Pfizer's vaccine ad is a blast from the past

Pharma company "derives" a nostalgic ad from a hit 1970s Hong Kong movie.

HONG KONG - A deadly disease before medical science gifted a vaccine to humanity, pneunomia has provided a plot device for generations of period-film directors to create dramatic death-bed scenes filled with violent coughing. But it does not always have to be so morbid when a character from an old movie reenacts a coughing fit, as a new piece of marketing for Pfizer shows. 

Targeting people aged 65 and above, the company, together with agency partner Secret Tour Hong Kong, has resurrected a rather comedic coughing sequence from 1970s Cantonese classic The House of 72 Tenants in order to promote its pneumonia vaccine, Prevenar 13. Pak Gu, the queen bee landlady character in the movie, will not be invited to a much-anticipated party unless she gets a shot of the vaccine.

Stephen Chung, creative partner at Secret Tour, said in a statement that the campaign paves a path for 'derivative' work in Hong Kong. "While the local creative industry has started to recreate classic works of the olden times by mimicking the tone, costume and dialogues, some copyright owners regard such acts as violation of copyright laws and disrespect of the original work," said Chung. "Seeking a way out, this campaign demonstrates a success of balancing the interests of both parties with maximum effectiveness to arouse audience attention."

The campaign, which is being run on YouTube and carried on the social-media pages of local dailies Apple Daily and Ming Pao, received favourable reviews from netizens since its launch last week. The video posted on the Facebook page of Apple Daily has received over 151,000 views. Many viewers said the movie was their parents' favourite, and some mused about the good old days when the community vibe was much more lively in Hong Kong. A screening of the orginal movie, sponsored by Pfizer, will be held next month.

Campaign's view: The clever puns littering the reworked script of the ad, starting from its title, are hilarious and will no doubt be appreciated by the Cantonese-speaking target audience. Pfizer has been spot on in getting the right medium to address the target audience. Moviegoers are likely to form a strong emotional attachment with a favourite film for a long, long time, so the ad will resonate well with baby boomers who have fond memories of watching the movie.

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