“Go to bed, Jessica!” What happened to the little girl in the NSW viral ad? | australian tv


If you were to watch TV in New South Wales in 1998, you know about advertising.

It begins with an interview with “Tony” at a police station. He was charged with drunk driving after killing a little girl at a crosswalk. Later that night, he returns home to a house full of classic ’80s and’ 90s decors, all in brown vinyl and linoleum. The kitchen is cleaned after the dinner he missed. His wife berates him and their little child wakes up because of their fights. “Go to bed, Jessica!” Tony said forcefully. Jessica flinched, holding her teddy bear, before jutting out her hip in defiance.

The then Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announcement was meant to be an emotional attempt to convey the myriad types of devastation that can be caused by driving under the influence of alcohol. But like “Not happy Jan” (Yellow Pages), “Oh Mr Hart, what a waste!” (Dupont Carpet) and “GOGGO, go-go mobile” (again, Yellow Pages), “Go to bed, Jessica” will be remembered not so much for its efficiency but for that distinctive line – which, unlike its intention, many people have found it quite funny – absorbing itself into cultural memory.

For the generation who watch, who are now online, the advertising lives on through this memorable line. If you are between 30 and 40 years old in New South Wales, these four words mean a lot. It’s a joke in the pub. They are a connector. They are a shared experience.

They’ve been turned into remixes, tributes, and YouTube memes, but the line has become the most powerful to replace being tired of something or telling someone to get lost. In fact, this article was born because my sister, in a bad mood after watching the news, told me, “I think it’s time for you to go to bed, Jessica. (My name is Melanie.) But what happened to the real Jessica?

Jessica Cepeniuk (yes, her real name is Jessica) was the younger of two children from Campbelltown in the western parts of Sydney when she played the character. By the time the announcement reached her, she was a seasoned professional at the age of five.

“Mom put me in an agency. I did a lot of American ads, ads that weren’t really seen here, with the exception of one Medibank Private at the same time. My mom was a single mom and she took us around town when we had to do auditions, ”Cepeniuk told Guardian Australia.

After being cast in the RTA ad, the ad company hosted the young family in a hotel overnight.

“My family didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so it was a really special experience. Back then my favorite food was corn, and I was really excited because at the hotel restaurant I could eat all the corn I wanted. We were in a room with two beds and I was jumping from one to the other, which I wanted to do at home. It was pretty exciting to be able to do that.

On the day of filming everything went as planned, except for the famous thrill.

The actor playing Jessica’s father, Warwick Young, kept saying “Go to bed, Jessica!” without much reaction from Cepeniuk. She stood there defiantly with her teddy bear.

“The publicity team met mum and asked her ‘Do you mind if we go a little deeper just to see what else we can get from her, just to make him a little more powerful?’

“Mum said, ‘Sure, do whatever you want.’ So what really happened to get this pic was when he turned to me, he actually yelled “Shut up!” – as if he had yelled at me. And this reaction is the one they used. This reaction was what they wanted because I didn’t cry or do something like that. It wasn’t too loud, I didn’t cry, so it’s a little more realistic.

Cepeniuk was able to use her own teddy bear for the advertisement and bring home the pajamas she wore during the shoot. Photograph: Matthew Newton / The Guardian

Cepeniuk is pretty sure the little hand on the hip defiant act after the pullback is because she grew up with a single mom – she didn’t have time for men to berate her, even at the age of five.

“I think if I had grown up with a father figure, I probably wouldn’t have done this. It was like ‘You are not my father!’ “

She was also able to use her own teddy bear and bring the pajamas home after the shoot. Along with the hotel, corn, plush, and pajamas, it was one of the best times Cepeniuk has had on set.

This thrill would be imprinted in the cultural memory of Australia, even if there was no way to know it at the time. Cepeniuk’s life continued normally. She was teased a bit in school and recognized in stores, but didn’t realize her significance until about a year later, in the car with her mom and sister.

“We walked past a wall that had someone graffiti ‘Go to bed Jessica’.”

Robert Crawford, professor of advertising at RMIT, explains that cutting these ads is as much about the period in which they were broadcast, before television gave way to targeted online advertising and streaming, as it is about the skill. which made it possible to create them.

“These great campaigns will always be there. We will always talk about them, but they will not be seen by the same percentage of people. The ubiquity of television advertising is not there, ”says Crawford.

Cepeniuk is 28 now, lives in Hobart and works as a school teacher, having decided to stop playing shortly after the “Go to bed, Jessica!” ads. Every now and then she gets a royalty check for the ad, or tells a new friend that she is as Jessica, and she remembers corn and hopping on hotel beds, and smiles.

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