If I could boil down American advertising in a highly insulting and reductionist fashion to three adjectives, those would be "Loud, Dumb and Brilliant."
I absolutely love American ads; the self-confidence, the bravado, the smashing the consumer around the head with a total lack of subtlety. The first ad I saw when I got to New York last month was a stylist duck, ruining people’s hair for an insurance company. It blew me away. How did that get approved? How did it get made? And more importantly, how could I get a piece of the action. The next day I was pitching giant sloths and talking moustaches to an ECD who asked me to “Show him some funny stuff”. America has been a tonic to my damp grey British soul.
This ad by Wieden + Kennedy takes Southern Comfort in an unexpected direction, shortening the brand to SoCo and pairing it up with a series of quirky random vignettes from Taiwanese animation company Next Media. For me it makes sense that they own the ‘SoCo’ brand and W+K were very smart to pick up on this. It’s a mark of affection, in the same manner that people shorten Jack Daniels to Jack or simply JD. It implies a familiarity with the brand - first names terms. “Show me the JD.”
From a creative standpoint, I love the execution - so different from their previous ads, and clearly after a new and younger audience. In fairness, the only person I’ve ever known to drink SoCo on a regular basis was a woman with grown up kids herself. It’s not cool, and it’s not trying to be. And it’s not something one associates with a shot - Jagermeister territory. With its previous “Whatever’s Comfortable” executions, Southern Comfort has always been associated with relaxing and letting go, not as a slammer that you might order in a bar. It’s a lazy Sunday evening with the family, vs. shots with the boys. Whether existing fans are comfortable with this or simply alienated is something that’ll play out over the coming months and years.
Wieden + Kennedy New York
Southern Comfort's history is as follows: Janis Joplin drank it.
They've been trying to make SoCo a thing for a few years now. I'm a few years removed from college so I don't know if the 21 year olds are saying it, but I've yet to hear an adult in a bar order a SoCo. Maybe the younger demographics are. It's certainly easier to pronounce when you're drunk, than "Southern Comfort." I mean you're losing two whole syllables.
I have trouble ordering a Cuba Libre in America. The bartenders look at me like I'm from another planet (and then they always make it wrong). God knows what happens if you ask for a 'SHOTTASoCo'.
FYI - Cuba Libre: half cola, half Bacardi Gold, two wedges of lime in the glass. Squeeze them first - don't just drop them in there! No, I don't want Captain Morgan, and no don't tell me that Bacardi isn't real Cuban rum, don't fucking start. I don't want a conversation about Fidel Castro, I want a drink.
I don't think I've ever tried Southern Comfort, but at the next agency open bar I'll be ordering a shot of SoCo. For science.
I worked on a Southern Comfort brief my first year in advertising (think age 22), and thought I should "research" the product. I researched a little too hard, and I can't even look at the bottle anymore.
The only thing I see here as a good thing is the use of the Taiwanese animation company. An idea I'm sure was "inspired" by "research".
Maybe they were inspired by Next Media Animation's depiction of American body types. (Satire alert)