The Ironic Man: Dos Equis Crafts Viral Campaign

Avi Dan helped conceive the Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” viral campaign, though he left the advertising agency before the Man was driven to the hospital for delivery.

The agency that dreamt the Man up was Euro RSCG, where Dan served as global head of business development. As one of the few modern marketing marvels to blossom on television, the giant success of the “Most Interesting Man” was unexpected—it took years for the Dos Equis brand manager to approve the campaign and say yes to the Man—but it resulted in a grand payoff for the original concept.

Sales of Dos Equis doubled between 2006, when the campaign launched, and 2011, when the brand posted 25 percent sales growth even while owner Heineken’s numbers slipped, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights.

“It was very unusual in the sense that, if you look at 99 percent of beer advertising, it’s all about young men and women in a bar,” Dan said. “It’s very formulaic. And we came up with something that completely went against the formula.”

“The Most Interesting Man in the World” is a brazen series of television commercials that illustrates a 60-something hero with a grey beard and even darker diversions. He is a womanizer with a daredevil complex, and when he occasionally indulges in a beer, he says, “I prefer Dos Equis.”

The advertisements, accented by lines like, “The police often question him—just because they find him interesting,” bolstered consumer support and drove Dos Equis to No. 6 on the list of import beers, according to Ad Age.

Heineken marketing and selling expenses are approximately 12.5 percent of its revenue, or nearly $1.5 billion, as reported in the company’s 2012 Q2 report. Dan estimated a marginal amount of that, perhaps a fifth, goes to Dos Equis branding.

While the campaign did not influence the “big boys” such as Budweiser, Coors, and Miller because it is a small player in the category, it did influence a slew of copycats in the industry, “because the clients are saying, ‘Why don’t you do something similar to that?’” Dan explained.

The Man found traction with audiences, and particularly the young demographic, because he acted sardonically. As proof, Dan pointed to the Sept. 22 season premiere of “Saturday Night Live,” in which host Joseph Gordon-Levitt spoofed the campaign in a bit called “Tres Equis” in which he played the son of the Man.

“When ‘Saturday Night Live’ starts making fun of commercials, that’s good,” Dan said. “Because that means it’s penetrating culture.”

Another example of the Man’s influence in culture is his prevalence in the world of memes, or satirical videos, hash tags, and photos that provide commentary on the Internet. “The Most Interesting Man” is a popular go-to for average users to build their own jokes from templates on websites such as MemeGenerator.net and QuickMeme.com.

Memes are effective for both humor and meaningful observations, said Olivia Gonzalez, a senior at NYU studying comparative literature and philosophy. “A lot of people use them to perpetuate important things, like political memes, or things that can be really relevant commentary to what’s going on in pop culture,” she said. “Other memes can just be stupid and funny things that go viral on the Internet. Both are fun and have their own uses.”

Memes featuring the Man are as ironic as the campaign set out to be, reinforcing the principle with which Euro RSCG created the movement.

“The irony that was built into the campaign is the buffer that protects the campaign from people trying to make fun of it,” Dan said. “Young people love irony, and it wasn’t trying to hit them over the head with ‘buy this beer’ or some sort of a personality.”

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Does America Still Care About American Idol?

The brand once built upon the personalities of its judges announced another shake-up this morning: Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban, and Mariah Carey, the long-rumored judges for the new season, were confirmed to join Randy Jackson at the judges table next season.

The appeal of the show was once that contestants got to face these famous trio of caricatures—Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, and Paula Abdul—and hear their critiques, however positive or loathsome. Cowell was in all rights a character that may as well have been written by Aaron Sorkin. His pithy, sarcastic reviews of singers drew viewers to the show, and when he was kind and appraising, America knew someone had made it. Paula Abdul loved everyone with ferocity, and even when she critiqued idols, she did so kindly. Randy was the swing vote, his characterization less colorful—his vote perhaps less meaningful or gratifying—but nonetheless necessary to even out Cowell and Abdul.

In early January 2010, Cowell, the evil genius of musical critique, announced his departure from American Idol. The talent competition that made him a household name, and using that new reputation he wanted to create The X Factor to sarcastically mock singers under a different monicker.

Abdul had already left at the beginning of that season, the show’s ninth. This left just Randy Jackson, the infamous judge of “pitchy” contestants, as the original judge.

Since 2010, Jackson has been joined by judges including Ellen Degeneres, Kara DioGaurdi, Steven Tyler, and Jennifer Lopez. All four departed at some point or another, and so early this morning, Minaj, Urban, and Carey were confirmed.

Shifting judges raises a broader question: Does America still care about American Idol?

With the barrage of new judges brought in recently, no one knows what to expect. None of these judges has an identity as a judgeTheir musical success is unquestionable, but that does not mean America wants to hear what they think of wannabe Gavin DeGraws and Colbie Caillats? Do they have anything insightful or fresh to add to the conversation?

The drawback is, by the time these judges do establish themselves as funny or clever or quippy, they may want off the show. That has been the pattern thus far with DeGeneres, DioGaurdi, Tyler, and Lopez.

America may keep watching because they like the watching the realization of the American dream or want to cheer on hometown heroes, but the lack of personality in the judging booth is certainly a downfall of a show that staked its brand on personality.

We Peacock Comedy? NBC Tries for Better This Fall

As the broadcast networks roll out season and series debuts over the next few weeks, some have more to prove than others. NBC sits at the top of that list; the TV network embarrassed itself repeatedly over the past few TV seasons, from the Conan/Leno mishap that absurdly landed Leno in primetime to the lack of traction surrounding its once-dominant Thursday night comedy block.

As it moves forward for the 2012-2013 season, NBC’s marketing logo has been “We [Peacock symbol] Comedy” for its new sitcoms. Let’s take a second to discuss. Every time I see that inane logo, I think to myself, Just what is that peacock supposed to symbolize? Is it a heart, insisting NBC loves comedy?

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Credit: Give Me My Remote

Is it a hot air balloon, signifying NBC’s comedies are full of it? Whatever it is, I believe NBC is stepping off on the wrong foot here. Marketing should be strong, clear, and memorable—in a good way. Not confusing and ambiguous. And it certainly should not leave the viewer guessing what the message is.

This marketing mishap speaks to a broader theme of NBC: It does not know how to brand itself. Ever since the star pack of Friends, The West Wing, Heroes, Will & Grace, Frasier, and ER graduated, NBC has failed to launch a non-reality hit. The Office was a hit in its heyday, but closing in on season 9 with dwindling ratings and another year sans Steve Carell, the show is largely ended in viewers’ minds. Most new shows on NBC do not make it past one or two seasons, including its big concepts, such as last year’s The Playboy Club, 2010’s J.J. Abrams show Undercovers, and heck even 2010’s The Jay Leno Show.

On the other hand, take a look at CBS, a network that unabashedly has branded itself as the go-to for procedural crime dramas and milks this concept for all its worth. Most successful dramas get spinoffs with new casts in different cities (most recently, NCIS spinoff NCIS: LA) and that formula works well for the CBS viewer. Even Fox has found a workable niche with quirky, single-camera comedies such as New Girl, Raising Hope, and, to an extent, Glee.

NBC has no go-to niche to cash in on. The closest network it resembles is ABC, which blends comedy and drama into its schedule with ease. If ABC is the Michael Phelps of TV scheduling, NBC is the kid who pees in the pool.
It’s difficult to say whether NBC fails because of the minds behind the network; the scheduling of the shows and the strong competition they face; or the viewers’ lack of interest in the network’s non-reality offerings (we all agree The Voice is a rare success that NBC dully needed). But to grab ahold of viewer interest, the powers that be need to keep happily offering things we want to watch, and I can count on one hand the number of people I know that are excited or even reasonably intrigued by Guys with Kids or Animal Practice on NBC this season.