Losing your Social Media Virginity


Yesterday, for one of the first times in Trinidad and Tobago, a social media mob was able to tackle and take down two advertising giants in one fell swoop – Angostura Ltd and their media agency, McCann Erickson. [Skip to paragraph three if you know the story…]

What riled the usually placable crowd of rabble-rousers on Facebook was an advertisement in the daily newspapers for Angostura’s Single Barrel Rum that featured a rather intense looking male model advising you that a drink of Single Barrel Rum will help you avoid the ‘friend zone’ by offering her a ‘real drink’ in keeping with the campaign as the rum being the ultimate wingman.

There are several issues in the mix – and the primary one is that marketing any social drug is fraught with danger. Pushing the point is sometimes necessary to make an impact on an over-saturated public but this point was sadly pushed into the ‘date-rape’ zone which is what everyone thought the ad was poised on the brink of. Not many women drink rum (in proportion to men) so that it was an effort to have men both buy the rum, and for women to see the purchase as a compliment. But when your model is that intense and seems to almost be forcibly pushing himself on her – there is a small problem. All in all, it was a case of the copy hurting rather than helping the photography and layout. Who is to blame when the agency and the client both think it is a good idea then?

Well, according to Facebook today. Everyone. The mass outcry on the ad has now pushed the agency and the company to rescind the ad and publish a Facebook apology on their Angostura fan page. After all, with open letters to the James Smith, head of the agency and a petition filed on change.org (http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/we-did-it-angostura-has-said-they-will-pull-the-ad-thank-you-all) what other choice DID they have? The truth is, without the power of social media, the ad would have remained. Kudos to people power.

Image of Angostura FB apologyThe Role of the Agency in a Social World

More importantly, this brings us to the role of the ad agency as it currently stands. Again, agencies are generally insulated beings with their staff generally buried neck deep in discovery, market segmentation and studies of demographics, when some of the most important assets for any agency to have is the power to determine what people’s perceptions of the outputs are (product testing) as well as for the ability of the oft-forgotten art of candid and open-minded discussion. The agency must never forget the world that it exists in, especially as it has changed so viciously and suddenly. If that many people in the general public thought the ad pointed to something sinister, what about the people that worked on it for the past few days or heavens-forbid, months.

Machismo Dominated Culture

Our one problem with the ad (apart from the obvious) is that it continues a trend of marketing so prevalent in our machismo culture. Buy a girl a drink and the rest is all easy street. The power lies in the hands of the man. What about if the ad carried a woman that enjoyed rum simply for its sophistication. Because it is dark and multi-layered and mesmerizing? If she was the one offering the drink we may not have been as offended sure. But what about empowering the woman to make that purchase for herself. If you look at your demographics and studies you will surely find that women don’t buy rum as much and therefore probably shouldn’t be marketed to. But if you look at your Facebook wall tonight, you probably realise that women shouldn’t also be marketed AT.

Trinidad lost it’s social media virginity – ironically in a bid to save the woman in the ad from likely losing hers.

— Huckleberry Media Company salutes McCann Erickson and Angostura for taking heed, rescinding the ad and issuing an apology – something that is rare and definitely worth recognising in our culture and our country. 

3 responses to “Losing your Social Media Virginity

  1. Kudos to Angostura & McCann indeed. I keep thinking that this was just a series of unfortunate events…the copy maybe handled in isolation from art direction. The art direction maybe handled by someone oblivious (or perhaps just disenchanted by) male/female dynamic/body language/etc. I can surmise what the intended message might have been (because I really don’t want to believe that McCann & Angostura were propagating their rum as a date rape aid) : you know, show her you’re so sophisticated and classy, you drink Single Barrel Rum so you must be boyfriend-material etc etc. Unfortunately that message was overridden by all the other cues. As a woman (and maybe more-so, as a woman working in the communications/advertising industry), I felt uncomfortable looking at the ad – and I’m not a prude, by any stretch. I’ve seen comments which basically call us all hypocrites, saying that there have been just as bad or even worse ads for alcohol out there that we never made a peep about. The White Oak (When It Pours, You Reign’ ad was never this explicit, IMO, and left a lot of room for interpretation. The use of women in marketing to men is nothing new nor anything that we will be rid of any time soon unfortunately (two words: promo girls) so I wasn’t offended by the use of two water/rum-drenched females standing back to back, yada yada yada. It just wasn’t as unfortunately obvious: the connection between drinking the rum and getting a woman to bed. This Single Barrel ad was. Either way, I’m glad they retracted it and apologised; I really think that was the best way to go. So yeah….that’s that.

  2. Later Christmas angostura printed a large poster ad displayed outside the Hilo stores in west moorings and maraval . There was a picture of a smiling woman in a low cut dress next to bottles of various alcoholic drinks. Above the picture were the words, “Give me a gift” and below the picture, “I will open more than once”. At least the Hilo manager at Maraval quickly removed the posters when I pointed out the offensive double meaning. I found out that Angostura was behind that ad.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s