For Creative Emergencies

“Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”—eight historic words blurted out by Dorothy McHugh, the ex-Ziegfeld Follies dancer, in that 1990 ad for LifeCall, the medical-alert system. McHugh died in 1995, but the ad lives on in endless jokes and parodies —and in a new self-promo effort by freelancers Jarl Olsen and Houman Pirdavari.

The ex-Fallon creatives are sending their own “HelpAlert” pendants out to creative directors; those who find themselves in a creative emergency can summon Olsen and Pirdavari, who will race to the scene, A-Team style. “It’s like they press a button and the cavalry comes,” says Pirdavari. “We’re like 911 for creative directors.”

Adds Olsen: “Many of them have had to cut staff, and when things get busy, they take on excess assignments themselves, which takes away from their efficiency as creative directors. We have notes from their doctors urging them to hire us the moment they feel any tightness in their chest. Actually, we wrote the notes.”

Olsen and Pirdavari got their old boss, Pat Fallon, to give an endorsement. And of course, their choice of parody is sure to provoke a few chuckles, if nothing else. ” ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ was, of course, a high-water mark of 20th-century communication,” says Olsen. “Anything I could say was stated more elegantly by Lord Kenneth Clark in his chapter on direct response advertising in The History of Western Civilization. Suffice it to say, it’s an icon.”