What rhymes with "ambulance"?
BBH London answers that question and more in a fanciful animated campaign designed to teach parents how to help a baby who's stopped breathing.
First-aid awareness organization St. John Ambulance's two-minute film eschews the award-winning kick-to-the-gut style often employed by this client-agency team. Unlike past PSA classics such as "Helpless" and "Save the Boy," the new film, "Nursery Rhymes Inc.," presents no shocking scenes or terrifying twists to drive home its life-saving message.
Instead, through delightful puppet animation that took four months to produce, we're made privy to the creative struggles of Humpty Dumpty, Incy Wincy Spider, Jack & Jill and the Cat & the Fiddle.
"Nobody wants to know about baby CPR. It sounds scary and complicated," BBH creative director Ian Heartfield tells AdFreak. "So, the task was to find an idea that cut through all the noise, and entertained people while at the same time educating them. It also had to be something you'd want to share with others. The first thing to try to make something memorable is to make it rhyme, and as we were talking about baby first aid, nursery rhyme characters seemed like a good starting point."
In the ad, the classic crew works overtime to compose a rhyme to help moms and dads remember CPR basics, but it's rough going:
"We've been here for 15 hours, I'm starting to lose my rhyming powers," frets Humpty, clearly down in the dumps.
Jack & Jill, never ones to shrink from a tough uphill climb, egg him on: "But it's baby CPR. We must make it rhyme. So when baby stops breathing, it's remembered in time!"
After wisely rejecting "samba dance" and "Bambi stance" from their libretto, a musical memorandum takes shape:
Get to a phone.
Don't take a chance.
First you must call an ambulaaaaaance.
Place your baby on a nice flat surface.
Tilt their head back, don't be nervous.
Give five puffs over the mouth and nose.
Not sure what we mean? Well here's how it goes:
One puff, two puffs, three puffs and four
Five is enough, don't puff any more.
Place two fingers upon the chest,
and pump 30 times -- no more, no less.
Puff, puff -- and thirty more pumps,
Repeat this until the ambulance comes.
"There were a few production challenges," says Heartfield. "One was dealing with the restrictions of using real, big, clumsy puppets in the confined space of an office meeting room. Another was understanding and accepting there is only so much physical performance you can get from puppets."
For example, the puppeteer inside the heavy Humpty Dumpty suit frequently became overheated and had to be fanned between takes.
Also, the team struggled to get "the very best voices for the characters," so that each would be distinctive but not over the top. "We tried every accent under the sun for Jack and Jill before landing on West Country," he says.
Indeed, Comics Adam Buxton and Tim Key nail the voice performances. From fretful, bossy Humpty to the high-pitched regional exuberance of Jack and Jill, each interpretation is a winner. And Blinkink directors Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling create just the right mood to put parents at ease. Jovial and empowering, the ad convinces us that we can correctly perform CPR on baby if the need arises.
Overall, the whole approach just feels right. After all, these characters have been delighting kids and parents for hundreds of years. It makes sense in context that Humpty, Incy and the rest would team up to help keep youngsters safe.
The tone recalls last year's St. John Ambulance-BBH film "The Chokeables," which also used lighthearted animation to deliver serious guidance. With 10 million views across all platforms, that PSA and is credited with saving the lives of 46 children since its launch, according to the client.
Whether parents will actually be able to recall the pertinent information in "Nursery Rhymes Inc." is, of course, an open question. Though the song is cute, there's a lot to take in. And the procedure itself seems kind of involved.
"The task with baby CPR was challenging, as it's a more complicated technique than choking," concedes Emma Sheppard, head of brand communications at St. John. That said, "we think we've cracked it," she adds.
Versions of the spot will air during popular U.K. TV fare for the next three months, supported by copious social-media and digital outreach.
At the very least, the work might help folks remember, before attempting CPR, to "call an ambulaaaaaance." That alone could save lives and make the campaign well worth the effort.
Client: St. John Ambulance
Head of Brand and Communications: Emma Sheppard
Agency: BBH London
Creative Team: Fred Rodwell & Andy Parsons
Creative Director: Ian Heartfield
Strategy Director: Rowenna Prest
Strategist: Alana King
Business Lead: Jon Barnes
Account Director: Leo Sloley
Account Executive: Louisa Steele
Producer: Victoria Keenan
Production Company: Blinkink
Director: Becky & Joe
Song & Lyrics: Baker Terry and Joseph Pelling
Executive Producer: James Stevenson Bretton
Producer: Benjamin Lole
DoP: Ed Tucker
Post Production: The Mill & Blinkink Studios
Editor/Editing House: Joseph Pelling & Hugo Donkin/ Blinkink Studios
- Media Account -
JAA Business Director: Nick Smith
JAA TV Buying Director: Steve Venes
JAA Account Manager: George Gwilliam
JAA TV Buying Manager: Dan Denman
JAA Account Executive: Leo Barron