Dr Pepper's new U.K. tagline - "What's the worst that could happen?" - is the perfect kickoff to comic disaster. The new TV work is from London agency Mother, where CD Mark Waites was charged with creating a campaign for the British market to build on the American Dr Pepper spots that were normally recycled for U.K. use. " `What's the worst that could happen?' is just moving it on from `Try it, you'll like it,' the old line," explains Waites. "It's all about what you'd say to someone if you're convincing them to try Dr Pepper."
"The worst that could happen" is often something that's hysterically funny (as long as it's not happening to you). Though the spots are intended for the Brits, they feature American teens and themes and they were directed Stateside by Hungry Man's Bryan Buckley. In one, a buxom cheerleader approaches a hunk in a letter jacket to ask if he's playing in the game. She offers him a sip of her Dr Pepper, which he accepts when she cajoles him with the tagline. As he takes his first sip, another cheerleader yells, "Jodi, that's, like, my Dr Pepper." Hunk looks up and sees that the soda's owner has a big crusty sore on her lip; he chokes on his Pepper and it comes out his nose. When he grabs for something to wipe his dripping face with, it turns out to be the toilet paper peeking out of Jodi's cleavage, which becomes a never-ending string of embarrassment until she finally slaps him and runs away screaming. "In England, we're raised on a diet of Six Million Dollar Man and the A-Team," says Waites, pointing out that what seems to be an American rite of passage will be perfectly familiar to British youth. "It's like a part of our culture." In the most cringe-inducing execution, a skinny teen peruses a convenience store shelf for a soda before choosing a Dr Pepper. As he innocently shuts the door to the refrigerator case, the glass shatters and the tons of goods stored above topple to the floor knocking him over. A hysterical clerk calls 911 as the kid lies pinned in the rubble. When the EMS guys arrive, they gather hurriedly and one announces, "We're gonna have to cut him out of his pants." They maneuver him and another yells, "The underwear's gonna have to come off." Soon, they have lofted the bottomless boy on their shoulders and announce to the throngs that have gathered outside, "Step aside, butt naked kid comin' through." As the media crowds and a news helicopter flashes overhead, cameras catch a glimpse of the pale, naked backside carried through the crowd, and a TV in the kid's high school locker room even reveals his plight to some of his schoolmates as they change for football practice. The star of the spot is, himself, a teenager; at the end of a long day of shooting, the creative team couldn't bring themselves to ask him for a butt shot. A body double was not exactly in the budget, so CW Yan Elliot took one for the team. "Everyone around the table looked at me and said, `You've got the youngest-looking ass,' " he shrugs, remarkably blase for a guy who went bare-assed in Brooklyn in February. As Waites puts it, "You have to go the whole hog with an idea like that or forget it."
Client: Dr. Pepper Agency: Mother, London CD: Mark Waites/Robert Saville CW: Yan Elliot/Luke Williamson AD: Mark Waites/Robert Saville Agency Producer: Sarah Case Director: Bryan Buckley Production Company: Hungry Man DP: Adam Beckman Editor: Andrea MacArthur, The Whitehouse, London Postproduction: Golden Square, London/The Mill/London Music