a chirpy accent and Seinfeld-esque delivery, confronts a shopper in a parking garage to explain why salt can be dangerous to humans, as well as common pests.

WHAT'S GOING ON: Sid's presence becomes known when a woman drops her car keys in a puddle of slime, presumably left by the slug.

"Need a hand?" Sid asks, chuckling at his own wit. (Get it? He has no hands.)

"Ha ha. My dad used to love that joke, but now - he's dead!"

Dead? Goodness. Sad for Sid, isn't it? He's a sympathetic character, this slug, with a yeah-life's-not-always-been-kind-but-things-go-on attitude, and though he's been thrown a few curveballs, he's willing to share the lessons he's learned.

Sid sighs: "My dad taught me so much. He said, 'Sidney, stay away from fast cars, loose women, and salt."

Sensible advice, for a slug, but the people who represent the salt companies are a little irked by the advert, saying that some will make the connection that because salt easily takes out slugs, that just a shake on your food will take you down, too.

'Excuse me? Giant slug with a message, here'

"Salt certainly kills slugs in your garden but if Sid were a human being it would actually be keeping him alive," Salt Manufacturers Association general secretary Peter Sherratt says. "We all have the equivalent of about cupful of salt at work in our bodies at any time and it is absolutely essential to us.

"We realise that Sid is intended as a fun character but the message he carries is a serious one that is incorrect and potentially very damaging to the image of an essential product."

They've taken the issue to the Advertising Standards Authority, which is now assessing the complaint and deciding whether or not it will be investigated.

Minnie Moll, a managing partner at HHCL/Red Cell, the agency that created Sid, isn't surprised the salt people are unhappy with the spokeslug's position on their product.

But she says Sid has an important message to convey, and the way the agency chose to do that was through humour (and the words of a sweet, six-foot garden pest.)

"The first thing we wanted to do," Moll says, "is not hector. We wanted a creative way where that we could speak with humour, with honesty. We think that if you can communicate with humour, you'll take people along with you."

But Tim Ambler, who is a senior fellow at the London Business School, specialising in marketing, isn't charmed by Sid and his chirpy anti-salt pronouncements, and he goes so far as to say the advertisement won't be an effective one.

Sid and shopper
A garden pest with a message? Different

Why? "Because, as the salt manufacturers are complaining, it's an exaggeration. It's unbalanced," he says. "Simply saying that salt will kill you is an exaggeration. Anything in excess will kill you."

But the point of the advert is to get people thinking about the excesses of salt.

Moll believes the charm of this advert comes via its star, and that Sid's clear commitment to his cause - advertising people really do speak like this - softens the message, making it more palatable.

"What's his motivation in this scene? Sid is just a big-hearted slug on a mission," Moll says. "What is important is that he's not talking down to consumers."

Ad Breakdown is compiled by Jennifer Quinn

If someone had told me that I'd ever find a slug cute, I'd have seriously doubted their sanity. But he is, isn't he? Slime aside...
H, Reading, UK

In all fairness the ad doesn't say "eating salt will kill you" it says "too much salt can lead to a heart attack". I think it's a great ad (like the "don't let a bad turkey ruin your Christmas" one) as there are unfortunately lots of people who do need reminding of these things!!
Liz, UK

If a giant slug ever chased me though an underground car park, I think I would have a heart attack no matter how much care I'd taken over my diet. A sympathetic character? Um, not in my book. I'd file Sid alongside talking blue telephones and "Calm down dear it's only a commercial".
Kat, Derby, UK

My kids are noticing the billboards and are understanding the meaning thanks to Sid. At least the message is getting through to some of the less cynical amongst us.
Jeremy, Colchester

I would just like to check whether Mr Hall from Bath watches Eastenders, or any other soaps for that matter ... these programmes are full of larger than life parasites.
Oliver Harrison, Nottingham, UK

Clever idea translates to unpleasant ad. After the first viewing I now try to bloke the thing out. Could this be a sign that it is not engaging its audience ... or even alianating them?
Barrie Blewett, London

Salt companies and health authorities will never agree. Let's let them slug it out between them!
Jamie, Malaga

The salt companies need to stop whining and also stop treating us like idiots. Most of us (!) aren't stupid and we know full well that Sid's talking about an excess. The same probably goes for loose women, too.
Phil, Staffs, UK

Does the government really have to spend millions on an advertising campaign to say that something is bad for us ? Are we all so stupid that we can't work this out for ourselves ?
Malcolm, Brierley Hill

Is it just me who really doesn't enjoy watching a slimy, overgrown slug on TV?
Michael Hall, Bath, England

I think the message conveyed to the public from this advert was a little abstract, 'clever' and fun. Its easy to watch the advert and not understand the message, a good opportunity to explain to the public has gone amiss. They should have kept it simple, as I really don't think the people it was targeted at would have understood the message. Keep it plain, hard hitting and simple.
Jason Buksh, London

You have to take anything these marketing people say with a pinch of, er, salt.
Michael Walmsley, Leeds

Whilst the manufacturers are quite correct that we all need a small amount of salt in our bodies. We are able to obtain this from the food in our shops, in fact we are constantly being informed that there is too much salt in processed food. Therefore why would we want to add more! The salt manufaturers are just scared that their profits will be affected.
Lesley, MK

08 Feb 03  |  Medical notes

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