How Mustaches Can Screw Up Commercial Shoots

By | November 12, 2018

In honour of November being Mustache Month for Prostate Cancer, here are two stories about how mustaches have screwed up commercial shoots for me.

First case was a Mr. Clean commercial we shot. It was a typical Procter & Gamble commercial. Lady of the house uses Mr. Clean to leave her house looking bright and shiny. It was in the days when we shot on film. We had a great deal of difficulty agreeing on the actress to play the lead.

Then the actress we had chosen had a particularly difficult time delivering the lines and action. It made the shoot very tedious.

The only problem was that when the film was developed, the film was mounted incorrectly and ended up with sprocket holes punched into the raw film stock, essentially ruining the footage. Today, we could easily fix it on a computer when transferring to video; today we would have shot on video anyway. However, in those days, destroyed film meant a re-shoot. We were insured for the cost, but getting everyone back together was a greater challenge.

Finally we got together for a re-shoot. Horrors, when our difficult actress showed up for the re-shoot she had decided her upper lip needed a bleaching treatment and she had a bright red “mustache.”

There we were with everyone assembled to shoot and a difficult actress we couldn’t use. Luckily our second choice was available and was able to show up with only a minor delay. She was also a better performer making the shoot easier to handle.

The second case was a commercial we shot for Wendy’s. I had led the new business pitch and this was one of the first commercials we shot for them. McDonalds had a big new product launch coming for the Mc D-L-T and we needed something to counter it. We decided to launch Hot Dogs.

Our concept was The Great Canadian Hot Dog with some “great Canadians” eating the product. We included Count Floyd, BJ Birdie, the Blue Jays mascot, Canada’s first Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald, Rockin’ Ronnie Hawkins, Carole Pope, and Eddie Shack.  Curiously, Joe Flaherty and Ronnie Hawkins may have been great Canadian icons but both were Americans and Carole Pope was born in England..

Shack, a wild hockey player, was known for his handle-bar mustache.

Shack was very pleased to be featured in a commercial as he had not done much TV work and this was a national commercial. He wanted to look his best. So he showed up to the shoot, cleaned up real good and well dressed. Problem was, he was also freshly shaven. No mustache. Now he just looked like a guy with a big nose.

We quickly decided we needed him with his mustache. So Shack was asked to wait for his section of the commercial to be shot while a makeup person set off to construct a mustache resembling Shack’s famous nose duster.

We were successful in recreating the ‘stash, and shot our vignette of him eating the hot dog. Then, on a whim, we asked for some footage of him ripping the mustache off to take a bite, thinking it might look funny. It was hilarious. So funny that we went with it in the final commercial.

Enter “The Law of Unintended Consequences.” No sooner had we gone on air when I got a call from our industry press questioning our use of look-alikes.

“Is it true that you used look-alikes instead of the real characters?” they asked. “We noticed that the Eddie Shack didn’t have a real mustache!”

“Well, you got us. We did use one look alike,” I agreed, thinking of the actor playing John A. Macdonald – our Prime Minister who had been dead for more than a hundred years. “But I am not at liberty to tell you which one it was.” I left it for them to find our Macdonald vs McDonald ploy. And at the end of the year, we won a Bessie (Canadian TV award) for our commercial.

And in celebration of Movember, we were contacted by the agent for Robert Goulet’s mustache asking if we were interested in featuring the mustache in a future commercial.

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