One of my all-time favorite episodes of the Simpson’s is about St. Patrick’s Day. The whole town of Springfield gets drunk and stupid. More so than usual. Everyone is stumbling, puking and fighting. Even the police. Especially the police. And all of them are wearing that dumbass shade of green. Only when Bart accidentally gets drunk does Springfield’s citizenry show any concern.

When it comes to drinking, St. Patrick’s Day rivals New Year’s Eve for “amateur night.” I’d argue that given my hometown, Chicago’s ‘proud’ Irish heritage March 17th is actually bigger and dumber than Dec 31st. We dye the river green!

For me, the mandatory drinking that the “holiday” requires is annoying. As is the mob scene. By 7 PM, North Clark Street resembles Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. Rush Street is even worse.

Before you take me for a Puritan, you should know for many years alcohol was one of my best friends. We went to high school together. In college, I graduated from beer to vodka. Like playing “Quarters,” beer just seemed silly. Plus it took too long to get drunk. I took drinking far too seriously to be caught dead in some Irish bar on St. Patrick’s Day. Granted, I took drinking far too seriously period but that’s another story.

Anyway, I’m not a fan. That said here’s a clever piece of outdoor advertising from McDonald’s and Leo Burnett. Cheers!


If you want more than luck with your copy, hit me up. Skilled and sober, 24/7




“I know – Let’s put this shit in a can!”

A while back I was tasked with developing campaigns for a caffeinated malt liquor. It shall go nameless. The idea for this heinous concoction could only come from the minds of a large brewery desperate to appeal to young people. Very young people. Probably south of legal drinking age. After all, who else would drink it besides kids who a) want to get really drunk and b) want to stay upright?

“You can sleep when you’re thirty,” was one of our headlines. “Go Long,” was one of our taglines.

Regardless of your opinion of said creative, that was the strategy. Oh, we tried to make the advertising as cool as possible. Designed the hell out of those headlines. Made them look like graffiti or tattoos. Can you say Ed Hardy?

Fact is, we were doomed before we even left the briefing. It was all so messed up. Selling rocket fuel to young douchebags simply sucks. The best we could do was try to tell the truth and be funny. And because the truth is inherently gross the joke was on us.

Some products are like that. Their DNA is so strong in a bad way that its stink cannot be overcome. Taco Bell continues to churn out gut melting travesties of Mexican food and we wonder why, with a few exceptions, the advertising turns our stomach. That the chain is sometimes successful has more to do with marijuana than marketing. Broke and stoned teen-agers gotta eat.

Take this new campaign for something called “Lime-a-Rita.” In the commercial, an art gallery is transformed into a party after two young ladies are served. A statue comes to life and starts boogying. Oy.

Of course this ad is lacking. The product is. Starting with its name. I don’t even know how one begins to tell the truth about this goo. It’s Z-grade tequila (and only a little) mired in green soda pop. I’d rather just pour Cuervo in a glass of Mountain Do. If truth be told, I did a lot of that back in the day. One of many reasons why I don’t drink anymore.

Kids will be kids. They’ll mix shit with shots. The problem is when brands try to do it for you. Red Bull and Vodka is popular but not sold that way. Some drone in sector G of the brewery want to create a caffeinated beer and sell it at 7-11, the agency is going to give him exactly the advertising it deserves.


“Wake me up when we’re cool.”

What is it about spirit’s that leads to advertising that makes fun of people? Well, I’ll tell you. Since advertisers are not really allowed to talk about the intoxicating effect alcohol has on folks copywriters are left with two options: 1) taste and 2) badge value.

How this usually plays out in the massive beer category is that crappy brews (Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light, etc) create advertising featuring communities of young, comely and predictable partygoers, who are “up for whatever” and dig silly new bottle designs and “frost brewing” or other made up brewing techniques. Watered down taste is mitigated by the beverages ability to enable your inner douchebag. I worked on these brands and am guilty of perpetrating such goofy myths. I still remember the copy: “The clean, fresh taste won’t fill you up and never lets you down.” Quality beers like Guinnes have a better creative history, either forging terrific myths or speaking to history, heritage and authenticity. Generally speaking, spirits follow similar narratives.

Insert blue joke here…

But within these story arcs we see an ever-widening genre, one that mocks or belittles groups of people who just don’t get it. The “it” changes all the time. When I worked on Johnnie Walker Black and Red, I created two campaigns that endeavored to define “it” for each product. For the more expensive Black label “it” was “Welcome to Civilization.” Black Label drinkers were gentlemen. Everyone else wasn’t. For the cheaper Red Label “it” was an attack on political correctness. According to my ads, these drinkers blew cigar smoke in your face and were proud to be red-blooded men. Or some shit…


COPY: “Our drinkers are men of depth and substance. Which puts our advertising agency at somewhat of a disadvantage.”


That’s telling ’em!

And now we see ads for various spirits taking to task “hipsters” and status seekers. This is tricky. By definition hipsters are cool. That means “it” already is a badge. But for one reason or another this particular “it” has become tiresome. Skinny jeans. Plaid shirts. Ironic beards. Fedoras. Talk about low-hanging fruit. Yet, the attack is specious. Taking down cool people to be cool makes one just as douche-y as the target, casting the hero as a hater, and haters; well they’re lame.


Ooh, the tagline has a cuss word…

Now have a look at this new campaign, from Smirnoff.

We see the bar literally turn from bad trendy to good trendy. Huh? Other than a few more black guys and brighter lighting I can’t tell the difference between the cool kids and the douchebags. I don’t drink anymore but if I did I wouldn’t be caught drunk in either of these places. I didn’t like to drink and dance at the same time. And with that racket how could I hear myself lie?


Next up we’ll see a campaign that celebrates dive bars and sleazy authenticity. And after that one that makes fun of it.

For an extraordinary article on “Hipsters and the Dead End to Civilization” read this:

Judging from the online party pics of people getting their drink on at Cannes, you’d think this was Mardi Gras. Factor in the snarky commentary from certain creepy advertising blogs and suddenly it’s Girls Gone Wild!

Let me give it to you straight, my report from the field, after the fact:

As some of you know, I don’t drink alcohol anymore and haven’t in over 5 years. So, it was not without trepidation I took part in the nightly debauches along the Croisette. Without belaboring the obvious, this was a liquor soaked affair, with Rose’ and Chablis consumed all day, then champagne and beer guzzled long into the night, until it became day again, and the cycle continued… for seven days and seven nights. In that time God created the earth, but in Cannes it’s the drinking that’s biblical and the only thing created are hangovers. That and whopping expense account issues.

All this was true. But so what? Drinking with clients and drinking with your boss and drinking at night with the boys. Watch any episode of Mad Men. Drinking and advertising go together and way back.

Nothing epitomizes Cannes’ zeitgeist like the infamous Gutter Bar. Also called 72 Rue, this corner café has become the last watering hole in Cannes, where every soul still standing gathers for a final, final, final. It is reported that the Gutter Bar makes more money during the advertising festival than any other time during the year. Way more. The joke is that after the week is over, the owners are so flush they close the place for the rest of the summer. If you saw the nightly crowds, you wouldn’t be at all surprised. This is where thirsty elephants go to die and I inhabited its periphery like a tourist observing wildlife.

It’s not so tough not drinking. Not anymore. And certainly not from this vantage point. In many ways the throng really did look like so many creatures waiting to die. Sweaty, sunburned, standing in their own spillage. Perhaps some thought of mating instead. As it got later, the Congolese hookers swooped in like vultures. They would satisfy the drunk and horny and then pick their carcasses of cash and jewelry. Or not. A friend observed such a lady move from drunk to drunk, not able to rouse any takers. Though I salute my advertising comrades for their sense and sensibility, I found her predicament somehow sadder without tricks turned. She no longer had the goods. She was an ineffective ad for herself. Of course, I seldom bore witness as my bar tour concluded well before most folks’ began.

And then, of course, there’s the Leopard Ladies, a mother and daughter team who’ve silently patrolled the festival and its parties forever. Always donning the same spotted attire, every year, every night, at least as long as I’ve been going. No one is certain their raison d’etre, only that they are either coming or going. Never stopping. Not speaking. Odd as hell.

The only time I missed drinking was when I forced myself to stay up late, which was every night. The evening really does begin at midnight. Then, I pined for the time-stretching quality alcohol has, its ability to fill spaces and create meaning. With a drink, the endless LOUD music would not have been so annoying. Maybe even Deitloff and his rap about brilliant radio wouldn’t have been so annoying. I know goddam well waiting 40 minutes for a menu would not have been so annoying!

That said I was happy nursing my Coca Cola Light, watching all my fellow clowns in this advertising circus.

At home, this is irrelevant. I go to bed.