Politically correct not the target for The Revelstoke

We live in a day and age when consumers are constantly being bombarded with dire warnings about smoking, drinking, eating, and anything else that might be considered upsetting to the human ecosystem. Accordingly, it has become harder to market a product...

We live in a day and age when consumers are constantly being bombarded with dire warnings about smoking, drinking, eating, and anything else that might be considered upsetting to the human ecosystem. Accordingly, it has become harder to market a product like alcohol without offending someone – or an entire country, for that matter.

That’s what makes a new campaign for The Revelstoke Canadian Spiced Whisky stand out. Advertising for the brand, which hit the Canadian market in January, was created by Toronto-based Holmes & Lee, and is a throwback to campaigns of old when fun was fun, and advertisers were a little more libertarian in their willingness to offend.

Long before Hamilton MP Sheila Copps filled the House of Commons with angry yelps about respecting Canadian identity and culture, it was acceptable to laugh at our own expense. Canadians were often heard to trumpet the value of hard Canadian living and the amount of alcohol required to sustain life here.

Luckily for Holmes & Lee, Sheila Copps has no place in the world of Minneapolis, Minn.-based Phillips Beverage Co., producer of The Revelstoke Canadian Spiced Whisky.

Holmes & Lee has been involved with The Revelstoke for more than a year, when they were awarded the business over U.S. as well as Canadian competition. ‘Phillips basically just gave us the liquid; it’s kind of a dream come true,’ says John Lee, whose shop was responsible for naming the brand, designing its packaging, and creating a print campaign and Web site for the product.

The ads for The Revelstoke currently run in Maxim and Stuff, magazines that appeal to men 20-35, with an urban skew and an arsenal of lifestyle anxieties.

According to Holmes & Lee partner Peter Holmes, the rationale going in was threefold: ‘First, this is a U.S. campaign and the ads were written for the U.S. Maxim audience. That reader is our target, full stop. Second, The Revelstoke is different – the first spiced whisky – certainly not your Dad’s whisky, so it requires a tone that is as different. Third, it is a good strong Canadian whisky, a fact that plays well in the U.S. market. And since all that most Americans know about Canada is that they do not really want to go there, we felt we had to remind them exactly why they don’t.’

The creative, the antithesis of Molson’s I Am Canadian rant, is about as close to truth in advertising as the liquor category is likely to see.

Over the tagline, ‘Strong, smooth whisky from a country that requires it’ each ad has a Canadian hook, and in all the scenarios, a massive consumption of whisky is required to complete the task at hand.

In the background of one execution, a man is shown scratching his head in contemplation, while in the foreground two pinecones sit on the forest floor. The headline reads: ‘Sometimes there’s no toilet paper. Sometimes there are no leaves.’

In another, a topless lap-dancer straddles a man wearing a Hawaiian shirt, over the headline: ‘In Canada, the average pay check rarely lasts two weeks. It’s more like twenty songs.’

In a third, a lumberjack-type sitting at a bar is shown sizing up a heavyset, bleached-blonde dressed in form-fitting clothes. The headline? ‘There is something to be said for occasions like this. Like, make that a double.’

According to Lee, the brand has already made significant inroads south of the 49th parallel where bar patrons are now being heard to order a ”Stoke and Coke.’

We’re always on the lookout for great new campaigns to feature in this column. If you’ve got a suggestion, please email pvamos@brunico.com.

Credits:

Client: Phillips Beverage Co.

Agency: Holmes & Lee

Creative Director: Peter Holmes

Account Director: John Lee

Account Supervisor: Rob Nadler

Art Director: Peter Knight

Copywriter: Peter Holmes

Media: Magazine