Garuda Airlines

Trying to sell Garuda was, to put it mildly, a challenge. Their reputation left a little to be desired. I've had three scares flying, and all three of them were with the Indonesian airline.

My favourite Garuda story was the time the control tower at Melbourne's Tullamarine airport was talking one of their flights down. The pilot radioed in, "We've touched down," and the control tower was saying, "We can't see you. Where runway are you on?" It turned out they'd landed at Essendon airport, five kilometres away.

Garuda had paid a lot of money to Elle, the Body, to endorse their airline, and Mark Lees and I were told we had to use her. (My two teenage sons were more excited by this prospect than we were - well, that's my story and I'll stick to it.) Previous commercials had shown her sitting silently in first class being served champagne (sitting mum, drinking Mumm) and gourmet delicacies, with Vaseline all over the lens. Mark and I decided to live dangerously and put an idea into our commercials - dangerous because it was rumoured Elle couldn't act her way out of a paper bag, even if it was full of her underwear.

In the first commercial we had her sitting at the back of First Class, and a woman in a forward seat turns round to look at her then says to her husband,

“Ooh look, it’s Madonna!”

The second commercial is shown here

I’m proud of these commercials because there is an idea in them, because we didn’t have Helen Mirren in the lead role, and because they are at least relevant to our so-called star who, incidentally, would speak to no one apart from the director throughout the shoot.

All too often Australian agencies produce commercials that have little or nothing to do with the stars who are paid huge amounts of money to endorse a client’s product.

A few years back Telstra paid Billy Connolly what must have been a fortune and they were the most unfunny, un-Billy Connolly commercials imaginable. There are too many other examples to name here.