In the following ad, a trainee German coastguard is shown the equipment, and then left to his own devices. He receives a message from a ship which is sinking, saying "Mayday, mayday, we are sinking", to which the coastguard replies "What are you thinking about?". The ad ends with the Berlitz logo, and the apt slogan "Language for Life" underneath.


The ad is regarded as real by the piece Berlitz had to learn a new language to save its business, an excerpt from "The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business" by Rita Gunther McGrath:

The company has also taken a fresh approach to its brand, using humor to promote the idea of language proficiency. In one viral video with millions of YouTube hits, a member of the German Coast Guard is seen responding to a desperate plea on the radio:

“May Day, May Day, we are sinking!”

“Hallo—Zis is ze German Coast Guard.”

“We’re sinking, we’re sinking!”

“What . . . what are you sinking about?”

The scene cuts immediately to the phrase “Improve Your English,” set against a backdrop of stirring music and the tag line “Berlitz, Language for Life.”

Was this ad created by/for Berlitz Corporation?

  • This is going to be difficult to prove because Berlitz doesn't seem to have this video uploaded on any of their social media accounts. May 18, 2015 at 13:39
  • 5
    What about just asking Berlitz? May 18, 2015 at 13:48
  • 2
    And the sad thing is, they kinda wrecked the joke in their telling of it... there is supposed to be a delay before the last word, i.e. "What? Are you sinking... about?" which makes the surprise much more visceral.
    – Michael
    May 18, 2015 at 22:32
  • 4
    Why are you skeptical of this claim?
    – gerrit
    May 19, 2015 at 9:11
  • 1
    @gerrit Sometimes ads that are a bit "edgy" are actually spoof commercials rather than real. For example this National Lampoon mock Volkwagen ad
    – Golden Cuy
    May 19, 2015 at 9:16

1 Answer 1


The advertisement was created for Berlitz Corporation and made by BTS United.

According to the following website:

BTS has been creating award winning work in Norway for over 50 years. A testament to the quality of their work lies in the long-terms partnerships with clients. They are most famous for creating one of the most awarded viral ads of all time.

If you go through the main page of their official website btsunited.com, you'll find the official version of the advertisement uploaded on their website:

enter image description here

As you can see Berlitz is the Client.

Additionally, bestadsontv.com has insights and more information on the production and the creation of the video:

Title: The german coastguard
Client: Berlitz
Agency: BTS United, Oslo
Production: Motion Blur, Oslo
Country: Norway
Uploaded: 3 February, 2006


Director: Nic & Sune
Creative Director: Thorbjørn Naug
Art Director: Thorbjørn Naug
Copyrighter: Paal Sparre Enger
Producer: Espen Horn

Additional credits:

Account Director: Bror Falck-Paulsen
Editor: Christian Hvatum

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