January 29th, 2008
You almost had me, C.C.
Canadian Club, that once-respected whiskey that got pushed out of drinkers’ consciousness by the vodka tidal wave on one hand and the emergence of boutique ryes and bourbons on the other, is trying to make a comeback. The brand, now owned by Jim Beam, is running a catchy ad campaign in magazines like Esquire and GQ. Naturally, I wanted to include here an example of one of the ads, but I couldn’t for reasons I’ll explain in a minute.
The ads are fun. They play on the same sensibility that fueled the comeback of old-school beer brands like PBR, Schlitz and Narragansett. Their images, which look like faded, creased photos from the ’60s and ’70s, show men of a bygone era doing “man” things like fishing, playing in a band and partying with babes in a shag-carpeted rec room. Oh, and drinking C.C. in heavy-bottomed rocks glasses, of course. The ad with the guys fishing reads, “Your dad was not a metrosexual. He didn’t do pilates. Moisturize. Or drink pink cocktails. Your dad drank whiskey cocktails. Made with Canadian Club. Served in a rocks glass. They tasted good. They were effortless. Damn right your dad drank it.”
Wow. Is that a bitch slap. To the modern man. Or what?
The thing I love about these ads, besides their authentically retro look and their towel-snapping text, is that they are nothing like other whiskey ads, whose warmly lit still-life-with-bottle aesthetic evokes heritage and taste. Yawn. The C.C. ads are saying, ‘Hey, remember when drinking whiskey wasn’t about drinking whiskey but about what was happening while you were drinking whiskey?’ Yeah!
Another reason these ads resonated with me is that, by coincidence, I recently tasted C.C. for the first time in ages. A couple we know had a small gathering at their house. There was nary a mixology book in sight. Just a big stone fireplace and a magically replenishing pitcher of Manhattans. Sitting in an armchair sipping my drink, I asked my host, “What kind of whiskey did you use?” With a little smirk and a shrug, he said, “Canadian Club,” and awaited the commentary of the Booze Snobs. Scott and I looked at each other, then back at our host. “It’s good!” Then we all went back to discussing the presidential election.
Unfortunately, my budding appreciation for C.C. soured when the Jim Beam legal department reared its ugly head. You see, I emailed the C.C. brand manager to ask for permission to use an ad image from the website for this post. Upon his request, I even described the post’s content, saying that it would be a commentary on the new ad campaign and favorable toward the product itself. But then things got stupid. “Sounds great!” he replied. “I just spoke with my legal team. They asked that we get to see the article before it’s run. Will this be ok with you? I will be able to have this approved within a matter of hours once you submit.”
Once I submit? Oh, that’s rich. Let me get this straight, buddy. I’m writing an article about your whiskey brand on a website frequented by the exact demographic you’re targeting, and your lawyers have to approve my use of your ad as an illustration? What, free advertising isn’t enough for you people? You have to have editorial control, too?
Yeah, I know. Maybe I should’ve behaved like every other blogger in the universe and simply grabbed a jpeg from the Canadian Club site without asking first. But my dad taught me to be conscientious. And he drinks Dewar’s.