Silva Captain and the Lighthouse

Silva, the Sweden-based manufacturer of marine navigational equipment, borrowed a vintage naval joke in 2004 in the television advertisement, “The Captain”. The campaign was designed to enhance Silva’s reputation in the provision of equipment for marine and outdoor lesiure activities with provision of compasses, GPS, mobile lighting, optics, headlamps, binoculars, outdoor instruments and marine electronics. The 70 second spot opens somewhere in the Irish Sea. The camera reveals one half of a radio conversation in the communications room of a fictional United States warship. On the other end of the line is an Irish voice.

Silva Captain speaks

“Again this is the USS Montana requesting that you immediately divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision. Over.”
“Please divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid collision.”
The American end of the conversation is now taken over by the ship’s captain.
“This is Captain Hancock. You will divert your course. Over.”
“Negative captain. I’m not moving anything. Change your course. Over.”
“Son. This is the USS Montana, the second largest vessel in the North Atlantic Fleet. You WILL change course fifteen degrees North or I will be forced to take measures to ensure the safety of this ship. Over!”
“This is a lighthouse mate. It’s your call… Hello… Captain?”

Lighthouse with Silva text

The super: “SILVA. Riktig Navigationsutrustning. Till Lands Och Sjoss. Sedan 1932.” The last word in the radio conversation is provided by the Irish lighthouse attendant… “… I think he’s gone. Fair enough.”


The Silva ‘Captain’ advertisement was developed at Gimla, Stockholm, by art director Pelle Lundqvist, copywriter Johan Hellström, agency producer Fabian Mannheimer and account supervisor Fredrik Ölander, working with Silva marketing team Tony Kent and Jonas Magner.

Filming was directed by Tomas Jonsgården via Forsberg & Co, Stockholm, with director of photography Mats Axby, producer Caroline Forsberg, and editor Mattias Silva Carrascu.


The Silva Captain ad won a Bronze Lion at Cannes International Advertising Festival in 2004 for entertainment and leisure. It has been suggested that the reason the ad wasn’t given higher recognition was the fact that the spot is based on a well known tall tale.

The Lighthouse Story

The story of the obstinate USA warship captain and the lighthouse attendant has been round for a long time. According to a Snopes online article, there are naval staff who talk about seeing the joke passed around in the 1960s. In 1996 the US Navy contributed to a newspaper article debunking the veracity of the urban myth, in response to uncritical use of the story in high profile newspapers and television talk shows.

Kevin Wensing, an Atlantic Fleet spokesman in Norfolk, wrote in the article, “The first time I heard of it was – oh, let’s see, how long – about 10 years ago or so, I think. That story’s so old, it probably started out back in the galleon days, or back when there was a big lighthouse at Alexandria, Egypt.”