The Magazine's review of advertising
THE ADVERTISER: Food Standards Agency
THE BRIEF: Get people to avoid being poisoned by uncooked food
When will I see you again...
THE SCHTICK: The camera is fixed on some sausages barbecuing away, while the chef impatiently prods them. To the soundtrack of When Will I See You Again by the Three Degrees, a still pink sausage is taken off the grille. The caption reads "Sooner than you think if you don't cook it properly".
THE BREAKDOWN: It looks like summer has finally left the UK, taking with it strappy dresses, shorts and Birkenstocks. The barbecues have been packed away and safely stowed in the shed. It would be interesting to know, however, how many of the thousands of barbecues which have been held this year will have sparked the memory of an advert shown at the start of the season?
The ad is simple, effective and, Ad Breakdown would suggest, hugely memorable. It maybe says something about how adverts can continue to kick around in one's mind long after they have been viewed. There are three things which particularly commend this uncomplicated film, which was made for the Food Standards Agency by the agency which is now known as DDB:
• The suspense - the comic timing is played to maximum effect. When, exactly, will the chef have prodded the sausages enough before the uncooked one is picked up?
• The flattering of the audience, which will feel clever for realising that the song lyrics here are not being squandered but are a central part of the message?
• The recognition of the insecurity many barbecuers feel - on the one hand they want to feed their guests quickly, on the other they don't want them to be ill.
Though this film was seen in conventional advert breaks, it is in fact one in the long line of public service announcements which the Magazine celebrated in our Stop Look Listen series earlier in the year. But instead of being played late at night, like many such films, the FSA paid £850,000 for it to be shown largely on ITV during the World Cup.
"Sooner than you think if you don't cook it properly..."
The target audience was young men - often the kind of people who, though perhaps inexperienced in having to judge when food is cooked properly, are put in charge of barbecues and must tackle the peer pressure of having people standing round wanting something to eat.
James Brandon, head of marketing for the FSA, says when they are looking at campaigns which are designed to change people's behaviour, there are two possible directions. One is shock tactics, and the other is humour. For something like food poisoning, which most people do not take seriously as an issue unless they get sick, research had shown that shock tactics were not well received.
"Trying something amusing was far less threatening," says Mr Brandon. It was a ploy previously used by the FSA when warning of the dangers of having too much salt in a diet, when adverts featuring an animated slug called Sid were aired (see Internet links).
And yet the message about food hygiene is an important one for the agency - people die every year from eating food which hasn't been cooked properly, and millions of pounds are lost to the economy by people being off sick.
Sid the anti-salt slug
Would an advert which threatened people with a possible - but remote - chance of death be more effective than one which promises the more realistic - but not so serious - chance of spending the night with one's head in the toilet bowl.
Probably not - and market research after the campaign seems to vindicate the strategy. It indicated that awareness of the issues had increased in the target audience - more people knew about hygiene, more people knew about the dangers of not cooking properly.
In other words, a brief 30 second advert - even amid the excitement of the World Cup and all the identi-kit football adverts - was so well pitched, even weeks later people remembered they had seen it.
"It was very cheap to produce but incredibly memorable," Mr Brandon says.
Ad Breakdown is compiled by Giles Wilson
Add your comments on this story, using the form below.
It was a memorable advert, and I have to commend it's simplicy and probable effectiveness. However as one of many people to suffer from emetophobia (the fear of vomiting) I hated seeing it. Even the oblique reference to it was enough to trigger panic reactions. It also increased my already severe aversion to eating barbequed food just in case it's improperly cooked. I hate the current advert for one of the bleaches too, beacuse of the 'animated bacteria' and it's references to vomit. As, I gather, emetophobia is very common, I suspect I'm not alone!
Andy Smart, Fairford, UK
It seems a little curious that an organisation that is funded by the licence fee and not advertising is celebrating the effectiveness of adverts. Why, when we are supposed to be grateful for a service that means we don't have to sit through adverts, is that very service telling us how brilliant they are for getting across a public service message? Does this mean we should all be switching over to the beeb's commercial rivals in case we miss something important?
Gail, Ipswich, UK
I thought it was brilliant. Witty and to the point. Who doesn't know someone who has been ill after a barbecue? The person who thought it up should get an award, both for artisitic merit and public service.
This advert works because it is so simple. And the conversion from being tempted by the succulent sausages to revulsion from the raw insides is excellent. It is the same for the current anti-smoking advert "If you smoke, you stink". Maybe the sausage ad should be followed up by a couple of programmes aimed at these same young men to show them some basic but enjoyable cooking techniques they can wow their friends and girlfriends with? Front it with a non-expert, young male, and you may have a winner.
Sandy, Derby, UK
Loved that advert, very clever!
Julie Pledger, Driffeld
Yet another example of Government interferance. Who ultimately funded this????? You and me
I love this advert. And I've offended many male friends and family members masculinity by singing it at barbeques over the summer.
All well and good, but just one thing....you'd have to be THICK not to know if food is under cooked or not. Given the fact most English Men THINK they know everything or ACT like they KNOW EVERYTHING then perhaps this advert did hit its key target demographic market perfectly: 16-30, male, blue-white collar workers, with the 'when you get a group of prats together they ALL THINK they know what they are doing mentality', its no wonder women scoff at men being prats.... So....on one hand its good, on the other, its a waste of time and especially money, Tax Payers money as the FSA is really allowing the Central Office of Information (another Goverment Department) waste the general publics money on a load of unimaginative twoddle.....I expect there were STILL quite a LOT of IDIOTS admited to A & E complaining of a 'Delhi Belly' even after James Brandons 'brilliant' (sic) ad came out and there probably STILL are prats who do the same thing again and again: undercook food thus giving the FSA (meaning COI) more milage to waste public money on rubbish like this....and NO I'm not Charlie Brooker! Just someone with a lot more imagination that the advertisers who came up with this duff ad....Just a thought....
Stan Fernando, Reading
I'd never eat sausages cooked at a barbecue, either by me or anyone else. They never cook properly. I cook chicken in the oven first then brown it on the barbecue. Burgers never give me any problems, except when one of them dives off the rack and into the charcoal in a last desperate attempt not to be eaten.
John Airey, Peterborough, UK
A digital meat thermometer with long wired probe is especially helpful for grill or oven. Tricky noses no longer.
Candace, New Jersey, US
Stick the sausages in the microwave boys, then put them on the barbie, burn them a bit then serve!! PERFECT
Derek McLean, Alicante, Spain
Err.....Pork sausages do not look red when they are not cooked !! Why didn't these people do their homework on this ?? Pork sausages look GREY when they are not cooked. This was a very dangerous advert !!
Baxter Pearson, Coventry, UK
For once a memorable, and watchable ad. No one shouting at you, no need to turn down the sound. Simple, yet very effective.
Nick Morton, Camborne, Cornwall
I hated the advert about the undercooked sausages, and actually changed the channel whenever I saw it. It was also frustrating that, where I would normally boycott a product if I don't like the advert, that wasn't exactly possible in this instance.
I hated that ad. It seemed to come on everytime I was eating, and put me off food a number of times. Im sick of being patronised by the government.
It is not very nice to see this horrific sight if you are chomping on a sausage at half time of a footy match is it?
Phil Harrington, newport s.wales
The Beefy and Lamby advert where Lamby takes out the joint of lamb from the oven is undercooked. Lamb should not be pink. Also the Admiral adverts when the actors cry because they can't get any cheap car insurance because they are too young, look more like 29 than 19.
Helen , Wakefield
I totally agree with this article. A very simple message, perfectly delivered (the ad I mean).
DS, Bromley, England
I must admit, it never occurred to me that it meant vomiting - I always assumed it referred to the runs.
I thought this was a very simple, understated advert which did the job of making people think. The use of the music was absolutely spot on. Just goes to show that you don't have to spend millions on 3D cityscapes, fancy computer work, double-discount sales and prancing celebrities to get your message across.
Pete, Runcorn, England
Would it be possible for you'all to teach humor to our public service annoucement bureaucrats? That was VERY FUNNY and memorable!
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