Labatt job contest ad misses mark

The Newfoundland government's quick scotching of Labatt Breweries of Canada's recent win-a-summer-job contest for Blue Star beer has left some advertising executives from The Rock wondering if brewery executives had done their homework on the promotion before giving it the go-ahead.Also,...

The Newfoundland government’s quick scotching of Labatt Breweries of Canada’s recent win-a-summer-job contest for Blue Star beer has left some advertising executives from The Rock wondering if brewery executives had done their homework on the promotion before giving it the go-ahead.

Also, Clive Handley, creative director at Bristol Communications in St. John’s, Nfld., says the job contest is a recycled idea that first surfaced in Newfoundland about 18 months ago, but was rejected by the advertiser it was presented to.

And although Handley says reaction to the job contest in advertising circles in St. John’s has been generally positive, he adds many Newfoundlanders, given the province’s massive unemployment, are not amused.

Summer employment

The contest offered summer employment in Labatt’s marketing department in St. John’s with earnings at about $7,000.

One advertising executive in St. John’s, who declined to be identified, thinks Labatt had every good intention with the contest, but misread ‘very badly’ what the reaction to it might be.

‘I’m surprised [Labatt] were sold [the idea],’ he says.

Newfoundland’s July unemployment rate was 21.3%, with joblessness in places much, much higher than that. Across Canada, unemployment runs 11.6%.

David Butler, president of Toronto-based Marshall Fenn, the advertising and marketing firm, says the Labatt situation is part of a problem that occurs in advertising when ideas are rushed through without a full appreciation of their impact and implications.

‘A good idea can always wait another day,’ says Butler, a native of Newfoundland.

The job contest was the brainchild of Vaughn Whelan, of Vaughn Whelan Advertising Creative in Toronto.

Not aware

Whelan, weary of the attention he has received since the job contest became national then international news, says he is not aware the contest was a recycled idea.

He stresses he wants to do nothing but build Blue Star, a Labatt brand sold only in Newfoundland and, according to one St. John’s adman, targetted now at the young/student/artsy crowd.

Whelan, who says his job is to ‘create advertising and sales concepts that generate notoriety and awareness for that [Blue Star] brand,’ is still working for Labatt.

He says he is not sorry about the job contest idea, suggesting it would work among young people for such products as potato chips and soft drinks.

Whelan took over the Blue Star account in 1990, building the brand’s market share to about 4% through advertising that took advantage of Newfoundlanders’ well-known propensity to laugh at themselves.

Supported idea

Reports say Labatt President Hugo Powell liked and supported the job contest idea.

Entry forms for the contest were available to all. No purchase was necessary to win.

Since the uproar, Labatt has changed the prize to a post-secondary scholarship worth the same amount as the job offer.