When ads miss their targets - but raise important questions
This post shares with a previous one (https://www.soupthink.com/blog-page/2017/9/20-when-ads-reflect-life-very-closely) a mass-market product. This time around it’s about Victoria Bitter beer rather than hamburgers, and the ad dates from 2010. Likewise, this ad is making an appeal to “keeping it real”, and a kind of "nostalgia" for a simpler way of life. The angle here is different, though: it’s specifically aimed at men.
Here’s the ad (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsZ8mTkY6BY). There are five vignettes involved, as follows:
- Two younger blue-collar blokes are shaking hands. One of them is shown trying to do an elaborate kind of handshake, The other one is holding his hand out, and looking disgusted, as if the first guy has handed him an angry brown snake to hold.
- A man is walking back to his group of friends, carrying two large fruit cocktails, one for his girl, and one for him.
- A man in a doctor's surgery trying to get rid of his "man boobs".
- At a house party, a man is rubbing cream into his hands. A male friend approaches him with a bottle of VB.
- The fifth scene shows a man dressed up to the nines in lycra cycling gear. He stands out from everyone else at the gym in such clothing.
In all of these scenes, one after the other, the protagonists burst into tears (yes, really!) from the stress of it all. The remedy, of course, is for their friends to give them a VB, at which point things get better. The ad then shows the shot of the VB bottle in the hand, and the tagline "The Real Beer", followed by the word "Real".
Given that the ad vanished, it appears it didn’t help to sell any more beer. I’m not surprised- the ad fails completely to make me want to drink the beer at all. In broad terms, the ad is actually saying is that it's OK to let go sometimes, and just to be our true selves - we don't have to impress anybody. Although the opposite take on that is what, exactly? That broad social acceptance will only occur if we drink this beer, and don’t try to stand out or improve ourselves in any way? No wonder mainstream beer sales are flat, if that’s how people perceive the message.
But there is more here than humour. In an ad that’s all about masculinity, the most powerful vignette is what happens between the handshake couple. When the bloke who is looking down at his hands burst into tears, his friend impulsively gives him a hug, and the camera turns around to show the friend's face as he seems to have a revelation (or several) about what's just happened. Here he is, a (presumably) heterosexual male, doing the very "un-manly" thing of hugging another man. He is able to give comfort to someone in pain, and maybe he also realises how long his friend has been feeling lonely for, and why he has been trying to do these ridiculous handshakes as a way of gaining some type of "street cred". This part of the ad is not actually funny....it's thought-provoking.
What could happen if this type of technique focused upon topics much more important than beer? Could we make a material impact upon depression, or on youth suicide? And surely there is a need for something similar for women too.