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The Immortal Awards

My Most Immortal Ad: Laura Gregory

The Immortal Awards juror and founder of Great Guns is next up with Hamlet’s iconic Photobooth

My Most Immortal Ad: Laura Gregory

In the run-up to this year’s Immortal Awards, our jurors will each select an ad that they believe deserves the title of Immortal. 

Laura Gregory, Founder and CEO of Great Guns, is next up in the series with one of the tobacco industry’s best remembered ads…




 
Photobooth | Hamlet Cigars (Collett Dickenson Pearce, 1987)


In 1987, thirty-one years ago, a cringingly awkward bald man with a bland brown suite and motley patterned loosely knotted tie appeared on our TVs.

He sat there posed looking at us, in what we quickly realised was a photo booth and while there, he kept missing the all too familiar unreliably timed flash that always takes us by surprise and catches us out, ensuring we never get the portrait we paid for or expected.

Yet just like us, he tolerates the frustrations of technology of the time and hopes in vain to find that elusive, perfect pic, that never comes.

Perhaps it’s the six strands of pathetic hair combed over in hope of giving him an edge that grabbed my attention.

Or was it the long strand that kept falling, placed optimistically back somewhere on that bald surface that made me feel sorry for him.

Maybe his eyes, they seemed so kind and certainly didn’t deserve this humiliating treatment just for a decent pic that won me.

And anyway, why was he getting his picture taken in the first place. They didn’t have tinder back then.

It’s a 30 second commercial and I don’t know him, he came into my living room, I didn’t go looking for him and yet, I’m already connected. I'm already involved, I’m already asking questions.

Then at the last moment when you think it can’t get any worse for him, the seat does what it always does… it suddenly drops.

Disaster as the crown of his bald head is all we see.

Then he lifts his head, a cigar in his mouth and a look of sheer contentment and satisfaction on his face.

He couldn’t give a shit.

Right now he’s in heaven.

A Hamlet cigar to the rescue and that wonderfully reassuring base cello bringing us to the final seconds with that famous voice over reading, "happiness is a cigar called hamlet".

Why is it this spot stayed so vivid in my mind?

Why do I recall so much detail?

Why too that when I recall this spot to colleagues and friends, so many know exactly what I’m talking about.

Not just here in blighty but Antipodean, Asia, even the shores of USA.

It’s simple.

Storytelling so delightfully observed so brilliantly told and with attention to detail so exquisite that throughout all those 30 absorbing seconds we felt for every second part of this man’s life.

Even today this spot is so relevant with selfies, Snapchats and Instagram.

The beautiful and so agonisingly accurate insights kept us and continued to keep us his champion.

The craft of storytelling and the effortless simplicity of execution is testament to the brilliance of art making complex feel non-existent.

Where is that art and craft today?

I wonder where that handsome devil is now.

Weird that I would care after all these years.

Laura Gregory will be judging this year's The Immortal Awards. Entries are now open to all Little Black Book members, so head over to the submissions page to submit your best work. If you aren't a member of Little Black Book yet, then you can subscribe here.

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