O’Malley to helm Carling Red Cap revival

Successful pairing comes back together a quarter of a century laterTerry O'Malley has put on the Red Cap again, and it still fits.The Vickers & Benson Advertising chairman and executive creative director is developing advertising for Red Cap beer 25 years...

Successful pairing comes back together a quarter of a century later

Terry O’Malley has put on the Red Cap again, and it still fits.

The Vickers & Benson Advertising chairman and executive creative director is developing advertising for Red Cap beer 25 years after he planted the Carling brand firmly in the public consciousness with a legendary campaign that still makes nostalgic beer-drinkers smile.

Although successful for the duration of the original campaign in the late 1960s, sometimes with as much as 40% of the market, the brand fared poorly throughout the ’70s, under new ownership, and eventually disappeared.

About a year ago, Molson Breweries, which retained ownership of the brand, sold the 68-year-old Red Cap label and original recipe to the Brick Brewing Company of Waterloo, Ont. (where the beer was brewed for years.)

Brick Brewing has hopes of reviving the brand and its image as a beer-drinker’s beer.

Red Cap has been available in Brewers’ Retail stores since last fall, but the beer has not yet been advertised.

Molson, a v&b client, graciously released O’Malley from his contractual obligations so he and the classic brand could be reunited for this campaign.

In the late ’60s and early ’70s, O’Malley created a fraternity of Red Cap drinkers through spots that exhibited a reverence for the brand that verged on fanaticism: in the spots, drinkers would pause to give the appropriate salute – beer hands raised, thumbs extended – during the moving Red Cap anthem: ‘Call me Red Cap forever.’

O’Malley played the roll of a boxer in a spot that showed a pre-fight salute to the ale.

Says O’Malley: ‘Our premise was that rather than go out and aggressively seek new drinkers, what we’ll do is say: `This is what we’re like, and we’re very comfortable with our brand. If you think it’s good, you’re welcome.’ ‘

The campaign succeeded brilliantly in creating a brand loyalty comparable with that seen in the advertising.

Little excuse was needed for young men to break into the anthem at just about any sporting event, or just strolling down the street on a Friday night.

‘I’d done fine up until then,’ says O’Malley of the early days of his career. ‘But if you were a singer, this was like having a major hit.’

While O’Malley says he is pleased to be working on the Red Cap campaign again, he also finds it intimidating.

‘It was a surprise, but, at the same time, it’s also kind of scary,’ he says. ‘I don’t know if we can duplicate.’

Along with O’Malley, original v&b producer John Lyons and writer Dave Calvert are also joining the project.

‘What we’ve done so far is pretty good,’ O’Malley says.

The new campaign, however clever, is not likely to surpass the original, and O’Malley knows it.

Twenty-five years ago the Red Cap name was established on tv.

Today, the brewery involved is much smaller, and the advertising will be limited to radio in only two or three markets.

O’Malley, although more than game for the challenge, is realistic about the scale of this project.

‘Television is where the real impact of the Red Cap campaign was,’ he says. ‘We’re using the [original advertising] as a springboard.’

Brick will undoubtedly be interested in attracting new drinkers to the beer, but nostalgia will be the primary element of the advertising, due to be rolled out next month in the Toronto, Hamilton, and Kitchener-Waterloo markets.

‘We’re finding people about 35 [years old] and up remember it,’ says Jim Brickman, president of Brick Brewing. ‘Many people tell me it’s the first beer they ever drank.

‘That’s obviously the target we’re looking at first,’ Brickman says.

Red Cap bottles are labeled similarly to its heyday in the ’60s, and original brewmaster Bill Barnes is in charge of production.

Brickman says he wanted O’Malley to develop the new advertising because he headed the original Carling campaign, and, quite simply, ‘because he’s one of Canada’s great admen.