Strongbow

by

Fizzy piss

Adverts are a really easy target. They have a limited time to deliver a very specific message and that must be prioritised ahead of normal storytelling logic; you don’t need to know why the Englishman is involved in the mass exodus of a city during a Latin America Revolution, you just need to know that wearing Lynx makes him calm doing it, and it impresses the shit out of really hot women who are also inexplicably caught up in said revolution.

It’s a form of social contract between the advertising industry and the audience. The audience accept that the adverts will not stand up to scrutiny and therefore do not ask for greater detail than they are given. In return the advertising industry get to rape all that is good and holy in the world, and are allowed to systematically destroy societal values, culture, language and laws until the population bow down before the almighty God of consumerism.

Anyway. Their simple nature gives them a form of exclusion from too much dissection. A man could go mad trying to chart and satirically write about all the logic flaws contained in adverts, and who really cares? Blot on the landscape of life they may be, and sociological fascination most definately, but the simple narrative is too insignificant to spend too much time worrying about.

The internal worlds that TV adverts exist in are very fragile. Mostly we’ll accept the fictional version of reality as they present it, but if they step outside that carefully constructed world the whole thing falls apart. It with this in mind that I’d like to discuss the new Strongbow advert – the first from their new “aaaaaah, first pint” campaign – and one specific section of it.

Strongbow ad

First off, it’s quite a good advert. The idea is clear and concise, the target demographic well catered to and the presentation slick yet charming. The basic concept is a good one – we’ve all experienced that lovely first hit of a cold pint on a summers day and they are saying that by drinking Strongbow you can prolong and heighten that sensation. The man in the advert goes into some kind of orgasmic trance when tasting the stuff, but that’s a good enough representation of the idea.

Or is it? I have issue with the background action of this advert, and I believe it’s broken its contract with the audience and has failed to stay within the confines of its set universe. The first question to ask is how long a period does this incident take place over? Judging by the amount the two lager fans drink, I could estimate no more than ten minutes, which I think is a fair time to consume a quarter of a pint. Ten minutes is statistically long enough to run into a charity collector in a pub. It’s low odds, but it could happen so I have no problem with that indicator of the passing of time – what worries me is the football match.

There is no football match playing when they enter the bar, nor is there one playing when the main character comes out of his alcohol induced coma. This can mean one of two things – that either a flash mob of sophisticated football fans overran the place for ten minutes before beating a hasty retreat, at the exact same time as our man first sipped his Strongbow (statistically very unlikely) or he was engaged in a buddhist experience of the liver for well over two hours.

This would mean not only did he miss a good portion of his evening out, but also that he didn’t see the football and his two friends will be a good three pints in by now and probably quite pissed. What is the message that Strongbow are trying to send out? That their drink is so fucking good you will become paralysed for several hours and totally incommunicable to the outside world? Maybe their grand plan is to create a nation of zombified alcoholics? Pubs across the land will be filled with exhaling Strongbow drinkers, grinning like petrified corpses and making noises like the recreated humans in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Of course that’s not the case; the football match was just used as a visual indication of the passing of time – but this is what I mean by a poor narrative within adverts. The advert has failed to make me want to buy the product as every time I see it I think “Christ! Poor bastard, how long was he there for?”

Of course it could be argued that since I’m talking about it the advert has succeeded in raising the profile of the product. Then again, the fact that it tastes like sugar fermented in pomane and mixed with piss also guarantees that I’ll never drink the stuff, no matter how good or how crap their adverts are.

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26 Responses to “Strongbow”

  1. Napoleon Cockaparte Says:

    ‘Then again, the fact that it tastes like sugar fermented in pomane and mixed with piss also guarantees that I’ll never drink the stuff, no matter how good or how crap their adverts are.’

    This no longer matters. Cider is the ‘now’ drink because the hapless drones of this world have been told it is by advertising executives. When I was a lad Cider was (and still is as far as I’m concerned) a tramp’s drink … now it’s compulsory – especially if you own a pair of really really big sunglasses and wear your boots outside your jeans. Advertisers managed to pull off the same trick with Vodka a couple of years back … “Honestly, it’s not a drink for hopeless, near-suicidal alcoholics, it’s the drink for YOU – the cool cats in the pink t-shirts with the £60 haircuts that look indistinguishable from £5 haircuts.”

    The potato generation has risen … advertisers have never had it so easy.

  2. Joe C Says:

    In addition, I’ve heard that the wankers marketing champagne are looking to try and capitalise on the success of Magners and the like by promoting champagne as another drink that can be enjoyed with ice.

    How the fuck has the fact that a drink can be drunk with ice in it become something to hang a marketing campaign off the back of?

    It’s insane. I’m waiting for Stella to get in on the act. Mmmm, imagine a nice cold pint of Stella with added ice. No longer wife beater, but a sophisticated summer drink for one and all.

  3. Swineshead Says:

    Delicious bumgravy… just add ice.

    *slurp*

  4. Dave Medlo Says:

    “How the fuck has the fact that a drink can be drunk with ice in it become something to hang a marketing campaign off the back of?”

    Especially as it’s an alcoholic drink and you’re therefore actually watering it down.

    My personal favourite of the last few years, though, has to be the reimagining of Southern Comfort as SoCo. Not only it aimed soley at the only demographic that advertising executive know – advertising executives and their stupidly rich invest banker friends – it also misses the point of the drink entirely. It wasn’t cool, it wasn’t sophisticated and it certainly wasn’t classy. The 30-years too late style looked like somebody had vomited on the screen, and the voiceover comprised of one actor saying SoCO in a variety of different silly voices. Just awful.

  5. Napoleon Cockaparte Says:

    SoCo? I hadn’t heard that one before … is that an example of ‘blue sky thinking’ from our advertising friends? Have they been brainstorming? Thinking out of the box?

    God give me strength.

  6. Swineshead Says:

    I have a few friends who are advertising execs – I’m a copywriter myself some of the time. There seems to be a blind prejudice building here in these comments about anyone who works in Marketing. Which is as dumb as fuck.

  7. graham Says:

    I was going to make a similar point to m’colleague, there. Hysterical sentiments like:

    “The advertising industry get to rape all that is good and holy in the world, and are allowed to systematically destroy societal values, culture, language and laws until the population bow down before the almighty God of consumerism”

    are just accepted these days, by those vaguely left of centre, as an unquestionable justification for generally oppositional ranting, but in fact it’s a deeply philosophical point which needs qualifying. It’a broad brush applying truth paint, but the paint is badly mixed, and the colours are not in complete harmony with the expensive carpet.

    I say the executive backlash starts here.

  8. Napoleon Cockaparte Says:

    Only a prejudice against anyone who is paid a wage to inflict debt consolidation loan advertisements on the British public. Or Safestyle UK adverts. Or smartarse Guiness adverts. Or ads that point out how fucking stupid men are compared to women. Or adverts for sanitary towels that make out dripping blood from your vagina is the occasion to let your hair down and have a party. Or ‘Mummy’ adverts that actually call grown women ‘Mummy’. Or Tesco adverts using reassurring celebrity voices to make us feel like they’re part of the family. Or adverts about families. Or those poncy perfume adverts. Or adverts that try to make you feel embarrassed about your mobile fucking phone. Or adverts that claim a cream will prevent wrinkles. Or adverts that make out being over-50 is great. Or adverts for Halifax and Barclays that try to make them seem like they’re our friends when in fact they’re fuckers who’d sell your mother down the river for a dollar …

    Of course, advertisers are only following orders and I’m sure they’re lovely people.

  9. Swineshead Says:

    It depends what’s being marketed, and how. Your examplesare all pretty much valid as consumer marketing (ie, stuff on the TV) is generally awful and targeted cynically.

  10. Napoleon Cockaparte Says:

    Then change my mind. What am I missing here? Because it certainly isn’t Frosties ads.

  11. Swineshead Says:

    Charity advertising (not muggers – they annoy me as much as anyone – but forms that fall out of magazines are hardly that intrusive)

    Recruitment advertising (people need jobs and so they are conveniently added to the newspaper recruitment section)

    Targeted advertising isn’t so bad – say you’re a member of an institute or society and something is advertised to you that you’ll probably like.

    Also – aren’t words like ‘rape’ a bit strong considering there are diamond-mining companies and the pharmeceutical trade out there?

  12. graham Says:

    There’s a line in Roger Dodger where the titular copywriter explains to his young nephew what he does for a lving: ‘I sit and think of ways to make people feel bad about something.’ That’s a rough paraphrase.

    The point is – advertising, by it’s very nature, is intended to appeal to the most amount of people at any given time, and therefore the lowest common denominator is essential to its function. Criticising it for this is missing the point entirely. So is getting angry. If advertising were ‘intelligent’ it would be targeted adverts selling calculus books to phd students, and the entire economic logic of it would collapse.

    Sort of.

  13. Swineshead Says:

    I think we’re all agreeing – it’s just some of us are angrier about it than others.

  14. Dave Medlo Says:

    “Also – aren’t words like ‘rape’ a bit strong considering there are diamond-mining companies and the pharmeceutical trade out there?”

    Diamond mining companies and the pharmeceutical trade are rapers of peoples lives, the adverting industry rapes culture. It takes commonly shared iconography, historical moments, art, music and personalities and distorts them for financial gain.

    My turning point came when Swatch used footage of the Unknown Rebel in Tiananmen Square in one of their advertising campaigns. I understand that it is an infamous moment that perfectly sums up the ideals of rebellion, something that Swatch were trying to capture, but it is also a pivotal moment in the 20th Century and to use it to sell a watch is both glib and offensive and over time cheapens the effect of the act itself.

    Advertising is a neccessary evil, and the forms of promotion that Swineshead lists are valid and useful – however my issue lays with the methods they employ. The tactics and techniques used in the majority of TV and print advertising are misleading, counter-productive and present themselves as having a higer purpose.

    Has anyone seen the new Shell advert?

    Adverts like this muddle consumer knowledge, paint false impressions of a company and distract from the real issues. Because they are selling a brand and not a specific product they can afford to be ambiguous and create a ‘personality’ for the company, which is then assumed to the standard of their business practices.

    Equally, adverts like the Nike ‘Hurt’ campaign takes the hard work, reputation and lifetime image of Johnny Cash and simply transposes it onto themselves. It ruins the effect of the song and takes credibility away from the artist – of course the argument that the Cash estate willing licensed the track is extremely valid, but as a fan of that song and of that artist I have now had something very precious taken away from me.

    I have several friends who work in advertising and they’re all lovely people, I have friends who share a lift with Rupert Murdoch every day and they too are very nice people – however it doesn’t change the fact that I think what they do is harmful to society and counter-productive to the evolution of individuals.

    Oh, and here’s that awful Southern Comfort advert:

  15. Swineshead Says:

    I was simply saying that I think it’s pointless getting annoyed about it.

    Shameful though it may be to admit it, I first heard the Velvet Undergound via that Dunlop ad. The tune (venus in furs) was undiluted and given some pretty cool imagery. From there I bought their eponymous album and a new phase of my music-listening life began. That’s not embarassing unless you take yourself far too seriously.

    The Jose Gonzales advert (Bravia) did nothing to damage the artist’s profile, and the imagery involved actually fitted it beautifully. Who cares that the product is a TV? Not me.

    Why is everyone so sensitive?

    Do you solely watch the BBC because of this hatred of advertising? Programmes don’t get made without advertising capital, and as a viewer of any commercial channel you’ve signed the contract. it’s your fault as much as anyone elses, so calm down.

    I felt this was a good article, by the way. I enjoyed the hyperbole. I just think the demonisation of advertisers is ludicrous when you’ve already entered into an unspoken agreement with them by tuning into channel 4 on your telly-box.

  16. Swineshead Says:

    To summarise my burbling:

    Criticising content of individual ads (Strongbow / Swatch etc) is healthy and good. Saying all advertisers are shit is quite the opposite.

    Armando Iannucci (sp?) directed the current Nationwide ads, I’ll point out at this juncture.

  17. Napoleon Cockaparte Says:

    Then Armando Iannucci should be strung up by his balls and flogged until he shits organs.

  18. Swineshead Says:

    This is all starting to sound a bit Kristallnacht. Blaming advertisers for the world’s ills…

  19. Dave Medlo Says:

    No I don’t just watch the BBC – although I’ve found that by downloading most of my TV shows I rarely have to see the adverts at all… I accept them as a necessary evil and prefer to mock them than rant about them. That said, I feel that as a commerical construct they wield too much power and I find them invasive.

    The advertising industry is a cornerstone of our econony – without it the world would be a less subsidised place and many, many artists, musicians and filmmakers would remain undiscovered. There are some undoubtably fantastic pieces of work out there too – I didn’t even know that Joze Gonzales advert was for a TV, but there’s no denying that it’s beautiful.

    If an advert is well constructed and doesn’t pander to base levels then I tend to have no issue with it, it’s those commercials that exploit larger subject matters and claim worldy importance that I worry about. By aligning commercial properties with larger subject matters – physical deformity to sell a car, politcial unrest to sell a watch, environmentalism to sell oil – you run the risk of cheapening and distorting these subjects. Unchecked, this could lead to an even more distorted worldview where commercial interests are more heavily relied on than scientific data or human experience.

    I’m not screaming conspiracy, nor am I claiming that all advertising is evil and it’s deliberately ruining the world – I just think that we need to be a little wiser to the machinations of an enormously influential industry who’s primary role is to convince you to part with your money.

    Glad you liked the article – it was meant to be more lighthearted and pedantic than this thread has become but, hey, at least no-ones mentioned the Nazis yet.

    Didn’t know about Armanda Iannucci though, that disappoints me. Which ad’s are those?

  20. piqued Says:

    Has anyone got a light?

    I just hope I can get outdoors to smoke AND keep this erection concealed from the work experience girl

  21. Swineshead Says:

    Piqued, tape it to your mons pubis.

    Medlo – I agree with you sir.

    Ianucci did the ones with Mark Benton…

    That link better work or it’ll look like a bloody mess.

  22. graham Says:

    Those Iannucci ads are quite funny – ‘brand new customers only’, roly-poly funny man, etc.

    I saw the same Tiannamen Square iconography used in a Kasabian video. It just made me think that Kasabian were idiots, and I wouldn’t be buying their records, as they clearly has no knowledge outside of their rock star hats and jeans. The same would go for any other kind of advert I felt had misused an image or idea from another context. It’s the same misapropriation that Nathan Barley satirised so well.

    When it comes to music, I would’ve thought that the personal bond you had formed with song would be too hard to break by a 30 second info-blurt. In recent memory, I can think of Vashti Bunyan on a mobile phone ad, 2 cars ads featuring The Fall, Mogwai advertising banks, and as incidental music in Sex and The City (!), and, perhaps most gallingly, the entirety of Selected Ambient Works 85-92 on Rhodes Around Britain. But when I hear Xtal or We Are The Music Makers now, I don’t suddenly conjure up an image of an insincere chef making upmarket suasages in a self satisified way. Gary Rhodes will never stop the music. If it can be snatched away from you so easily, you probably didn’t love it enough in the first place. And if your knowledge and understanding of popular news events can muddled by reappropriation by advertising then you haven’t been paying enough attention. Advertising understands the freeplay of signs and signifiers and the audience is bound only by the limits of their understanding.

    I remember, Dave, having a coversation with you about a Bill Hicks t-shirt, where they’d taken his fag-smoking face and placed it next to an out of context quote – “Jesus Was An Idiot” or something” – to create something wholly innapropriate, and we both bemoaned the nefarious intent therein. Thinking about it now, what Bill Hicks fan would wear that t-shirt? Anyone who knows his material would dismiss the shirt as infantile. It therefore has no worth, and turns to dust.

    And just one last thing – that Lynx advert, where the fellow sprays himself on a beach, like an out of control threshing machine, and hundreds nay thousands of women charge to him, manic with the stench of priapic lust. Well, I’m saying the force of impact of that many bodies will crush the gentleman to death in seconds. What you are watching are the waning seconds of a misguided fool’s life. With that in mind, it becomes a quite moving experience.

  23. Swineshead Says:

    Aye, but what a way to go!
    Right, lads?

    *wink*

    *flops cock out*

    *points at it*

  24. piqued Says:

    *points at it too*

    *not sure why*

    *cries*

  25. Napoleon Cockaparte Says:

    I agree with everything that’s been said. Indeed, I elaborate on it at great lengths here:

    http://ittodbtbia.wordpress.com/

    Thanks … cough cough cough

  26. Swineshead Says:

    Article on Cider-selling

    http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/drink/story/0,,2061754,00.html

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