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Commercial that really understands headaches.


Paracetamol-based headache painkiller tablet, Painblok, is the subject of a new television commercial that harnesses the power of symbolism to communicate its intrinsic qualities.

Produced by Bryanston-based AIR Films for Y&R South Africa, the 20-second commercial sees an office worker determinedly sitting at his desk, struggling to concentrate because of an overwhelming headache, which is worsened by the ticking sound of a Newton’s Cradle placed on top of a colleague’s desk.

Before long, the office worker’s head is one of those silver balls, moving clangorously from side to side, aggravated even more by the throbbing, relentless motion. A few seconds later, a visual of the product appears, with the script in staggered format reading stop, [dot], that, [dot], head, [pause], ache.

Rui Alves, Executive Creative Director of Y&R South Africa’s Johannesburg office says, “The pharmaceutical industry is notorious for being very serious and functional – we broke away from the norm of communicating a typical doctor’s recommendation or uplifting instant- release moment – by opting for something quite quirky in tone.”

Produced in a tight, focused and sharp manner, much like bright lights and repetitive sound amplify the piercing, unbearable torture of headaches, AIR Films used one actor and two cast members, at onelocation, in two shots – harnessing the production company’s quirky approach, ability to minimise costs and technical insight.

Technical aspects that required some clever thinking included finding an actor with the right-shaped, bald head, who could pull off a dry, quirky, subtle performance; controlling depth of focus to allow the camera to move from the worker at his office desk to the worker’s head becoming one of the Cradle’s balls, and merging the two seamlessly together.

Matthys Boshoff, Director of AIR Films says, “The critical part was making sure that the actor’s head fitted in seamlessly with the rest of the balls, and to illustrate realistically what the impact of the balls was having on his head; aspects like instant facial reflexes and vibrations.”   

As opposed to creating a 3-D model of the head, the production team set about capturing those effects in camera. They sourced large silver Christmas ball bells, mounted them on fixed stands, placed the actor on a skateboard and moved him from side to side to collide with two neighboring balls on a predetermined beat of a ticking metronome.

“We had to keep his body posture as firmly upright as possible and he needed to react appropriately to the impact of a ball against his face,” says Boshoff. Subsequently his head was composited into the Newton’s Cradle and the ball-bell reflections of his head were composited into the Cradle’s balls.

As with any production, there are sometimes more than just one technical challenge, such as slowing down the swaying motion of the balls to tick in unison with the speed of the moving actor’s head, which was overcome by a highly skilled team including:


Y&R South Africa’s Johannesburg office


  •  Graham Lang, Chief Creative Officer
  • Rui Alves, Executive Creative Director
  • Jacques Shalom and Bibi Lotter, Creative Directors
  • Andre Vrdoljak, Dhasagan Pillay and Andrew Moore, Copywriters
  • Grant Seller, Art Director
  • Mthuli Bam, Producer


AIR Films


  • Matthys Boshoff, Director
  • Marge Hughes, Producer
  • Willie Nel, Director of Photography
  • Caron Bosman, VFX Producer at Luma Animation
  • Erik Kruger, 3-D Artist and VFX Supervisor at Luma Animation
  • Gerhard Painter, Compositor at Luma Animation
  • Lorens Persson, Sound Designer at Sterling Sound




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