January 29th, 2008

You almost had me, C.C.

Canadian Club bottleCanadian 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.

Permalink | Filed under Booze in the news, Whiskey |

18 Responses to “You almost had me, C.C.”

  1. Paul

    Is there a “rock on” emoticon?

    “Once you submit,” my ass.

  2. ljclark

    I knew you’d understand, Paul.

  3. Dougie Fresh

    Wow, a CC comeback. Who knew? I guess this means that like my wardrobe, music collection and library, all I have to do is wait a decade and it’s all cool again. I have a cousin who buys me a big ol’ bottle of CC every Christmas, which means I’m hopelessly backed up on whiskey. But now I can move those bottles to the front!

  4. ljclark

    “Hopelessly backed up on whiskey”? That’s a problem we all yearn for.

  5. Manly Man

    It’s nice to see an ad celebrate masculinity rather than denigrate it, even if it is only an adolescent kind of masculinity. Any step in the right direction….

    Still–“bitch slap”? Isn’t that what homosexuals, metrosexuals, and women do?

  6. intheq

    by all means: you should absolutely submit your article. exactly as you have it written here.

  7. Betty

    I’ve been intrigued by their ads as well, trying to figure out whether the photos are actual vintage snaps or carefully recreated ones….

  8. ljclark

    I wondered the same thing, Betty.

  9. Frederic

    One of my academic advisers had a phrase “Don’t prod the squid”. While his meaning was not to alert your competitors to what you’re working on, it pertains to this — asking a marketing group for permission only causes them to defer to their lawyers who give the final ok to every thing they allow to be seen by the public. Sometimes doing the right thing turns out to be pretty complicated in the end…

  10. Boozah

    …and now for something worthy of a locked ward:

    The Britney Spears Cocktail: Highball, Lowball, Screwball, Correctol:


  11. Br. Cleve

    Always remember the ancient adage : “To seek permission is to seek denial”

  12. Adam

    On the flip side… You might have gotten some free CC or some other product out of the deal. Connecting with marketing people is a Good Thing! They will often send you stuff to sample and review (the expectation, of course, is that you’ll post a positive review — but as long as there is nothing in writing to that effect, the worst that can happen if you don’t post something positive is that you’ll stop getting the free stuff).

  13. jax

    known is my preference for making cocktails out of the “good stuff” and holding back anything great for sipping to do just that…

    CC is a fine staple but watch out, now that future brands is sinking over $50,000 a page into the ad campaign the price will soon be double what it was two years ago…

  14. ljclark

    Whoa! Enlightening news, Jax. OK, everyone, so I guess I’ll just steal without scruples when it comes to future images…

  15. Lew Bryson

    I like the campaign too, Lauren. And when I talked to one of their marketing types, and when we’d finished laughing over how much fun the ads were, she told me that one of the images is of CC brand director Dan Tullio — a much younger Dan Tullio. They’re real pictures, or so I’m told.

  16. ljclark

    Hi Lew! If only Dan had taken a cue from his old self and the cool ad campaign he appears in, I wouldn’t have this goddamn upside-down whiskey bottle sitting on my webpage.

  17. littlemike

    Speaking of Dan, where the hell IS Dan? Haven’t seen him since CC Society 2003.

    I read in Brandweek or some such pub that those were real pictures from back in the day, submitted by Beam Brand employees.

    Your story sounds just like exactly what happens when you let lawyers, especially corporate lawyers, get their mitts on things. As for the IP implications, I do believe there is such a thing as fair usage for journalistic purposes. As long as your bottle is upside down, please give me a moment to get my glass under it. 🙂

    Want to talk about “bitchslapping” the modern so-called “man”? Take a listen to Brad Paisley’s current song “I’m Still A Guy”:

    “…These days there’s dudes gettin’ facials
    Manicured, waxed, and botoxed
    But with deep spray on tans and creamy lotiony hands
    You can’t grip a tackle box
    Yeah, with all of these men linin’ up to get neutered
    It’s hip now to be feminized
    But, I don’t highlight my hair
    I’ve still got a pair
    Yeah, honey I’m still a guy.
    Oh, my eyebrows ain’t plucked
    Theres a gun in my truck
    Oh Thank God, I’m still a guy.”

    A CC-drinkin’ guy, prolly.

  18. ljclark

    Little Mike — I just love a kindred spirit. Cheers.

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