FRONT PAGE / POSTS
Canadian Beer: Identity, Bottled
by Kathryn Borel| Toronto, Canada
Thursday, 30 December 2010
tags: americas, clients & brands, consumer culture, culture, making sense
Dionysus, the lovely Greek lad responsible for wine and madness, was what was known as a “god of epiphany” — as in, he took time out of his busy deific schedule to appear, in the flesh, to humans. And of course he would; drinking booze in correct amounts generally leads to all kinds of epiphanies.
Since 2000, Canada has had its own alcohol-incited epiphany, thanks to the Canadian division of the Molson Coors Brewing Company and its popular beer, Molson Canadian.
Molson Canadian is responsible for arguably the most ambitious campaign to create, and confirm, the Canadian identity — something that on a good day eludes easy definition, and on a bad day seems to barely exist at all. We have bland aesthetic signifiers: Our national symbol is a leaf, our national bird is the loon, there’s a moose on one side of our quarters and on the other side is the queen of another country.
But Molson tells a different story. In a series of quick, athletic cuts, the ad shows off Canada’s theatrical topographic beauty: a barren, rugged playground that only the godlike can navigate. The narrator explains, “It’s this land that shapes us.” Four ecstatic people sprint off the edge of a cliff, into a lake… “There’s a reason why we run off the dock instead of tippy-toe in. It’s because that water is frozen six months a year.” And, according to our “yeah, DUDE!” narrator, it’s not just the great outdoors we Canadians are chasing, it’s freedom itself.
It’s the kind of self-mythology one associates with America, not timid ol’ peacekeeping Canada, the country with tidy cities where people apologize for just about everything.
In fact, the ad is so concerned with kicking up some nationalistic spirit that the mention of the actual product comes at 0:47, almost as an afterthought. “There’s a beer that comes from the same land that we let loose on, and it’s proved to be as clean, crisp and fresh as the country it comes from.”
There’s no doubt that the ads have done their job. The grandfather of the campaign was the legendary (in Canada) “I Am Canadian” advertisement that depicted a character called Joe Canada doing a rant on the finer points of being Canadian. “I’m not a lumberjack, or a fur trader. And I don’t live in an igloo or eat blubber or own a dog sled… I believe in peacekeeping, not policing, diversity, not assimilation and that the beaver is a truly proud and noble animal.” It remains one of the — if not the — most famous television ad in Canadian television history.
And, fittingly, it was announced just this week that Jeff Douglas, the actor who plays Joe Canada, will take over as the co-host of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s flagship radio program, As It Happens. Perhaps his experience in beer-based pride-mongering will give Canadians a cleaner, crisper, more refreshing take on themselves… With only 5% alcohol, and no aftertaste.