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.


Daniel Norris – Re-Designed Movie Posters

Daniel Norris is a creative freelance graphic designer with eight years experience in and around London agencies. Daniel created these amazing and single-color print-like movie poster redesigns. It’s fantastic how he turned iconic scenes into graphic icons for the posters.

For more information about him, you can visit his Flickr page


Volkswagen Fox/Short but Fun – Complete Case History



A robbery. A burger. A dance contest. An overdose. A shot in the head. A robbery. Watch Hollywood’s legendary blockbuster “Pulp Fiction” in 30 seconds. Short and fun. Just like the VW Fox.

A ship, a man, a woman. Ship sinks. Man dead. Woman alive. Watch Hollywood’s legendary blockbuster “Titanic” in 30 seconds. Short and fun. Just like the VW Fox.

Vacant hotel. Lonesome family, sick father. Psychic power. Bloody ending. Watch Hollywood’s legendary blockbuster “Shining” in 30 seconds. Short and fun. Just like the VW Fox.

A great white shark. Lots of dead people. A bunch of fearless men. A dead shark. Watch Hollywood’s legendary blockbuster “Jaws” in 30 seconds. Short and fun. Just like the VW Fox.

An obsessed girl. A priest. An expulsion. A dead priest. Watch Hollywood’s legendary blockbuster “The Exorcist” in 30 seconds. Short and fun. Just like the VW Fox.

A space ship. An alien. A nightmare. One survivor.
Watch Hollywood’s legendary blockbuster “Alien” in 30 seconds. Short and fun. Just like the VW Fox.

A princess. A dark lord. A Jedi. A death-star. A battle. A happy end. Watch Hollywood’s legendary blockbuster “Starwars” in 30 seconds. Short and fun. Just like the VW Fox.

CASE HISTORY
Question: What do one German mini-car, six Hollywood blockbusters and a fast-talking cast of cartoon bunnies have in common? Answer: They all figured prominently in a wildly original and successful TV advertising campaign that last year earned a Gold World Medal in the International Awards Group’s 2006 Advertising and Marketing Effectiveness (AME) Awards.
The mini-car in question is the Volkswagen Fox, a sporty compact car aimed at youthful, first-time car buyers. The ad campaign, created for Volkswagen AG by DDB Düsseldorf and built around the tagline “Short but Fun,” featured 30-second, animated versions of six international film hits, including Titanic, Jaws and Pulp Fiction. And the bunnies? They took the place of the films’ human characters, adding an element of the outrageously hip to the spots that captivated German audiences during the campaign’s brief, four-day run.
The AME Awards committee, comprised of a multi-cultural and international cross-section of top marketing executives, recognizes integrated marketing campaigns that are fresh, creative and above all, successful.  Campaigns that demonstrate innovative problem solving, and that achieve specific business goals using well-crafted concepts, inspired marketing strategies and an effective combination of traditional and/or alternative media tactics.

Volkswagen’s “Short but Fun” campaign met all these criteria, achieving extraordinary, measurable results for the German car manufacturer that exceeded its campaign objectives and proved it could capture an audience of very critical media users on a very tight production and media budget.

A Clear Objective
Volkswagen introduced the Fox in the spring of 2005 into the price-driven mini-car segment. Despite Volkswagen’s premium image and the Fox being slightly higher priced than the competition, it soon became the market leader.
The launch campaign emphasized the idea that in opting for economy, buyers would not have to compromise quality and reliability. This notion appealed to buyers at all levels, however the next phase of communication would need to sharpen the Fox’s profile among its main target audience: youthful, first time car buyers between the ages of 18-25.

A Moving Target Audience
While highly desirable, this group is the hardest to reach through traditional advertising methods. They have grown up being bombarded by messaging from multiple communication channels and have a very short attention span. If content does not grab them immediately, they turn elsewhere.  DDB faced a formidable challenge in coming up with a strategy to capture their attention and motivate them to action.

Inspired Creative Strategy
“We developed a very creative positioning for the VW Fox: short but fun,” said DDB’s Luis Ramirez.  That’s the message we wanted to communicate: a small car that is fun to drive and does not cost a fortune.  The ideal car for young people.”
The ‘Short but fun” positioning also was developed to differentiate the Fox from its competitors’ cliché lifestyle advertising, which implies that one need only drive a certain car to be more active, attractive and popular. Rather, the ‘Short but fun” messaging conveyed that driving a Fox provides a concentrated, intense form of fun that doesn’t depend on others’ approval; the type of enjoyment that young, upwardly mobile people seek.
In order to illustrate this concept, the agency teamed with artist Jennifer Shiman, whose 30-second, animated versions of cinema classics – starring floppy-eared versions of Hollywood’s A-list – were sure to stop young, media-savvy consumers in their tracks.
“To get this target group excited about the Fox, we created a funny communication platform: http://www.shortbutfun.com,” said Ramirez. “There, site visitors could find a variety of short and fun content, including short films. So we were looking for endlessly long films, told in a very short time.  When we discovered the movies of Jennifer Shiman on the Internet, we realized that they perfectly matched our positioning and had to part of our platform.  We contacted her and discussed a potential cooperation.  She was very excited to work with us. We had to animate and cut the films created by Jennifer so that they matched with the already shot Fox ending. The result: six crazy films, loved by everybody.”
An interesting note: though the commercials appeared only in Germany, they were run in English, in order to speak pointedly to the young target audience.

Innovative Media Strategy
In order to keep media costs down, DDB decided to air the commercials for only four days and make the Internet the main communication channel. This was a risky decision, however the concepts and creative were so strong that DDB felt that viewers would flock to the Fox’s microsite to see more. To ensure that the campaign reached the maximum number of desired audience members, the agency chose a very targeted media strategy, running the commercials on music channels such as MTV, and choosing weekend spots during entertainment shows rather than mid-week spots between shows.
Once on the “Short but fun” web site, viewers could watch all the commercials as movie streams. In order to engage the viewers further, they were asked to rate each commercial. In addition, a banner ad with a link to the Fox product web page was prominently positioned on the home page so that users could learn more about the Fox.

Dazzling Results
The primary, direct communication objective of the “Short but fun” campaign was to generate 20,000 visits to the shortbutfun.com homepage. Within only four days, over 31,000 visits were counted, exceeding the original goal by 56 percent.
The agency also projected the campaign would generate 2,000 email addresses and increase traffic to the Fox product web page by 10 percent.  After four days, over 8,000 users provided their addresses in order to receive more information, and the number of visitors to the web page increased by 37 percent.
Further, qualitative research indicated high recall and positive reactions among viewers, demonstrating that the campaign did indeed achieve its objective of raising the Fox’s profile among young, first time car buyers.

Advertising Agency: DDB Dusseldorf
Creative Director: Jennifer Shinan/Eric Schoeffler
Copywriter: Tim Jacobs
Art Director: Jennifer Shiman/Christian Brenner
Production Company: Angry Alien Productions, Los Angeles
Director: Jennifer Shinan