Why not just ring 999?

PETER YORK ON ADS: No 214: READER'S DIGEST
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The Independent Culture
WOULD YOU KNOW what to do in an emergency? In a variety of emergencies, from cardiac arrest to West Country floods? Perhaps the answer is to have a 400-page, sumptuously illustrated guide-book to hand, for ready reference at all times of the day or night.

This is what Reader's Digest is pushing with its straightforwardly titled What to Do in an Emergency. Everything about this long (60-second) commercial is straightforward, in a style that owes something to the BBC's gripping 999: Lifesavers, and not a little to those Stannah Stairlifts magazine ads starring Dame Thora Hird.

The opening shot shows an old woman lying unconscious on the floor. Cut to an exploding power socket, which continues to burn. Then a rogue gas meter, and finally a bottle with a spill of pills. In the corner of the screen a clock ticks off the seconds. This is clearly a dysfunctional household. "What's the first thing you would do if ...?" asks the voice- over, as the screen fills with such events, in the style of a management training film. "You may have just minutes, or even seconds, to deal with a matter of life or death."

Then we get a red emergency light, with the book itself appearing out of deep field like in a Sixties B-movie. We get a series of vignettes enacted so strangely as to be positively distracting. They look like instant spoof, as so many traditional, "useful" communications do. A woman binding a man's arm (without much enthusiasm) is derailed by his green shirt and sideburns (better than anything on Vic Reeves). A burglar searching a mantelpiece takes a vase that's manifestly worth about 50p. A Nicholas Lyndhurst type lies propped against a sofa, like he's shamming sick in a sitcom.

It's comprehensive and repetitive; it's like a page of dense direct- marketing copy transferred straight to the screen. This is a product to treasure in the privacy of your own home.

Video supplied by Tellex Commercials

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