What a ride...

What a ride

In ‘Oh God!’, a 60-second psa produced by Toronto’s Radke Films for the AIDS Hotline and new agency No Bossman To Answer To. (Advertising) – headed by creatives by Rich Bucetta and Henry Lu – director Ron Baxter Smith takes the viewer on a ride through all those things that made our mothers and second grade teachers blush.

But oh what a ride it is.

The concept for the spot was originally inspired four years ago, by a poster Bucetta entered in a Minneapolis print contest for an aids hot line. He didn’t win the contest, but the poster – a triangle with the words ‘Oh God’ getting bigger and bigger, culminating in a huge orgasmic ‘Oh God,’ and then the tag line, ‘Make love without a condom and you’d better start praying.’ – set the wheels in motion for a television psa.

Well sort of. As the maxim says, timing is everything. So Bucetta and Lu decided to hold onto the idea. Says Lu: ‘We were waiting for the right time and the right director.’

So they did. Wait, that is.

Enter Radke’s Smith (the trio worked together for the first time on a stunning spot for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the rest is, well, history).

‘Oh God!’ features an embracing couple (Kelly Grando and Mauro Santo) heading toward the inevitable. Smith, with the help of cinematographer Brian Thomson, teases the viewer – using quick cuts that juxtapose color, angles and camera movement and slow dissolves of layered, suggestive text (Oh God. Go. Oh God.) that creep across the screen. Smith’s background in photography is evident here, he has an eye for layered and loaded images.

The payoff comes simply – after an overhead shot of the couple on a wheel of chance – with copy line, ‘Make love without a condom and you’d better start praying.’

It is here, at the moment of conception, Smith’s idea of ‘contradiction’ is crystallized – the moment where the viewer’s preconceptions become misconceptions.

The viewer is pulled into Smith’s visual labyrinth, seduced really, caught off-guard by the pace of the spot – at once languid, heady, dizzying, urgent. The pining of the NineInchNails-esque vocals and music stylings is a perfect match for what is happening on screen.

The spot was produced independent of any groups or government agencies in an attempt to forgo the levels of bureaucracy that, oftentimes, end up compromising the creative aspects of the piece (hence the agency name). Lu says they are aiming for an early 1995 airdate.

At Radke, Tina Petridis executive produced and Denny Kennedy produced. Third Floor Editing’s Alex Eaton performed editing duties and Louder Music and Sound Design’s Clive Desmond and David Krystal handled the music. JL