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Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Wednesday, 28 May 2008 12:53 UK

Water on the brains

The Magazine's review of advertising

Brains dancing

THE AD: Thunderbirds' Brains dancing for Drench bottled water

THE BRIEF: Make an advert so watchable that everyone gets to know your pretty much unknown bottled water

THE SCHTICK: The puppet dances in an amazingly realistic frenzy of moves - with strings still visible. He stops for a breather and a drink, and revived goes on to even more acrobatic feats. Nineties anthem Rhythm is a Dancer by Snap is the incongruous soundtrack - as alien to Brains as Puppet on a String would be to a Thundercat.

THE BREAKDOWN: Last year's hit ad was Cadbury's gorilla drumming to Phil Collins. Cadbury's efforts to repeat the trick have not yet worked - an advert about airport baggage lorries racing unluckily coincided with the Heathrow Terminal Five problems. Brains already seems destined to be the memorable advert of this year.

Advertisers have spent lots of energy wondering how to find their audience when people are spending more time online at the expense of watching TV. Reaching the YouTube generation is an imperative - but Brains and the Gorilla seem to have turned this dynamic on its head. The approach now seems to be make a film which would be a big YouTube hit - and then show it in commercial breaks just like the good old days. The viral thing has worked as well, though; people have created a number of "Brains remixes", in which he dances to a variety of different tunes.

Brains in the making
What is wonderful about the advert is the care obviously taken over it. Some of it was done by highly skilled puppeteers following choreography, and some by clever computer work converting a digitally scanned real dancer into the image of Brains. But even there, they have taken the trouble to make Brains dance like a puppet trying to dance like a real dancer.

What isn't so wonderful is that this is yet another advert based on Thunderbirds. They currently star in Specsavers adverts - and it's not so long since Brains himself was in an Economist campaign. With a film remake and even a stage show with actors playing puppets, the whole Thunderbirds thing has surely been done.

This advert has cleverly tied up the name of the product and the name of the character in the slogan - "Brains perform best when they're hydrated" - but in fact it could be for pretty much any product.

It is, though, a true water cooler moment, and certainly memorable. More memorable perhaps than the research reported in April which debunked conventional wisdom about how drinking eight glasses of water a day keeps you healthy.

BLOGGER'S VERDICT: Jonathan Gabay, who runs a Brand Communications blog, says: "Brains, once the epitome of what made Britain great: ingenuity, innovation, insight and character has, for many middle-aged people, 'sold his soul' to the commercial puppet master.

"Surely the notion of convincing the British mastermind behind some of the world's most daring international rescues (many which actually saved the world from the brink of extinction) to perform a rave just for the general public's vote of approval in the name of selling bottles of water is a commercial exploit too far. What are we to expect next? Older statesmen from the Royalty or politicians performing to camera just to grab the headlines?"

Ad Breakdown is compiled by Giles Wilson.

Some of your comments:

I don't think it's a sell-out. I think it's a wonderfully joyous moment. There's Brains, the nerd of the group, never gets any fun or action, mysteriously left alone in a studio for a moment, and the music comes on. Brains does what any good nerd would do - seize the moment to boogie on down! Of course as soon as the rest of the Thunderbirds appeared, he'd be sitting down perfectly quite and still.
Nona, London

The ad is pretty memorable, but to be honest, until I read this article, other than knowing it was for some brand of bottled water, I had no idea which one it was for. In fact when I first saw it I thought it was another one for that beer where they have four versions of one bloke dancing in a very similar manner. So overall it's got to go down as a poor ad - no matter how well done it is, it doesn't make you remember the product.
Spencer, Reading, UK

I really wish that advertisers would stop plundering old children's television for their own benefits. Are there no new ideas? Is the only option to sell a product to reach into the past and take what they want? It annoys me to see my childhood heroes reduced to an advertising gimmick. For the record Thunderbirds did not shop at any opticians, drink bottled water, and Paddington bear did not eat Marmite. Think up your own ideas and leave other people's alone.
Mark Langridge, Leeds

Talking about what Brains stood for and what he means is pure intellectual garbage and shows a lack of touch with the purpose of the advert and the target audience. This ad is quite frankly brilliant and one many people will deliberately watch rather than channel hop during adverts, surely the ultimate desire of an advert. It is funny, relevant and best of all flies in the face of all the over modernist rubbish that you get from most brands trying to be far to cool. There is nothing worse than the carbon copy adverts that are trotted out by most companies after several rounds of focus group testing and continual attempts to try and make an advert which offends no one and appeals to all. This one may have had that but it doesn't look that way. Hence I will by some Drench solely because the advert made me laugh.
Neil B, Putney

This is also yet another advert to target the YouTube generation by copying existing YouTube videos. This is "inspired" by the Evolution of Dance, there's an advert which apes OK Go's treadmill dance and whilst not inspired by a YouTube clip, the most recent Sugar Puffs advert copies a Mighty Boosh song. Do advertisers have any original ideas anymore?
Darren Riley, Bolton, UK

... or just a blatant rip off of Fatboy Slim's Weapon of Choice video, starring Christopher Walken? Perhaps they couldn't get clearance to use that tune.
Ed, Oxford

What I love in this advertisement is the setting. It is just like one of the scenes in Singing in the Rain.
Alison C, Derry, N Ireland

International Rescue was clearly international but I never saw Brains as an Englishman. Perhaps Mr Gabay is getting confused because Gerry Anderson is English? He has missed the point of this advert - it is making a clear point to a huge demographic - 20-something to 60-somethings know what Thunderbirds was and who Brains is. Because it is classic in the real sense of the word. He should be reminded that Virgin Trains have run a fleet of rescue locomotives named after Thunderbirds characters for some years now.
Jamie Dowling, Birmingham, England

Nice, but Brains (Hiram Hackenbacker) was American, not British as far as Thunderbirds is concerned. And we can never have too much of Thunderbirds.
Al, Winchester

It's too smug by half. Obviously made by an ad agency desperate for a talking point but it doesn't have the subtlety or surprise value of the Cadbury's gorilla, it's not that original and I've already forgotten the product it's meant to be promoting...
Hannah, London

Genius! Captures the audience's attention and keeps you interested, it may be a tad long, but its one advert you will watch over and over again. Unlike the Cadbury advert, it is relevant to the product.
David O'keefe, coventry

The idea is good, but is lost on the idea of selling (yet another) brand of bottled water. The Specsavers ad on the other hand works far better because it uses Thunderbirds doing what you'd expect them to - i.e. not break into a dance that you wouldn't expect the puppets to be able to! I thought it was to highlight the benefit of drinking water to keep yourself alert, and totally missed the very minimal product placement. It won't get me to drink 'their' brand of water since every single brand of.... does the exact same thing! And, no, it comes nowhere close to the singular and brilliant Cadbury's gorilla.
Steve Brereton, York, UK

Nice advert but who cares what the ad is for. It's just water! Am I supposed to be so dumb that I now go and buy Drench because the ad has convinced me it is better than Volvic, Evien or Vittel.
JB, Manchester

Sorry to be so grumpy, but bottled water is so environmentally unsound! In the US only one in five single serving bottles of water are recycled. The rest end up in landfills. And that doesn't take into account the energy used to produce all those plastic bottles in the first place. So whether the ad is unique or not is beside the point. Bottled water is yet another wasteful indulgence that the developed world needs to ditch.
Carolyne, Denver, CO USA

Crap song, crap mindless advert. I would avoid this brand because of this advert. No comparison with the monkey.
M, Scotland

Hiram Hackenbacker was just a codename - Brains's real name was "Homer Newton III"! And its nice to see him once again - despite the fact that this ad obviously has nothing to do with Thunderbirds, and is blatantly alien to today's youth! :D
Max von Bek,

Personally, the gorilla left me unimpressed - I kept asking "A gorilla playing drums like Phil Collins - but so what? Its got nothing to do with the product..." Whereas Brains and his water, has that connection as well as seemingly is better done (compare a drummer in a gorilla suit versus the effort the pupeteers & animators needed to invest). So it has stuck in my mind, OK my brain might need some water too - especially as I can't remember the brand.
Simon, London, UK

I prefer this type of advert. It makes more of the ad break than most other ads do. And I don't see the harm in using Brains or the Snap track (I remember both well) either. It is another great example of stepping up the gears of viral videos and as pointed out it has inspired spoofs and remakes.. how is that bad? If you really don't like it, this will help.. I live in London and cant even find a shop that sells Drench even if I wanted to buy some.
Al, London

Yet another case of great advert but what the hell is it selling? I know it's for some bottled water but would not be able to tell you the brand without reference to your article. So is it therefore not a total failure?
Malc Brookes, St Helens, UK

This may well be well done, but this doesn't show what's being advertised. A good advert will show you all they way through what's being advertised. All this is is Brains dancing, if you miss the end which briefly shows the name of the product, it just looks like a puppet dancing. I never did like Thunderbirds, or puppets in general, but that doesn't affect my views. As a businesswoman this is a poor advert to me because it quite simply doesn't show what's being advertised. Certainly not as good as the Cadbury's gorilla!
Tina Paterson, Dunfermline

Seen it several times, but can't for the life of me remember who the advert was for. Good advert for Thunderbirds, bad advert for whatever company it was meant to be for.
Tim Knight, Nottingham, UK

The company that sell Drench did a design competition to re-design the bottle round a number of universities in the country with good design departments. Although the new bottle is nothing to be desired and hardly different from the old one which was actually on sale about two years ago, however. The design brief told us that the drink was aimed at 'urban youth' take from that what you will. The company representative talked about skateboarders etc. In other words teenagers. The person above has clearly stated 20 to 60 something's will connect with this advert. It is clearly a company with no direction jumping on the marketing bandwagon of 'this is so random'. Although a great advert which I also like you feel that soon every advert will be like this and as so often happens to any trend or scene it will get flooded and become boring.
Oliver, Loughborough

Come on? Genius? Against the Gorilla Cadbury's advert? I don't think so.
Lloyd, Midlands

The ad's really entertaining but even after seeing it several times I've no idea what the brand's called.
Dan, Harrogate

I agree with some of the other posters, I don't really remember which brand of bottled water the advert is for. The joy of the Gorilla ad is that it had nothing to do with chocolate - but what is cooler than a gorilla drumming to Phil Colins - that's what made that one memorable.
Luke A, Cambridge, UK

This advert has done what every other advert in the past year or two has failed to do - grab my attention. Surely on that criteria (which I would assume to be their aim) it is a success. On another note, is Cadbury's gorilla really "the first" advert to try something like this? I seem to remember a similarly innovative Citroen C4 advert the year before that...
Mike, Rugby

Cadburys Gorilla with drumkit is just the lifesize version of those little clockwork toys we had. All the Gorilla needed was a large wind-up lever in its back. As for the racing cars. Well we would race anything along an flat road type surface we'd make up. Both are clever ad's I guess made to appeal to the male (child on all of us) market. Don; think it works though.
Hasan, London

Brill! I thought the guy dancing in the "Becks" ad was good, but this is better. Agree totally with Nona/London
Steve, Acle

Who cares which brand of bottled water it promotes? As a Public Information short promoting a greater level of hydration it is brilliant. A must for all those kids revising for exams.....
Alan, Southampton, UK


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