The real genius of advertising is that it can stick with you, sometimes for years. One particular commercial has remained firmly lodged in my mind ever since I first saw it. Today, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I found it. Watch it here, in all its glory.
As an adult, I think I can appreciate its greatness on a much deeper level. It all starts out innocently enough.
Look at that early-90s picket fence and Cape Cod home. Isn’t that where every single sit-com character lived back then? One little thing, Dave: you left every light in the house burning. How nice of Dave’s co-workers to take both back seats, making poor Niederman from Accounting drive them around like a chauffeur.
NARRATOR: Just when you think your diarrhea medicine is working…
Oh, shit. Literally, in this case. That’s not what you want to hear. How ingenious was it to subtly reference the famous Jaws 2 tagline, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water?” The words immediately conjure up horror, fear, death, and water churning with blood and viscera – which often happens when I have diarrhea, come to think of it. Now poor Dave utters a line I have been repeating ever since:
Look at this guy’s face! Whoever played Dave should have been up for a Daytime Emmy after a performance like that. I love how he starts to look around, too, as though his need to diarrhea (yes, it’s a verb) is so bad that he’s pondering using the cup holders.
BACK SEAT GUY: What’s wrong?
Oh, you know, Back Seat Guy. YOU KNOW. Nobody says “Ooh boy” and tries to retract their head into their neck like that because they forgot their wallet at home.
NARRATOR: …It can let you down. (Car screeches to a halt in front of an automotive station)
I’ve had some pretty severe bathroom emergencies in my day… but I don’t know that I’ve ever been forced to stop at a filthy-looking auto shop like this poor guy. It doesn’t even look like a gas station! Would this place have a toilet for Dave to use? Also, make note of the musical score: that sick, raspy-sounding bassoon is the perfect accompaniment to an onslaught of diarrhea.
(Car screeches to a halt in front of a greasy-looking diner)
Dave is in even worse distress this time around. He’s doing the classic “stay together, cheeks” ramrod-straight hustle-walk that you only use when trying to preserve your dignity on the way to the can. I love how the car slams to a stop so quickly – the driver obviously knows Dave is fit to bust at any second.
NARRATOR: But you can count on Imodium AD to stop diarrhea, often in just one dose.
Ahh, we’re back in the safety zone, accompanied by a gentle tinkling of the ivories. Listen to how calm that music is. “All this stress could be gone if you just use our product,” it says. Beautiful.
NARRATOR: Instead of dose after dose, more than a third of a bottle of the pink stuff!
NARRATOR: And Imodium AD is even better than the leading prescription.
WAIT A MINUTE. “Goldstein”??? Does anyone else notice that the doctor’s name on the bottle is “Goldstein”? What, they couldn’t fit “Silverberg” on there? This blows my mind. There’s some very subtle programming at work in this commercial.
Back to our story. We see that Dave has had to stop a THIRD time – at a township park! How long is this commute?!? Evidently his attacks haven’t gotten any less severe – he’s gone from hustle to full-out sprint.
Of course they put the black guy in the back seat. And this was during the Clinton years! Somebody call Eric Holder. The faces of these guys absolutely slay me. How disgusted does that guy in the back look? “Oh, Lord have mercy.” And the driver is just shaking his head… “How can Dave hope to make Junior VP when he can’t even control his bowels?” These are supposed to be his friends, and they have zero patience for his little circus act this morning.
NARRATOR: Imodium AD. One-dose relief you can count on.
We fade out on Dave hustling toward the latest bathroom. His credibility at the office is gone. You can’t respect a guy you’ve seen rushing into three reeking public toilets on the way to work. But that’s what happens when you don’t trust Imodium AD!
Can you appreciate the sheer artistry of this commercial? It plays our fears – the very adult fears of shame and humiliation in front of our peers – like a fiddle, and presents Imodium AD as the solution. “Do you want to gag down a bottle of pink sludge and shit yourself in a Saturn SL?” they ask. “Or would you rather take two little pills and marry Cindy Crawford (probably)? The choice is yours.” There was apparently a whole series of commercials like this, all featuring people being publicly disgraced by rampant diarrhea (a guy with the window seat on a plane, an astronaut just before takeoff, etc). It’s savage. It’s relentless. It is, quite simply, the greatest commercial ever made.