118-118 The Number (2003/2009) – A Real Spoof Case History

118 118’s advertising features two men with droopy mustaches, wearing items of clothing with 118 and two parallel red stripes on it. They have appeared in various forms. The campaign was originally launched using the two men dressed as athletic runners. Used with the catchphrase “Got Your Number!”, the runners’ characters featured in a high-profile advertising (created by British advertising agency WCRS).

This slogan has fallen into disuse by the marketing department of 118 118 because of the expansion of service beyond directory enquiries alone, but the slogan has lived on in the minds of the public. The use of the runners’ characters is particularly noted for the legal action threatened by 1970s record-breaking runner David Bedford. 118 118 responded to this by stating that their inspiration was partly the late American runner Steve Prefontaine.


David Bedford


Steve Prefontaine

Subsequently they have appeared in a range of guises, including spoof detectives, as the company expanded on its range of services. During this period, although generally forgotten by the public, the slogan used was “We’re here to help!”, a different focus driven by the expansion of products offered.

2003 – Rocky Campaign
In November 2003 the commercial, called “Rocky”, features the moustachioed runners jogging through London. As the pair run, the ad turns into a training scene reminiscent of the film. More than 30 moustachioed children, dressed as 118 118 runners, join the training run which culminates with the duo recreating the end of Stallone’s run with hands thrust victoriously in the air at the top of a long flight of steps. “That’s what happens when you help millions of people each week!” one of the runners comment… In keeping with the retro theme, the commercial also features a cameo appearance by the 80s ventriloquist, Keith Harris, and his bird puppet Orville.

Keith Martin, the account manager at WCRS, said: “The campaign has two points of focus. The first is memorability. With the old 192 service being switched off on 24 August, there will be a lot of activity and so it is all about getting 118 118 as the most memorable number for customers to use. The second aim is stature. By running these campaigns, we want to show that 118 118 is here to stay – that the company is taking millions of calls a month already. More weighting is being put on running the 60-second spot, as it adds scale.”

2004 – Honda Spoof Campaign
In this addition to the series featuring the skinny athletes, they created the award-winning Honda commercial “Cog” and “Choir” created by Wieden & Kennedy London, using old bit of carpet, gym mats, a stop sign and a couple of old treadmills. It’s not as high tech as the original, but it gets the message across – and probably provided a nice giggle for the advertising community. It was created for television, but Honda failed to see the humorous side and stopped the ad from being broadcast. It is now, however, available for view online and is being promoted through a viral campaign.

2006. A-Team Campaign
In February 2006 a new advertising campaign was launched in which the runners appeared in advertisements in the style of the television show The A-Team, using the A-Team theme tune with the number 118 sung over the music.

2007. Flashdance Campaign
In May 2007 a new advertising campaign was launched in which the runners trade in their 70s look for leotards and leg warmers to spoof the 1983 film starring Jennifer Beals. The two and a half minute clip features a comedy reworking of Michael Sembello’s song Maniac, which featured on the Flashdance soundtrack.

2009, the Ghostbuster Campaign
Shot like a camp pop video, the 2-minute film also stars Ray Parker Jr, who appears in a number of guises, including a postman, a bus conductor and a mechanic. 60 and 40-second versions will also be broadcast. The legendary singer stars alongside the moustachioed 118 118 brothers who are back in tight shorts running round a London street helping people out. The ad ends with the trio standing on top of a mini van singing to a crowd of dancing onlookers.



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