Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Commercial Break: Hooray Red Stripe Ads

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 28, 2008

Man am I glad Passover is finished

I watch enough commercials in my day-to-day life that a good campaign–I mean, a really good ad campaign–should be able to convince me to purchase their product. An obvious point, seemingly, but I don’t mean that they should convince me as to why their product is the best, but rather, they should be entertaining enough that I feel the need to reward their efforts by purchasing the product. I don’t currently pay for car insurance, but if I started to, GEICO would certainly be the first company I turned to in deference to their numerous dynastic series. Likewise, I don’t feel my apartment is particularly in need of carpeting, but should I ever feel differently, Empire Carpets would get my phone call for the countless minutes of pleasure their ad jingle gave me. And finally, though if memory serves I don’t even particularly care for it, I’ll almost always opt for a Red Stripe over a replacement beer when the opportunity arises, because their commercials are that fucking good.

It’d been a while for me–a year or two even–before I saw Red Stripe’s “helping white people dance” ad on TV earlier today. I’ve always harbored a fondness for these commercials, but seeing this one in the arid desert that is contemporary beer advertising (Let’s vent? Let’s vent. Let’s vent? Let’s vent! Let’s Vent? Let’s vent! LET’S VENT???!?!?!? LET’S VENT!!!!!??!!!!?) was just as cool and refreshing as a Red Stripe itself, uh, probably should be. What happened? Where did they go for all this time? Are they back for good now? Will there be new ones??

It’s the simple, almost DIY feel that gets to me. The commercial concept itself isn’t particularly unique or interesting–in fact, it’s ripped almost wholesale from this oft-seen poster / t-shirt:

And this poster is a one-off novelty at best. But the commercial remains fresh just due to how diametrically opposed it is to most beer commercials. If Budweiser or Coors Light was doing the same campaign, it’d be set in a trendy bar or upscale apartment, soundtracked by mildly hip-sounding dance-rock and full of more moderately attractive twenty-somethings than you can shake a stick at. Red Stripe, you’ve just got a practically abandoned shack, some casio-sounding reggae, a pudgy white dude and an old Jamaican guy who looks and acts like he exists for the sole purpose of shilling this beer and is kept in a cage like The Gimp in Pulp Fiction (or just a former sinner stuck in permanent Red Stripe limbo, like Delbert Grady in The Shining) at all other times. Lo-fi isn’t an adjective most commercials would ever aspire to, but it comes off as charmingly casual here.

Even better is their short, stubby, ugly bottle commercial. It’s got the same DIY asthetic as the helping white guys dance one, but is conceptually brilliant as well. Its justification of the bottle’s admittedly ungainly appearance–that it will make you appear beautiful by comparison–is of course laughable, but it’s also so strangely logical that it actually makes you wonder “wait, is that the real reason the bottle is shaped that way?” (Can you think of a better one?) The fact that it features the caged-Shining-Jamaican guy yelling “YOU ARE VERY UGLY!!” at a timid bar patron (whose self-confidence is presumably shattered, at least until he gets another couple Red Stripes in him), and that that guy will have the dubious distinction of being “the Ugly Red Stripe Guy” among his group of friends for the rest of his life, just makes it more precious.

But the crowning achievement of this Red Stripe ad campaign is the tagline. Most beers try their hardest in their commercials to differenciate themselves from all other beers, whether it’s through catching customers with a catchy, easily identifiable slogan (like the frustratingly misleading Coors ads that promise you a taste of the Rockies), or whether it’s through trying to prove that you have a legitimately superior set of ingredients (like those insufferably smug Sam Adams ads). But Red Stripe’s main hook–“Red Stripe. It’s beer! HOORAY BEER!”–is ballsy enough to do the exact opposite. Because the truth is, for me at least, some beers are better than others, but at the end of the day, beer is beer–if it tastes beer-ish and does its part in getting me closer to drunk, then it’s probably good enough for me*. And so for Red Stripe to basically admit this straight up–that yeah, maybe there are things that make their beers taste different, but really most of that is usually bullshit and you probably don’t want to be insulted by all that nonsense–gets them countless points in my book.

Enough to drink their mediocre beer out of their short, stubby, ugly bottle, anyways.

*light beer not included under this umbrella statement
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