I’ve gone on record stating my almost complete disdain for radio as an advertising medium. I’m not changing my tune. Unlike other mass media, for some reason the intrusion of commercials just bothers me more. Always has. Always will.
That said I admire well-written radio when I hear it, especially given how rare. Kudos then to my agency brothers in New York, Euro RSCG in winning several Gold Lions on radio for Dos Equis, “Most Interesting Man in the World.” Last year The Most Interesting Man barely eked out a bronze in TV but since then has become one of the more beloved characters in advertising, winning prizes here, there and everywhere. Not to mention actually selling mucho Dos Equis.
Good for him. He and the agency deserve all the credit in the world. If for nothing else creating (and selling through) the counter-intuitive copy line, “I don’t always drink beer but when I do I drink Dos Equis.” Anyone in this business knows how risk adverse clients are, especially when it comes to dissing their own categories! That Euro RSCG and Dos Equis (Heineken) put forth a hero who doesn’t “always drink beer” shows creative moxie. The fact that he’s an older man is also refreshing in the youth-obsessed spirits business. The campaign rocks. ‘Nuff said.
Back to radio as a medium. When I was a boy there were no Ipods and MP3s. (Fuck you, it wasn’t that long ago!). People, especially young people, listened to music on radios. Sure, the Sony Walkman would usher in portable, private listening but for a brief period of time, maybe thirty years, from 1955 to 1985, every teen-ager in America owned a radio. Many of these contraptions were souped up multi-platform music machines also known as “boom boxes.”
In the summer one couldn’t go anywhere, really, without hearing them. When my amigos and I headed to Montrose Harbor or, as we called it, “the Lake,” it was always someone’s job to bring the “tunes.” Not that we needed our own as just about every car and beach towel had music blasting from it. The sounds of summer were a cacophony of Top 40, Disco and Heavy Metal. Occasionally, we’d here a Cub’s game but it wasn’t long before our Zeppelin and Judas Priest blew the old dude right out of his green and white lawn chair.
If we weren’t playing cassettes, the station to listen to was WLUP, otherwise known as “the Loop.” Guys like Steve Dahl and Johnny B were hugely popular in the morning (both of these jocks remain relevant today, though barely). Yet, it was the tunes that mattered and few stations played our heavier brand of music more readily than the Loop: Van Halen, AC/DC, Rush, Aerosmith; funny how these bands still play and record. Back then they were Gods.
If I go back even further (before pot…before girls…before even puberty) I remember sleeping over at my best friend’s house, staying up super late, listening to weekend countdowns on WLS Music Radio. We lived for the call-in contests, where if you were such and such numbered caller you’d win a lame tee shirt. The prize wasn’t really the point, however. It was about hearing your self on the radio. If you were lucky they’d let you choose and dedicate the next song. The one time I got through I chose “Slow Ride” by Foghat. Dedicated it to Becky at Mather High.
December 3, 2008
The very last “45” recording I ever bought in my life was “Sweet Child ‘O Mine” by Guns and Roses. The year was 1988. I’d heard the song on the radio numerous times and I had to have it. I have no idea why I didn’t just buy the entire CD… or was it cassette? Appetite For Destruction would become one of the most important rock albums of the 20th century. Like them or not, Guns and Roses obliterated from the stage glam and hair metal groups like Ratt, Poison and, of course, Motley Crue. Unlike these poseurs, singer, Axl Rose and guitarist, Slash brought genuine swagger to rock. In the day’s vernacular: They kicked ass. Totally. Don’t believe me? Don’t want to believe me? Download “Night Train” or “Welcome to the Jungle,” preferably off their live album. Guns were dangerous. Go deeper into their catalog and it gets even harrier. Alas, by the early nineties, the band imploded on it’s own hubris, made worse by drugs and alcohol -in other words: the usual.
An then this, from Adpulp:
“Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses is taking legal action against Dr. Pepper. The singer is upset about the soda maker’s botched giveaway associated with the release of his band’s Chinese Democracy album. According to Ad Age, Rose’s lawyer Alan Gutman ‘pounced on the soft-drink marketer, claiming it failed to deliver on its promise to give out the free sodas, turning what began as a great public-relations stunt into a public-relations mess for Dr Pepper.’”
Before commenting, I should add Chinese Democracy was 17 years I the making. Between egos and lawsuits (and Axl’s growing nuttiness), the thing turned into an obsession more than an album. For its part, Dr. Pepper figured to cash in on the massive hype by offering free sodas if and when the album ever came out. When the album finally did drop, the website Dr. Pepper created quickly became overwhelmed and crashed. And then came the lawsuit.
Axl Rose is pissed about his fans not getting a free soda as promised. Puh-lease. He waited nearly 20 years to provide his “fans” with a new song. And since when do hedonistic rock stars care about their fans? Frankly, aren’t “artists” supposed to reject such cheesy promotions anyway? Whatever happened to street cred? But my favorite part is the lawsuit, with all its fancy language and mock sincerity. This from a crisis manager: “Unfortunately, Dr Pepper has now magnified the damage this campaign has caused through its appalling failure to make good on a promise it made to the American public.”
The whole thing is surreal. Guns and Roses aren’t supposed to hire lawyers, unless it’s to keep them out of jail. Dr. Pepper is not supposed to promote heavy metal, unless they’re coming out with a new can.
Look, I recognize our world has become utterly commercial. I get it. People don’t care if artists sell out. We’re all consumers and brands -not human beings. I get that. Hell, my industry is responsible for it! Sometimes I just think it’s funny. And this is one of those times.