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New York City dubs Australian anti-smoking ad; makes it sound stupid

by Joel Keller, posted Jan 13th 2009 1:03PM
Doctor in NYC anti-smoking adSince Michael Bloomberg became mayor of New York, the city has been notorious for its mommy-state health initiatives. Part of that has been a series of harsh ads featuring folks like "tracheotomy guy" Rolando Martinez and ads featuring a smoker who has to get his gangrenous foot amputated.

The latest set of ads, which air three times an hour in New York, depict a sick woman getting a bronchoscopy. During this, we hear the whistling noise of air whipping around the tumor in the lung, and the doctor explains that at that point, it's "too late to operate."

The first few times I saw the ad, though, something struck me as odd: it was the doctor's voice. It sounded very dubbed and announcer-y, as if some Shakespearean actor was reading from a script. Upon further review, it looked like it was indeed a dubbing job, and not a very good one at that.

A couple of Google searches later, and I found video of the original commercial, which was created in Australia. It's exactly the same ad, except that the doctor (which I'm 90% sure is a real doctor, not an actor) is speaking in his natural, Australian-accented voice. And, lo and behold, the ad becomes instantly more powerful because it feels stark and real.

I'm sure the NYC health department was trying to convey that same message when they imported the ad, but by dubbing it, they made it sound more like a bad Jackie Chan movie than a plea to quit smoking. What was the problem with keeping the doctor's voice the way it was? It's not like doctors in New York's hospitals are all Americans. Why would they blunt the message of the ad just to make sure the doctor sounded like a red-blooded American?

So, which one has more impact on you? Take a look at both versions and tell me what you think.

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BTW, what's even more annoying (and may warrant a rant piece here), is the utter sloppiness of editing/overdubbing that goes on, particularly in the reality-based shows (PRIME culprits include(d) The Apprentice, America's Next Top Model, and Project Runway).

Typically during the "elimination" phases, there's always a 10 to 15-second overdub of the "judge" as they talk to the people about to be eliminated.

Granted, I understand the fact that they can't re-shoot the entire scene due to the fact that they need that one shot for the contestant reactions, etc. But...it's SO painfully obvious that it's overdub that it's not only distracting, but reeks of low quality. Yes, some of these shows are synonymous with low quality, but given their popularity, you would think the directors and editors would put more efforts into making these overdubs a bit more seamless and less obvious.

ok...now I need a cigarette.

January 14 2009 at 2:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

To be honest, I didn't even realize that it was an overdub. The fact that the "doctor" is monotonous really isn't that shocking to me - most doctors are that way, and we *are* talking about doctors here.

I think the fact of the matter, to me, is that overdub or not, this is the first of the ads to really kind of freak me out as a smoker.

The talk-box Hispanic man did nothing for me, except question why the talk-box had a Hispanic accent. None of the others really had an impact.

This is the first of the commercials that makes me want to turn the channel when it comes up - I don't, though. So it does have an impact, at least on 1 smoker.

Granted, it should make me want to quit smoking instead, but I can honestly say that it's the only commercial in this campaign that's gotten me very close to quitting.

P.S. - Slow TV week, Joel? :)

January 14 2009 at 2:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Even ignoring the ludicrous decision to dub over the doctor, could they have picked a worse actor? There's no emotion at all, it sounds like a Speak n Spell.

January 14 2009 at 3:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

in the "original", i hear Dr. Chase.

January 14 2009 at 1:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's funny because this used to happen in reverse in Australia all the time. 10 years ago it was common for primetime ads to be dubbed by Australians. Now they dont bother - it's done only on infomercials.

If you had an eye for when NTSC video is being broadcast, you could spot them easily.

January 13 2009 at 11:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How about that cereal ad with the husband where he says "Shut up, Steve.". Maybe it's me but that is obviously dubbed. Or maybe the synching is just bad.

January 13 2009 at 10:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That's pretty funny, since i see those ads (original) all the time.
It looks like those Colgate ads i see with experts saying stuff but it doesn't look like their voices.
The "Every Cigarette Is Doing You Damage" was also an Australian ad.

January 13 2009 at 7:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

To me it seems odd that many commercials seem to use actors with British accents. (the little lizard selling car insurance and a breath candy come to mind, but I have seen others) I am assuming that they feel it lends an aura of "coolness" and class.. so to dub a perfectly good Ozzie accent doesn't make much sense...

January 13 2009 at 4:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That does seem odd, and completely pointless. I'm an Englishman in America, and I wonder that all the time - even with actors on TV, why do they /need/ to have an American accent, is this country so insecure it can only identify with it's own kind...


January 13 2009 at 1:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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