Though I'm not a drinker, a Heineken commercial has caught my attention recently -- I think because of the great tune to which it's scored. Check it out:
What drew me to this spot was the whole idea of a "Golden Age" -- played off against characters from Hollywood's past: the hombre, the kung-fu fighter, the adventurer (complete with swashbuckler's eye patch). Add to this gallery, the old school Vegas royalty of the Rat Pack that the track (performed by The Asteroids Galaxy Tour) sings about. Here are the lyrics from the first few stanzas:
"I wished I lived in a golden age
Giving it up on the Broadway stage
Hang with the rats and smoke cigars
Just have a break with Frank and count the stars
Dressed to the nines, we've had too much
Shiny jewels, casino cash
Tapping feet, wanna take the lead
A trip back in time is all I need
Oh! Sing it out loud gonna get back honey
Sing it out loud get away with me..."
What's the inspiration for this "Golden Age" -- and why should the beer's target audience want to return there? Classically, the Golden Age was said to be a time when "men lived like gods." That's certainly what's happening with the hero in this spot -- the slick dude who makes the ultimate show-stopping entrance into this bar.
As the Social Medianaires blog points out, he's a type of figure we've seen a lot of in ads lately:
"...the success of this ad proves one thing -- we are in no way tired of the ultra-masculine male character gracing our screen. We now have him in various ages and ethnicities, and it is still going strong to sell beer and body spray. The Old Spice Guy, Most Interesting Man in the World, and now The Entrance Man are all examples that have had viral success and show this genre of ads is still growing."
But I think there's more tho this Golden Age than standard-issue male fantasies about achieving "cool." This became clear to me when I did a little research about this spot.
The commercial marks a change in direction for Heineken. It replaces a campaign that had been running for a few years whose tag/theme told you that you "Give Yourself a Good Name" when you choose the beer. Check out this spot from 2010:
The "Good Name" spot, though full of fantasy itself, is nevertheless set in an almost realistic setting. It looks more like a bar than a movie set. And its characters are a boss, his daughter and a young professional -- rather than cowboys and magicians.
Both spots allow the main male character to be daring. But only in "Good Name" do you get the feeling that the "hero" could actually get into trouble. In "Golden Age" all the camaraderie creates a happier, more celebratory, party vibe.
That's why the spot suggests for me another of the meanings of "Golden Age." Rather than just an era of classic films and entertainers, the spot brought to my mind more mythical "golden" times.
The classical "Golden Age" I mentioned above was a fabled time when there was such abundance that people were more interested in enjoying life and each other -- playing rather than warring; it was when, as Hesiod puts it, they "took pleasure in festivals and lived without troubles." That's why "golden ages" are often thought of as utopian.
This may be why, when the spot ends with a shot of people holding hands and partying in the club, it reminded me a little of the painting you see on the Wiki page about this idea -- by Lucas Cranach the Elder, and titled "The Golden Age." (1530)
And what I found out, in fact, after searching around the web a bit on the connection between advertising and utopia, is that classic ad-world narratives often contain strongly utopian scenarios. But with this difference:
In the world ads create, the Golden Age is now. But it's made possible by the magic of commodities. K. Kreplin, who's done a wonderful presentation on this idea, calls this sort of fantasy realm Adtopia. (Note: This link won't work on Macs.)
Perhaps the secret of this new spot's popularity is that, right now at least, myth works better than realism. Maybe the audience for this ad (along with the rest of us?) needs more fantasy -- the more glamorous and utopian the better.
And in the case of this ad, you get a fantasy that offers you control over its illusions, like the magician who is its hero. But why, I wonder, might this approach be so effective now? Thoughts?