MOSCOW, Russia - An animated squirrel slurs his words and bursts into song in a Russian ad campaign to cut alcoholism that has become an unexpected hit, viewed more than one million times on the Internet.
The public service ad, mimicking the behaviour of a hard drinker, was commissioned by the health and social development ministry as part of its "healthy lifestyle program", a spokeswoman said Friday.
The ad has not been televised, but has been watched more than one million times on YouTube. It can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73cjNp7n75o.
The scrawny, red-eyed squirrel slurs a rambling monologue about catching spiders and killing a friend's wife because she is a devil, as well as bursting into a popular song about the Volga river.
The ad ends with the slogan, "Do you drink? Then I'm coming to you," a parody of the slogan in a popular washing powder ad.
"The ad has become the most popular social ad in Russia for the last 10 years," wrote Argumenty i Fakty newspaper.
It is a play on words because the Russian word for squirrel, belochka, is a slang term for delirium tremens, the final stage of alcoholism.
The Kremlin has recently imposed a ban on drink driving, new minimum legal price limits for vodka and outlawed night-time sales of alcohol to curb abuse blamed for the deaths of thousands of Russians every year.
Alcohol abuse kills around 500,000 Russians annually and greatly impacts male life expectancy, which is lower than in such developing countries as Bangladesh and Honduras, according to official figures.