This is a follow-up to the June 27 post, which talked about the envelope-pushing state of comedy movies today (This Is The End being what prompted the post) and ended with the line, “maybe advertising can learn something here.”
Subsequently, I’ve been reminded that advertising has, in fact, learned something here. The broad genre of comedy in advertising—at least commercials or film—has been cracked open in the past two years, and the one responsible for the cracking is Will Ferrell. Will Ferrell’s Old Milwaukee campaign has pushed advertising humor further, faster than anything else in a long time. Here are just a few reasons why.
• His “commercials” for Old Milwaukee have been seen and shared by multi-millions, yet never officially posted anywhere. This form of something I called “Pirate Advertising” in a previous interview (http://tiny.cc/un4szw) has dismantled the concept of media-placement and on-line seeding as we know it. Ferrell’s commercials live by a simple credo—if it’s truly funny, the audience will find it.
• Will Ferrell knows nothing about advertising—which is exactly why he connects so well with these twisted, folksy ads. His performance and delivery range somewhere between a retro-1976 beer commercial parody and something that has the sophistication and depth coming out of a high school advertising class. Both naïve and cynical in one swipe.
• Will Ferrell stole last year’s Super Bowl with a sixty second spot that featured a single take shot of him kissing—strike that, violently making out—with a woman on a bus. And the hero product—a six-pack of Old Milwaukee—just happened to be along for the ride. Again, with no official release, just a camera phone video captured by somebody who happened to be in the TexOma (North Texas SE Oklahoma) DMA in which it ran—once.
Will Ferrell has single-handedly made Old Milwaukee cool. Not cool again, because unlike other retro-cool brands (Pabst Blue Ribbon, Schlitz, etc.) Old Milwaukee was no history of being cool before. Fifty years of un-coolness, until Mr. Ferrell came along.
Every rule broken. Everything we’ve ever believed about branding, comedy and media crushed in one campaign. Ironically (or not) Ferrell is associated with some of the same guys who are crushing the comedy film genre, like Danny McBride. And just like watching movies like Borat and This Is The End make it hard for us to go back and laugh at Animal House or Airplane the same way again, seeing Will Ferrell ferociously tonguing a woman for 60 seconds makes it kind of hard to laugh at the old “two guys walk into a bar” commercial humor we all grew up on.
To be continued.