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John West Salmon Bear Fight

John West Salmon Bear Fight

February 24th, 2006  · stk

I went to find an enjoyable TV ad from the year 2000, but had a difficult time finding it on the web. The collective attention span for humans is short and most of the movie links were broken. So, in an effort to preserve a tiny piece of humorous history, I've posted it here, along with a rare "alternative ending". Enjoy.

John West Salmon Bear Commercial

"Oh Look, an Eagle!"


It was some time ago that I first saw this ad, via some email link a friend sent. I'm not sure what made me think about it the other day, but I went on a hunt for it. It's still out there, but many of the links have dried up and now there are sites that want you to pay money to see the thing. (Sorry, there isn't much added value to see something that used to be aired for free :-/)

I'm not much of a museum curator and maybe it was more the challenge, than the preservation, but regardless ... I went on a hunt to find the original video, convert it to Flash and preserve it for your viewing pleasure (and the inadvertent, sustained promotion of John West Salmon). While hunting down the videos, I learned a lot! The spot won several awards, there was an alternate ending (shown in the full article) and to whom credit goes to for this humorous advertisement.

To learn more about the John West Bear Fight ad, read on ...

John West Endure the Worst to Bring You the Best!

The 30-second John West "Bear Fight" spot was released November 20, 2000 and quickly became the most downloaded and forwarded advertisement on the internet. The ad aired in the U.K., promoting a Heinz product - John West canned salmon. (H.J. Heinz acquired John West from Unilever in 1997).

An article in 'boards magazine from December, 2001 "A Tale of Two Creatures", provides some insight into the thinking that went into the advertisement. Using an a special bear suit from Jim Henson's Creature Shop, Dave, the stunt man, wore the seven-foot-tall costume and operated the animatronic head. Dave also stood in for the other feeding grizzlies, which means that the spot really features THREE Daves in the same bear suit, as the scenes were composited to achieve the final look.

Actually, the commercial features FOUR Daves, because the fighting fisherman was also named Dave. It created a challenge for the director, who ended naming the bear "Dave bear", just to keep things straight.

It looks convincing until you get to that Kung Fu bit

Success of the commercial is largely due to the nature-film start of the spot, which lures you into believing the scene is real. Bears are quietly feeding on spawning salmon, in a natural, tranquil scene. The whispered voice-over, with British accent, is reminecent of nature shows, where they talk quiently to avoid disturbing animals that are nearby. Suddenly, a man confronts the bear for his prize salmon. It takes the viewer a moment to realize that the fisherman isn't just crazy - the whole scene is rigged. It's too late ... he's been duped.

A rarely seen, alternate ending was also filmed, where Dave-the-thieving-fisherman hops on the back of a waiting moped, making his get-a-way with the John West Salmon, while the bear chases in vain. (You can view the alternate ending, just below the "Credits" box).

Although John West imports its salmon from Alaska and the setting was designed to look like Alaska, filming really took place at the Invercauld Estate, near Balmoral, on the banks of the River Dee, in the Scottish Highlands. The advertisement was inspired, in part, by a real-life incident where a John West worker was pursued by a bear, in Alaska.

Special thanks to Duncan Macleod, a Kiwi transplant, whose TV Ad Land is a valuable source for clever television adverts.


Agency: Leo Burnett

Creative Directors: Mark Tutssel, Nick Bell

Art Director / Copyright: Paul Silburn

Producer: David Botterell

Director: Daniel Kleinman

Cameraman / Lighting: Stephen Blackman

Editor: Steve Gandolphi

Editing Company: Cut and Run


  1. British Television Advertising Awards
    "Best Commercial of the Year" (2001)
  2. Advertising Creative Circle Awards
    "Winner" (2001)
  3. Intl. Food & Beverage
    (Creative Excellence Awards)
    "FAB Award" (2001)
  4. CLIO Awards
    "Gold" (2001)
  5. Cannes Lions (Intl. Ad Festival)
    "Gold Lion" Savory Foods (2001)
  6. The One Show
    "Bronze" (2001)
  7. London Intl. Ad Awards (LIAA)
    "Grand Prize", Food "Winner" & Humour "Winner" (2001)
  8. Eurobest
    "Grand Prix" (2001)
  9. International ANDY Awards
    "Winner" (2002)
  10. The Gunn Report
    2nd most awarded TV ad (2001)
    11th most awarded TV ad (2002)
John West Salmon Bear Commercial - Alternate Ending
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Updated: 23-Oct-2008
Web View Count: 54249 viewsLast Web Update: 23-Oct-2008

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1.flag Paul Edwards Comment
I think the Bear fight for John west Salmon is the best i would really like a copy but when i find a site to down load it free for some reason the down load does not work Please any one can you send or tell me were to get it
Thank you
2.flag stk Comment
Just bookmark this page, as it's always here (and free).
3.flag Sage Comment
4.flag stk Comment
LOL. For a guy named "Sage", that wasn't very sagacious. :p
5.flag Waffles Comment
I love this commercial!
6.flag Brendan Comment
This commerical is hilarious