Creative Report Card: Mapping the Beer Fridge’s globe-trotting success

A look back at the Beer Fridge's epic journey, which brought it to the top of this year's CRC.

This story appears in the February/March issue of strategy.

TOP BRAND

The Molson Canadian Beer Fridge went from a rough pencil sketch to a full-blown weatherproof beer cooler, fashioned with an internal camera, a micro-computer to detect features of a passport being scanned and an internal 12-hour battery, in roughly seven months. The fridge was just one proposal among a junket of ideas when Rethink met with the beer brand in 2012.

We mapped out the past two years of the fridge’s travels, with Rethink’s Aaron Starkman (#4 on the CD list), Joel Holtby (#1 AD) and Mike Dubrick (#2 CW) giving us the scoop on what went on behind the scenes.

1. Destination: EuropeFridge in London
When: June 2013
What: A locked Beer Fridge lands on the cobblestone sidewalks of several European cities. The key to opening the mysterious red box? A Canadian passport.

A life-inspired idea: Once upon his pre-agency life, Mike Dubrick was backpacking in Europe, when he was surprised to find Molson Canadian behind the bar at a local watering hole. “I was so happy that I actually bought a round for people,” he recalls, while Joel Holtby also remembers wanting to share a piece of Canada with others when he would find the beer south of the border. This gave birth to the idea that “the further you go, the more Canadian you get.”

Hiccups: The team had to hit delete on perfectly good footage of people interacting with the fridge because of Canadian regulations that prevent alcohol brands from showing moving vehicles (except taxis and public transit) as well as anyone under age 25 in their commercials.

2. Destination: IndonesiaIMG_0940
When: December 2013
What: Two friends from Ottawa, Ryan and Phil, surprise Morgan Girouard, a Canadian expat working and living in the Gili Islands, with a Molson Beer Fridge.

The rouse: Girouard never saw it coming. Well, sort of. He knew he was going to be in a Molson commercial — a casting agent asked him if he would apear in a commercial about living in a remote area where hockey is inaccessible. The crew did 10 fake takes of Girouard opening his bungalow door to say hello to his Indonesian friends. The 11th take, which was the only one the cameras actually captured, was intercepted by his friends with a red Beer Fridge in tow.

The crew was banking on that one moment. “People were actually crying, mostly because of the emotional moment, but also because if [Girouard] swore on camera during the official take, the whole thing would have died,” says Starkman.

More than 15 minutes of fame: Girouard got to keep the fridge, and today it sits in his office where he’s working to develop a tourist resort. “Gili Islands tourism has seen a spike since the commercial. Canadians who are in the area are actually going an extra step to find [and take a picture with] Morgan and his fridge,” adds Starkman.

3. Detour: Sochi, RussiaBeerFridge Olympics
In February 2014, the Beer Fridge found a temporary home at the Canada Olympic House during the Games. The entire Canadian men’s hockey team got their hands on the fridge and left their autographs all over its red shell. It was later auctioned off to support and fund future Olympians.

4. Detour: U.S.A.
In March 2014, the fridge stopped by the Canada House at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. It also made a pit stop in Michigan to greet athletes at the Winter Classic, where the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings.

AF105. Destination: Across Canada
When: June 2014
What: The Beer Fridge finally came home, with a slight tweak. Only a clear (and correct) rendition of the national anthem opened the fridge.

Dial it down, will you?: “[At first], the fridge was tougher than the American Idol judges. If you didn’t sound like Mariah Carey, it buzzed you,” says Starkman with a laugh. The setting that recognized pitch was on “difficult,” without the crew realizing until after the first few tries. The team experienced the same moment of angst when the fridge was called in to be a guest on Canada AM. “We were shaking in our boots, wondering if it would actually open.” It did.

6. Destination: The Canadian RockiesIMG_9935
When: December 2014
What: The brand’s campaign, “#AnythingForHockey,” asked people to submit what they would do for the game via social media. Andrei Lanochkin proved his love when he uprooted his family from their home in Estonia to Canada, just so his son could grow up playing hockey. So, as a tribute to them (and the game), Molson built a giant ice hockey rink within a snow-covered crevice in the Rocky Mountains. Molson then had Lanochkin’s son, Vitaly, surprise him with a helicopter ride to the remote location. That same helicopter later delivered the red Molson fridge to the rink, after their game.

Too close for comfort: About 15 people on the crew hid inside a 6 x 6 m tarp-covered room (called a weather haven), waiting patiently for the helicopter to arrive. “I was literally under the tarp, propped up against a porta-potty, all while trying to see the moment,” says Starkman.
Fun fact: The helicopter pilot had a pretty serendipitous nickname. He was previously stationed in Afghanistan, and being from Canada and a fan of the beer, his aviator call sign was, naturally, Molson.

beerFridge_photo53_retouched7. Destination: Toronto and Montreal, Canada
When: December 2014/January 2015 (during the World Junior Championship)
What: This time, the brand invited Canadians to hit a hockey puck into a 13 x 15 cm opening on its shell for the chance to drink its contents.

An indestructible design: Other Beer Fridges have nothing on the slapshot rendition. One word: bulletproof. The team didn’t want the fridge to look too banged up, so it reinforced it with Kevlar. Holtby credits Molson for being receptive to the idea. “Not many brands would allow people to fire a puck at 60 miles per hour at their cherished icon. But they did. And it turned out awesome.”

View the full interactive Creative Report Card here.