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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Ad Review: Jameson Whiskey "Henry the Musician"

Since I stopped watching broadcast TV a couple of years ago, I tend not to be subjected to many video ads these days. The notable exception is when we go to the movies at Ster Kinekor, where fast-forwarding or muting the ads isn't an option.

One of the ads I've seen before every single movie I've gone to for over a year now is one for Jameson Whiskey. I facepalmed the first time I saw it, and assumed it was a mistake, never to be seen again, Alas that appears not be the case.

Here's the ad:

Did you see what I saw?

In case you didn't, here's what I saw

We start with an establishing shot of a stage in a small jazz bar. A guy is centre-stage playing a guitar (a Gibson Les Paul Standard, if I'm not mistaken). We're told his name is Henry, and that he loves his whiskey. Cool.

A fire starts in the bar, and a fellow patron is about to do her civil duty, breaking the glass of the fire alarm with the nearest object at hand: a bottle of Jameson Whiskey.

Henry intervenes before the lady hits the alarm thingy, takes the bottle from her hand, and then breaks the glass with his guitar, which we're told is a "65 six-string".

While the patrons enjoy dancing under the simulated rain of the sprinklers, Henry pours himself a glass of whiskey, and the flashback ends. The narrator assures us this is a true story.

Seen it yet?

So as far as we can tell, Henry is a professional musician. It's quite a fancy bar, but playing live music in night clubs doesn't pay well, especially when you have to split it with your band. Odds are Henry doesn't make very much. That means his 1965 Les Paul is probably his most valuable possession... not only because it sells for about R30 000 on auction (equivalent to a small used car), but because it's the tool he uses to earn his living.

When a small fire starts, he prevents a woman from sacrificing a R250 bottle of whiskey to put it out. Fair enough. That's a pretty expensive beverage (compared to around R10 for a similar quantity of Mountain Dew). The bar probably has a few in the back room, but waste not, right?

But then instead of grabbing any of the other objects available: chairs, shoes, ashtrays, or even using his own sleeved elbow to break the glass, he decides to break it with his guitar.

Here's the thing about fire alarms. Although they're usually covered with glass to dissuade people from setting them off when there isn't a fire, the glass they use for that is meant to break really easily should the need arise. It's way thinner and more brittle than a glass table, window or whiskey tumbler. A hard tap with your fingernail would do the trick.

If Henry had tapped it gently with the head of this guitar, it would have easily given way. The worst that might have happened is a bit of a scratch in the lacquer, which could be a conversation-starter if anyone were to even notice it.

But no. Henry caresses the guitar as if to say "goodbye" and takes a full swing at the wall... breaking the glass and presumably utterly destroying his instrument in the attempt.

Sure, Henry stopped the fire and (kinda) saved all the patrons. But to do it, he unnecessarily sacrificed his livelihood. That's right... Henry no longer has his guitar... he's unable to work.

So here's the take-home message:

Jameson Whiskey leads people to make terrible, terrible choices in life.

As part of the same campaign, they could have made ads featuring Jake, the guy who drank too much Jameson Whiskey and didn't notice that the condom he put on was broken, then ended up paying child-support for the rest of his life.

Or Brenda, the woman who couldn't say no to that last Jameson and ran over a pedestrian while driving home. The chronic depression she was drinking to self-medicate got the best of her and she committed suicide three months later.

Awful, right? But those would be entirely consistent with the message of this ad.

I'm glad the good people at Jameson haven't made those other ads. But why is the Henry one still being screened? Am I the only person who's paid any attention to it?