Will "Real Men" Drink Molson?
ADS MAGAZINE, June 1985
by Christina Kelly
The new age, sensitive male must be here to stay - with the Molson campaign, he’s penetrated that genre of macho, boys-only advertising: beer commercials.
Molson’s radio spots, which have dominated the brand’s advertising for five years, feature a modern man and woman trading witticisms in contemporary settings: camping, at the supermarket, as rivals in a baseball game. Both are represented as folly-developed, yet vulnerable, human beings. The results: appealing spots that have received record recognition scores.
The campaign is revolutionary for a category whose typical back-drops run the gamut of traditional male activities, from the all-guys poker game (Stroh’s renowned "Ales the Dog"), to the cold brew shared after a hard day of blue-collar work (Budweiser’s campaign, for one).
Beer advertising has clearly emphasized the concept of male-bonding; if there were a fraternity house for 35-year-old men, you’d surely find it in a beer commercial.
"The Molson campaign reflects a new attitude in terms of the beer drinker," says Terry Gallo, creative group head at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample/New York, Molson’s agency. "The man is obviously sure of himself, bur he’s vulnerable. The woman is intelligent, not just someone who is there to look pretty. She’s very independent, but she’s still attracted eon this man. People find this advertising very appealing because they recognize themselves, in this man."
Molson’s campaign is the only beer advertising that features a woman, save the Miller campaign’s depiction of a female weight-lifter. But Miller’s sell is still macho, even if it does go after macho women this time.
Women have been ignored by beer advertisers for a good business reason: they represent a small percentage of the beer-drinking market. Molson’s campaign does nor constitute a full-fledged effort to position itself as the first woman’s beer. Rather, it’s a fresh way of appealing to men.
"We’re directing this advertising primarily at the man," says Steve Dolleck, associate creative director on Molson. "The woman just comes along as a secondary target ."
"I do think that we are getting a lot of women pulled into this advertising," says Gallo, "even though, just for statistics’ sake, we find we have to go after the men. Molson and Miller are taking baby steps into a market that everyone is still very unsure of."
Says Garrett Brown, who originated the radio campaign with Ann Winn: "The campaign is directed at both men and women. Sometimes in developing a spot we switch roles."
Ray Shannon, vice president/brand director at Martlet Importers, says that "men are the people who drink Molson, although the female is an important secondary target." Demographically, Molson’s target is the core of the import market: men between the legal drinking age and 34, better educated, upscale - and presumably interested in relating to the "fully-developed woman" of the radio spot.
Molson also goes after the super premium market, the aficionados of such beers as Michelob, according to DFS management supervisor Jim Hunter. "You can’t live on the import market alone," he says. "The Canadian import is the happy medium between the import and super premium."
Strategy Follows Radio
The strategy for approaching Molson’s target market was established in an off-beat manner. "We came from the back," says Hunter. "We tried to analyze what was in the radio spots that appealed to our target audience through a great deal of research." When Dancer got the Molson business in January 1984 (the former agency was Rumrill-Hoyt), the radio spots were already renowned from their effectiveness.
DFS discerned that there was a common element underlying the campaign’s success. "It involves," says Dolleck, " an obsession with Molson, central and probably the catalyst for the meeting of a man and a woman." Garrett Brown and Ann Winn would continue to create the radio, and the agency also opted for print which follows the same strategy.
In essence, Dancer has adopted the same principles that Brown and Winn used instinctively for five years - the agency has simply put the strategy into words. According to Shannon, Martlet chose Dancer because they have "the combination of creative and research needed to understand our target market."
Surprisingly, the first radio spot Brown and Winn produced for Molson was shelved for a few years. That spot, "Border Crossing," about a female U.S. custom official and a male truck driver delivering Molson, was dusted off by Shannon, who liked it enough to test the commercial. It got record focus group scores.
Shannon persuaded the team to create more radio for Molson. It wasn’t an easy task, since the two - who had created over 100 spots in the early ‘70s - had retired, Brown to work as a cameraman and Winn to raise horses. Nevertheless, in 1980 they agreed to commence the series.
Scripts Are Ad Libbed
The process by which the duo creates a spot is unique. "The commercials are not written down," says Brown. "We think about who we might be, and then we flesh out where the hell we are. We try to get into the skins of the people we are portraying."
Then Brown and Winn ad lib. "Ann and I happen to find each other very funny," he says. "There are times when the spot comes out in a few takes. But some spots have 60 electronic edits, because the first time we say something funny is usually the best. The genuine reaction is starling, and is often plucked from earlier takes because we’re not good enough actors to duplicate it."
There are three new spots currently on air (the scripts are printed on page 30), and Brown and Winn have recently completed a spot called "hill Street Blues," in which a policewoman and a lieutenant inventory stolen goods. "All or the spots involve two human beings and the fact that there is a chance for a relationship," says Brown. "I’d like to really be guy that I portray."
Translation Into Print
Molson’s media mix has emphasized radio, while tv has been the domain of most beer advertisers. "The import market is easy to target with radio," says Hunter, "because radio is very segmented. Younger audiences are the most difficult to reach with television, and we can’t compete with the beers that are spending 50 to 60 million dollars on tv.
"The only other medium that really segments that audience," says Hunter, "is print. And we haven’t until now been able to translate the strategy into print."
Rumrill-Hoyt attempted to translate the radio into tv. The two spots, one about a wine steward and one involving production people on a set avoided showing the actor’s heads to maintain the mystique. Brown and Winn’s voices were dubbed in. "The image or the radio didn’t really come out in the tv," says Dolleck. The spots do look awkward and contrived, and were pulled of the air.
The creative team encountered similar problems in translating the radio into print, but the agency feels that it effort have been successful this time. Says Peggy Gregerson the copywriter: "Probably what makes the radio so great is that you use your imagination about what these people look like. We didn’t want to show their faces and destroy that."
"It’s a 60 second spot that you’re trying to boil down for a print ad," said Joe Loconto, the art director. "We decided to have a very strong graphic look and keep the mystique of the people, whoever they are." Molson is, as in the radio, the catalyst for their relationship.
The agency presented four executions to the client; two are being used currently. One ad is a beach scene, the other a camping scene. Although the camping scene may be reminiscent or the "Camping" radio spot, the print ads are not intended to evoke any particular radio spots. "We intentionally wanted to create new situations in the print," says Gallo. "Each print execution and each radio execution should stand on its own in case someone is unfamiliar with the rest of the campaign."
The print campaign was modeled on the Brown-Winn radio, but according to Brown, he was not consulted in developing the print, nor has he seen it. Brown and Winn, on the other hand, claim that they work fairly closely with Dancer, playing spots over the phone as they are created.
Because Molson depends heavily on radio, the proposed ban of beer and wine advertising on broadcast will drastically affect the campaign if it ever becomes law. Neither Martlet Importers or Dancer Fitzgerald Sample appear worried.
"Whether or not a ban will come about remains to be seen," says Shannon. "And the concept can be translated into print." Yet, whether the concept truly translates into other media remains to be seen as well. Since the print has just broken, its effectiveness has not yet been measured. Further, the effectiveness of a print campaign without the radio may be another set of figures altogether.
If the ban does go through, the agency will stick with its current strategy. "Other beers have enough deferent directions," says Gallo. "We have to define ourselves very tightly."
The Molson Man
"The beer wars are far more image oriented that the soft drink competition," says Hunter. "Friends won’t look at you strangely if you have a Pepsi instead of a Coke, but if you have a Pepsi instead of a Coke, but if you have brand "x" as opposed to a Budweiser ... you’ll be judged as being less than a macho guy."
Molson’s image, judging from its upscale, yuppie target market and the vulnerable guy Brown portrays on the radio, is anything but macho. The Molson Man appears to be the an alternative to the he-man in most beer advertising, just as Winn’s character is an alternative to the empty-headed, one dimensional female in much of today’s advertising.
Does the Molson Man reflect the modern man more accurately? That’s debatable. One thins is certain, though - he may not be macho, but he’s strong enough to break through the clutter and sell a lot of beer.
HIM: Well, don’t suppose you work here?
HER: No, nobody works here.
HIM: Very casual resort.
HER: If I worked in a place that looked like this I wouldn’t work either. It’s beautiful.
HIM: I love this place but it’s ridiculous.
HER: It’s hot on the beach and I’m thirsty.
HIM: Very laid back.
HER: I’m just going to do this myself. This bartender’s not coming. What can I get you?
HIM: Ah, a Molson Golden.
HER: Good idea!
HIM: I’m tired of umbrella drinks in hollowed out coconuts. Something cool, clear and smooth.
HER: Imported from Canada. Where do you think it is?
HIM: Canada’s north of Buffalo, last I saw.
HER: No! They keep it back here.
HIM: Look in the cooler.
HER: Oh! There’s a live fish in here!
HIM: This place is nuts. Look under it.
HER: Ah, here we go.
HIM: Now we know what the bartender’s been up to.
HER: How do you want it?
HIM: Oh, just take the top off -I mean- you know what I mean.
VO: Molson Golden from North America’s oldest brewer of beer and ale. The #1 import from Canada. Molson makes it golden.
HIM: You know, I had to give myself a tennis lesson yesterday.
VO: Martlet Importing Co. North Hills, NY.
HER: Hang on!
HIM: Hi, I’m your neighbor, next door neighbor.
HIM: I missed you when you moved in, I guess.
HIM: I wanted to explain about that shelf in your refrigerator.
HER: The shelf? Oh, you mean the bottom shelf. The one with the whole case of Molson Golden. Boy, what a great surprise that was moving in.
HIM: It was my Molson Golden.
HER: Your Molson Golden.
HIM: Yeah, I had an arrangement with the person who lived here before you.
HER: Oh yeah?
HIM: I sort of rented one shelf in her fridge.
HER: You don’t have a refrigerator?
HIM: Yeah, I’m a photographer. Mine’s full of film and I needed someplace to keep my Molson Golden.
HER: Oh yeah, I see.
HIM: Cool, clear, smooth. I’m sure you understand.
HER: Oh yeah, I love it. It was terrific.
HIM: It was terrific.
HIM: What do you mean was?
VO: Molson Golden from North America’s oldest brewer of beer and ale. The #1 import from Canada. Molson makes it golden.
HER: It really was a shame you missed the party.
HIM: I feel like I was there in spirit.
VO: Martlet Importing Co., North Hills, NY.